Its been busy on the farm with setting up the breeding paddock, houses, water and electric fencing. Just a few days ago I managed to finalise the gravity fed water pipes to the main paddock and we are ready for breeding stock to arrive. And here is where the problem lies.
Buying pigs is not difficult, TradeMe (the ebay of New Zealand) has hundreds of them available, but to get the right breeds and bloodlines is very difficult. So I was very pleased last week to see an advert for a purebred Berkshire Sow in pig to a purebred Berkshire Boar for just $350, I made the call immediately and a little over a week later I had borrowed a trailer off Kapiti Free Range, enlisted Reuben and set off on the 3 hour journey to the Hawkes Bay to pick up the start of my breeding herd. The advert stated the pig was between 12 and 18 months old (they had some cross breeds for sale at the same time) and a little research showed the sellers were registered with the Pig Breeders NZ association, I was excited and eager to get her in the back of the trailer.
Unfortunately the reality of pig farming is not always the free range dream that we see in pictures, on packaging and even on the websites of reputable companies. Upon arrival at the host farm we were confronted by a yard of dogs, farm equipment and the stench of poor animal husbandry but no farmer. After a few calls and emails I eventually got a call to say that he was off site but could come back in a few minutes. Having spent half an hour on site Reuben and I had made a few observations which were not making me want to buy any pigs:
– The Berkshire sow was laying in a makeshift hut and looked older than her 3 years old than the owner had now decided to tell me she was. She was undernourished, had no water was being kept in a very dirty enclosure and was having to share the space with an ill boar.
– The images on the Trade me advert were clearly of the batch of pigs in the second paddock (who were closer to the 1 year mark), these pigs however had no water, were very dirty and a Berkshire Sow was bleeding from an incorrectly fitted nose ring.
– There was a very ill looking boar laying on the floor with an open wound on its back legs and a displaced hip, the wound had been open long enough for maggots to form. In addition to this the boar was malnourished and its skeletal structure clearly visible.
I quickly told the man on the phone that I was not interested and that we would leave the farm, he said nothing and I hung up. We left almost immediately, right after I took a few photos (the worst of which I have not included in this post).
The pictures above show the farm we visited on the left and my farm on the right, my pigs have about two acres to wander, lots of grass and water, his have about 10 square meters of space, no water and did not look happy. So there is most definitely a difference between true free range and many peoples understanding of what free range is. I would ask that you don’t just buy meat based on marketing, you buy it based on evidence. Ask for pictures, ask for a farm tour and always insist on happy pigs.
I want to leave you with a little video that I like and thought I would share it with you. Progress comes at a cost and sometimes you need to go back to the start if you value the true cost of your food: