I’ve had various aspects of this blog post scuttling about in my head for weeks now. However, the writing of it was catapulted to the forefront after the airing of RTE’s (our national broadcaster) programme ‘What are you eating?‘ last Wednesday. In the programme Philip Boucher-Hayes questions the treatment/processes applied to meat after slaughter.
Why, for instance, would a pork chop when analysed contain carbohydrates?
What is a ‘basted’ pork chop? No, it’s not what you’re thinking… that it is being basted in the oven or on the bbq? No. It means it has been injected with water, salts and nitrates. I had been aware of how lots of processors inject their meat with water, but did not know that they are adding salt too. Why?
Guys the water makes it heavier! Heavier meat costs the consumer more, equals more profit!!!! The salt etc. is added as a preservative to extend shelf life.
Let me assure you our pork chops are not injected with anything.
Twitter was alight after the programme. Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the twitter conversation that took place, was the lack of participation from other free range pork producers. Only one other free range producer joined in the debate. It angered and disappointed me that others refused to join the debate. They sat and watched as someone from the ‘factory farming’ side of things made false accusations about how, we, free range producers, operate.
There was lots of emotive language used as you can imagine….
I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight. This is our experience of keeping pigs for the past 10 years.
- in that time we have lost only one pig at birth. The twitter argument was that mortality rate of piglets in factory farming is ‘only’ 5%. However, this report from Teagasc (page 4) claims it is 11.2% and it increases to over 20% at weaner stage.
- outdoor reared pork IS higher in Vitamin D, as the pig has been sunbathing – as simple as that – they absorb the Vitamin D into their fat.
- Outdoor reared pork is not full of salmonella or riddled with maggots. In fact this report shows that salmonella is less likely in outdoor reared pork.
- Outdoor reared pigs do not die of hypothermia. Pigs are sensible. If it is freezing cold outside they stay tucked up in their straw bed.
- We have never, ever lost a pig to foxes.
- Bird droppings are a threat to outdoor reared pigs, as in Bird Flu, but we’ve not encountered any problems.
- Some free range pigs are not necessarily fed any differently to commercially grown factory farmed pigs. If you care about what you eat, care about what the animal is fed, then ask what your meat has been fed.
- And, yes, we have the Bord Bia Quality Assured stamp for our pork. The only free range producers in Ireland to have that stamp of approval, I believe.
We have recently re-examined the whole question of registering as ‘organic’. To be honest, we are not sure it would be worth the paperwork involved. We sell directly to our customers. They know us. They know how we feed and treat our animals. They do not need us to have another ‘label’ in order to prove this to them.
I can honestly say I don’t ‘love’ our pigs. However, I do care about them. I do care about their health, their life, their diet and even their death.
Even if you don’t worry, or care, about what the animals (i.e. meat) that you will ultimately be eating is fed, at least take time out to visit an abattoir.
I’ve written about our experience here before. Folks the situation has not improved. And please do not necessarily blame the abattoirs. One abattoir owner recently told us that he has never seen such cruelty and mistreatment of animals as he sees now. Pigs arrive in lorry loads, they are crammed into the lorries, and they are beaten off the lorry. They have tumours. They have broken legs. One poor animal even appeared to have a broken back.
What kind of farming is that?
There was a suggestion in the argument that we need to ‘feed the world’ and produce ‘cheap meat’. We do not. We only spend 12% of our disposable income on food… back in 1916 people were spending 50% of their money on food. We need to STOP FOOD WASTE. Over 300,000 tonnes of food is wasted in Irish homes each year…. imagine how that could feed the world?
It is time for each and every person to think about their food. It is time to think about how that food is reared. Time to think how it is prepared and processed.
What are you eating? Do you know?