I have become a Pig Farmer

Jun 11, 2012 by

Even the title of this post sounds hilarious.  I have said it to myself a few times now and I still can’t get my head around it.

For years, since I worked in a large turkey processing business as a Quality Manager, I have had a horror of intensively reared animals.  People always used to ask me how could I bear to watch the turkeys being slaughtered. I could very easily because it was a welcome relief from a truly horrible life – and this was lived in an EU registered export plant, inspected by Department of Agriculture veterinary surgeons and continuously monitored by them. 

In this country the only animals that live a true free range life are cattle and sheep.  Pigs and poultry live in horrendous conditions, reared in unnaturally confined sheds with no access to fresh air or even bedding in the case of pigs.  How can meat from such animals be healthy?

Chicken and turkeys have to be pumped with antibiotics in their feed as they are housed with so many others that transfer of disease and bacteria is rampant.  I always remember the handy man in the turkey plant came in at lunch one day and told us he had found a turkey with no feathers on it’s body, it had been pecked so much from the other birds it was completely raw – yet it was still alive.  He said, and I will always remember it, “if it wasn’t for all the antibiotics in it’s food, the poor bugger would have died”.

Unfortunately pigs are no better and what is worse they are animals with greater intelligence than dogs.  Sows are still kept in farrowing crates where the only movement they can make is to stand up or lie down.  Intensively reared pigs are not allowed bedding in order to prevent the spread of disease.  They cannot root or forage as pigs do naturally and they are fed concentrates.

The option is there to buy free range poultry, but how free range are they really? I have seen poultry called free range, many thousands in a shed with a patch of grass at the side that would be full with a few calves.  Every now and again the vents at the side of the shed are opened and the turkeys – totally institutionalised – peep out and a few brave souls venture forth.  So free range really is a word that has little or no meaning. 

I have chickens primarily for eggs but we have killed some for the pot in the past.  I do not eat eggs any more from the shop.  Firstly, despite what they are labelled they are not free range and secondly they are not even fresh.  If I have to buy chicken I buy “free range” with a heavy heart knowing that it really is not.

At least with chicken you have a choice – with pork there is none.  I don’t know of any major supermarket or butcher selling free range pork.  Unless you buy from a friend or a specialised producer, what you buy is intensively reared.  The local craft butcher told me he would not be able to sell free range pork.  I assumed this was because of cost, but no it was because of fat! Consumers have such an abhorrence of fat that they would consume antibiotic-pumped lean pigs producing lean but tasteless meat??

Now I have my own pigs I am looking forward to having my own pork and bacon and so are all my family.  If I get any more customers that will be great but for now I am going to produce only what I can use or distribute among friends and family.

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  1. Sadly the grower gets very little of the paltry €3 it's the supermarket getting the most…….

  2. I know, it all comes down to price for a lot of people, but they cannot ignore the fact that what they are buying are ill-treated animals, which, in itself, is appalling, but feeding it to their families also. What part of a €3 chicken went on feeding it for it's pitifully short life.

  3. Thanks Colette but me speaking out won't change peoples' attitudes as they think cheap food is all that counts. Cheap has a price ultimately – look at the bacteria now completely antibiotic resistant.

  4. I absolutely love your post, it's about time more people like you speak out about what is going on in the "so called" free range places. Labelling is lying, and that is all. Fancy packaging and pretty pictures on labels are sucking people in to thinking they are buying quality, when it is clearly not. Well done 🙂

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