Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Farming--A Business That Cares

A Small Loss, A Big Lesson Learned

by Matthew & Erin Sweet

We are a small scale pastured poultry operation, meaning our chickens live outside exposed to all of the elements. Because of this we can only raise our birds during certain times of the year. We learned a tough lesson today. Upon returning home from our state YF&R summer meeting, we spoke to the young man who cared for our birds this weekend. Though he made sure that the birds had constant access to water, the over 100* temperatures claimed 30 of our birds on Saturday. This is a reminder of why mainstream animal production needs to continue using climate controlled buildings to house their animals. Though the breed of chicken we raise is better suited for the pasture, it still does not make them invincible. These birds are just like humans and always function better under optimal conditions. Our chickens have one job and that is to eat, drink and be merry. If the temperature gets too high, their main focus shifts to staying cool and everything else becomes secondary. Our job as the farmer is to do everything in our power to keep the conditions optimal, so that the birds have no concerns. But as state laws continue to become more restrictive on animal housing, we have to ask ourselves, whose best interests are really at hand?

This is a great post from the Farm Bureau's blog, FBlog. It really illustrates the importance of housing animals in climate controlled environments. Yes, animals are naturally meant to be outdoors but look at dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, snakes, etc. None of these animals are naturally domesticated pets nor are they naturally meant to sleep at the foot of our beds, but they do. Why? Because people care about their pets so much that they want them to be part of their family. We as farmers care about our livestock and want them to remain comfortable, safe, and alive no matter the weather. That is why we house them in climate controlled barns.

Some will argue that it isn't their comfort we care about, it's how fat we can get them in the shortest amount of time. I'll be the first to admit we are running a business. Yes, we have a certain time limit to get our pigs to market. Yes, we want them to be of proper market weight within that time limit--not too big, not too small. Yes, economics play into our everyday lives but does that mean we don't care about our animals? Hell NO! I've never seen any group of people work so hard for so little. Farmers put in more hours of hard physical labor than most Americans spend complaining about their 40 or less hours a week. And for what? For crops that don't always come up and have to be replanted and replanted and replanted. For people who don't complain while they're scarfing down that ninth slice of bacon but by golly they're gonna harp when it suits their agenda. For no respect and little money for the time invested; would farmers farm if they didn't care? I think not. Farming is a way of life and a business.

Just because people are starting to see farming as a business they automatically assume that it's all about the money now. Here is a news flash--farming has always been a business. But for people to claim we don't care about our animals is unfair and completely untrue. See one of my past posts, My Fine Swine, for an example of how much we care. The fact that producers are constantly finding newer, better, safer, more reliable means to raising animals is a testament of how much we care about our animals.

If we didn't care the term "agvocacy" and blogs like this one wouldn't exist.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

There's Something About Pork

Australia’s Pork Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is studying the benefits of pork. So far the study suggests added health benefits besides protein. The research team is currently studying pork's "role in improving thiamine status and reducing heart disease and type two diabetes," among other benefits, according to an AFN news report by Josette Dunn.

The report also stated that "with high protein, meat-based diets commonly promoted for weight loss and pork being the world’s most eaten meat, their early stage research studied the health impact on overweight/obese individuals of increased pork consumption...Initial results showed subjects on pork-based diets actually lost weight [emphasis added], in the form of body fat, during the study, but subjects on control diets gained weight."

There you go folks! Eating a high protein pork based diet can actually slim you down and what better time of year than summer to loose weight. Pork is a dish best served grilled anyway and summer is grill season.

Stay tuned for some lean, healthy, grill time pork recipes and get into that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini!

Dr. Roger Campbell, CEO of CRC says it best, “There’s something about pork..." There certainly is doc, there certainly is.

Read the full story by Josette Dunn.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Fine Swine

Fare thee well my fine swine

Fare thee well my pink friends

You’re off to fulfill your destiny

You’re off to feed the world

Thank you for your hams and hocks

Thank you for your steaks and chops

Even though it’s changing now, to me

You’ll always be “The other white meat.”

I'm certainly no poet but I thought I'd just throw this out there for the hell of it. We just shipped out the last of our piggies and now they're off to feed the world. It's pretty cool when you think about it. We get them in when they're just little piglets, raise them, feed them, care for them until they're all grown up and ready for market.
My husband surprised me with this group of pigs, though. We had just gotten back from our training session in Des Moines, it was late and early the next morning a load was going out. I had to convince my husband to get some sleep instead of going to help load. I asked him why he was so set on being at every load and he said,
"Because I feel like I'm missing out. I raised them, I wanna be there." 
For all those animal activists who claim we don't care about our animals and we mistreat them, take another look at that quote. We had driven 5 hours, it was 10:00 at night, and my husband still wanted to go and load a 2:00 a.m. load of hogs because he didn't want to miss out. If that's not dedication, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Phew! is it hot. We're currently at 91 degrees with a heat index of 102 and if that's not bad enough we're also sitting on 59% humidity. I'm sweating just sitting here typing and I'm in the A/C. My kids know how to beat the heat. As soon as they got off the bus (summer school) they jumped into their swim suits and begged me to drag out the slip-n-slide.

Nothing like slipping and sliding on a tarp with a built in sprinkler. Trust me. I had to belly flop down that thing a couple times myself.
Any who, slip-n-slides are not the point here. I really want to talk about how we keep our pigs cool on days like this. We tried the slip-n-slide approach but it just wasn't working out. The pigs couldn't get the hang of the flop-and-slide technique. Instead, we've gone with the reliable fan and sprinkler method.
As you can see our barn is lined with huge fans. My daughter standing next to one of the fans (she almost blew away) shows how big these things are. We drop the curtains in the front, kick on the fans in the back, and let the wind begin. 
 We also have a sprinkler system that we turn on during hot weather. The pigs just love water. You can see in this next pic a group of pigs chillaxen (my daughter's word) by one of the many sprinklers.
Just like my kids, they love their sprinkler. A bunch of the other pigs came up to me to say, "Hi." But these piggies just sat there looking at me. They grunted a greeting but they were happy to just stay put. I can't blame them. It's too dang hot to do anything but sit and sweat. If it gets any hotter I might just cozy up to that sprinkler with them. Stay cool everybody.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Grill A Loin--Mmm, Mmm, Good!

I made another yummy in my tummy pork dish last night that I must share. This one is soooo easy!

I bought a center cut tenderloin half and rubbed it down with Plowboy's Yard Bird until the whole loin was red as a beet. Then, I grilled using an indirect heat method. For those of you who don't know what indirect heat grilling is (I didn't until last week), you place a drip pan (I used a metal bread pan) in the center of your grill and arrange the briquettes on either side of the pan.

Once you get your grill good and hot put the loin directly over the drip pan, replace the lid on your grill, and voila! Your grill is now an oven. I didn't time mine I just went out every so often to check it. I think total cook time was between 45 minutes to an hour.

Once I got my tenderloin to about 130 degrees I basted it with Blues Hog BBQ sauce and let it continue cooking until it reached between 155-160 degrees. It was so delicious!

Y'all have got to try this one! After all, you can't beat grilled pork. Got any great pork recipes? I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

8 Reasons Why CAFOs Are Not The Work Of Pure Evil

This should get a rise out of some people but that is not why I'm posting it. I truly believe that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have a place in agriculture. By no means am I saying there is no room for pasture pigs anymore. I'm saying there is a place for us both. Of course it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that these facilities must be treated with the utmost care and responsibility. CAFOs are not for those who simply wish to make a quick buck or for those who suffer from heavy haunches, i.e., those who would rather sit on their ass than actually work. CAFOs and farming in general is not a lazy man's work! Despite the rumors you can not just set up a camera and watch the pigs from the comfort of your home nor can you just visit the site a few hours a week and expect to have a smooth running operation. Raising hogs requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week commitment, anything less just won't do.

For these reasons I am posting 8 reasons why CAFOs are not the work of pure evil.

1. Contracting hogs has allowed our family to not only remain on the farm but expand it as well.
Because of our hog barns the farm has grown from 80 acres to nearly 600 and the farm can finally afford to employ the whole family. That means four separate households are being supported by one farm. This would not have been possible if we opted out of contract hogs.

2. CAFOs provide an "in" for new farmers.
Because the hogs are contracted new farmers no longer have to rely on the market which means a guaranteed paycheck and minimized financial risks. One big complaint I've heard is these big operations push farmers off the land. Not true. Not all but many companies do not buy the land from the farmer; instead, they contract with the farmer, i.e. the land, buildings, and profit are the property of the farmer, only the pigs belong to the company.

3. Provides organic, renewable, and sustainable fertilizer.
Our barns supply our farm, along with neighboring farms, with an organic (definition: characteristic of, pertaining to, or derived from living organisms), renewable fertilizer--unlike anhydrous ammonia, a petroleum based product. Our fertilizer is rich in organic materials and nutrients that is actually rebuilding the topsoil and producing high yields year after year. Anhydrous only adds nitrogen to the soil, it does not work to rebuild. 

4. Greater control over the health of the hog. 
Because the animals are confined it allows greater control and less threat of diseases, especially air borne diseases. Confinement has also eliminated the need to worm hogs and the use of nose rings. Despite the big H1N1 scare CAFOs do not create new diseases. We can actually monitor the health of the pigs much closer and treat them faster by having them in the barns. In addition, because the hogs are contracted we have access to supplies, veterinarians, and specialists that we other wise couldn't afford.

5. CAFOs create jobs.
Other, larger, CAFO operations employ thousands of people. For example, we run approximately 26,000 head a year and employ six family members; whereas, Smithfield/PSF in north MO run millions a year and employ over 1,000 people in just one location. These facilities create jobs for Missourians, not illegal Mexicans.

6. Stimulate the local and federal economy.
Pork is the most widely eaten meat across the globe and the United States is the third largest swine producer in the world. Missouri provides about five percent of the U.S. hogs. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pork being raised here in good  'ol USA. We're also talking about hundreds of millions of taxable dollars which go towards schools, roads, parks, etc. Just our farm alone pays thousands a year in local taxes. That's a big hunk-o-change that I'm sure our county would hate to lose.

7. Allows for "green" experimentation and new technologies.
Farmers and agribusinesses strive to improve agriculture, it's what we do. Lately, a greater emphasis has also been put on ecological impact. Because of this, corporations are working harder than ever to create innovative "green" technology and CAFOs have been a breeding ground for innovation. Most recently, St. Louis paved a stretch of highway using asphalt made out of hog manure. Another innovative concept sweeping across the market is the potential in methane gas as an energy source.

8. The ability to raise more on smaller land mass.
Many may argue that this is a bad thing but let's put it in perspective. The world already holds over 6 billion hungry people and that number is only going to go up. People need a place to live and to have a home you must have land but the world isn't growing, just the people in it. Therefore, it is safe to assume more people equals less land but it also equals more mouths to feed. By confining hogs we can raise 4,800 head in 29,700 square feet or a little over one acre. Raising pasture hogs, using traditional methods you would need around 200 acres. It's a big difference.

As always I am open to comments.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pulled Pork for Dinner

I created the most fantabulous meal tonight. It consisted of corn, tomatoes, and...big surprise...pork. As you know from my last entry I have recently returned from Des Moines, IA. While in Des Moines I purchased a Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book John Deere edition. I have been dieing to try out some of the recipes and I finally got the chance tonight. I made Pulled Pork with Root Beer Sauce and it was delish. Of course I didn't stick to the recipe, I never do, but I'll share with you both the original BHG and my variations of it.

First, I will share the original recipes...BHG suggests making Pulled Pork with Root Beer Sauce as follows:

1-2 1/2 - 3 pound pork sirloin roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 medium onions, cut into thin wedges
1 cup root beer*
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups root beer* (two 12-ounce cans or bottles)
1 cup bottled chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon root beer concentrate (optional)
Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce (optional)
Hamburger buns, Lettuce, and Tomato

*Do not use diet root beer.

1. Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut meat to fit into a 3 1/2 - to 5 - quart slow cooker. Sprinkle meat with the salt and pepper. In a large skillet brown meat on all sides in hot oil. Drain off fat. Transfer meat to cooker. Add onion, the 1 cup root beer, and the garlic.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

3. Meanwhile, for sauce, in a saucepan stir together the 3 cups root beer and the chili sauce. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 2 cups. If desired, add root beer concentrate and hot pepper sauce.

4. Transfer meat to a cutting board or serving platter. Using two forks, pull meat apart into shreds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer onion to serving platter; discard cooking juices. If desired, line buns with lettuce leaves and tomato slices. Place shredded meat and onion on rolls. Drizzle meat with some of the root beer sauce.

Now, my version. Forgive my lack of measurements, I measure with my eyes and nose.

I bought a 2.51 pound boneless pork loin roast and I trimmed a little fat but not all of it. Then, used fresh ground sea salt and pepper on the roast and browned it on all sides in canola oil. After that, I started to omit and redo the recipe. First, I used green onions (that's what I had) and I poured the 2 cans of root beer in the slow cooker with the meat instead of just a cup. Also, I didn't have bottle chili sauce so I drained a can of chili beans in chili sauce, which made about 3/4 cup, and topped it off with beef broth. I also completely omitted the root beer concentrate and hot sauce.

My roast cooked for 5 hours on a high-heat setting. At the 5 hour mark I sliced tomatoes and cooked corn on the cob. Instead of using the root beer sauce (which I didn't make but I'm sure is delicious) I slathered on my favorite BBQ sauce. YUM!

Give it try! What do you think?

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The Bacon Blogger, a.k.a. me, just got back from Des Moines, IA. My husband, Aaron, and I spent a day and a half in the diamond shaped office that houses the National Pork Board for a fantastic social media training session by lava row. Then, it was off to the the World Pork Expo! We had a great time. Unfortunately, I left my camera sitting at home on the table (where I wouldn't forget it, yeah right). Oh well.

If any of you bacon eating readers have not been to WPX you are missing out. Not only do you learn a ton about swine operations and new technologies you also get to watch pig racing and eat FREE food.
Logo from worldpork.org

That's right free ribs that fall off the bone, free pork burgers that melt in your mouth, free pulled pork that tastes like heaven, free beer and did I mention free pork and beer? Hard as it is to believe, the food isn't the only reason to go. My husband and I enjoyed meeting pork producers from around the globe and meeting representatives from the companies that we order our supplies from. By talking to the array of vendors we not only solved some problems we've been having with certain equipment but we also learned about new products that we would love to implement to enhance the health and comfort of our pigs. The trip was enlightening from every angle.

Can't wait until WPX11!