Well, that's a mouthful. But this description is necessary! These are the things that sets Rebel pork apart from any kind of store bought pork. They truthfully describe how we raise our hogs.
But before we get into that, let's first start with a brief history of pigs in the US.
In the US we do not have any native pig breeds. All of our now wild herds were brought to our country as a food source by explorers starting in the 1500's. Unfortunately they have since become an invasive species in some parts of the country and wreak havoc on the cycles of nature in those areas. If you live in the southern states of Texas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, etc you may have them living in your backyard!
From the picture above you can see what this means: at Rebel, we raise our hogs in the forest. The bigger question is, "Why?". Many people have never experienced a hog in the wild and don't know their natural state of being. Here are a few facts:
- Hogs are forest dwelling animals.
- In the wild, these omnivores forage heavily for their food. They eat things like vegetation, roots, fruits, eggs, flowers, leaves, fish, and dead animals.
- Pigs cannot sweat, so they use the loose soil that they root into to cool their bodies.
- They live in small social groups that consist of sows (female), their young and young boars (intact male). Mature male boars live solitarily.
- Pigs are tidy, in their enclosures they make an eating area, bathroom area and sleeping area.
By raising our hogs in the spacious forest, we provide an environment that allows them to express these natural instincts. Their incredibly strong, sensitive snouts can find food deep in the earth. The cool forest floor makes for a comfortable environment even in the heat of summer. They can choose who they want in their groups. They work to turn up the ground and seed bed allowing native plants to take root in the fresh soil.
(Our training system to teach young hogs about electric fencing)
This description is going to take more explanation. When we first get the piglets, they have never experienced an electric fence. So we need to train them to respect the fence as a boundary. They quickly learn not this respect and then we can keep them contained with only two strands of electric polyrope! Rotationally grazed means we move our hogs regularly onto new pasture with this temporary fencing. It's important to recognize the difference between rotating hogs and other animals on the farm:
- Broiler chickens need to be moved daily due to their intense manure load and need for fresh grass.
- Sheep are moved every 2-3 days to break the parasite life cycle.
- Cattle require daily movement because of their heavy hoof impact and large appetites.
With hogs, we WANT the intense rooting of the soil. They NEED to feel at home in a space due to their intelligent, social nature. With their noses constantly in the ground, parasite control isn't nearly as practical. So we move our hogs every 1-2 weeks to fresh forest pasture. The movements depend on a number of items:
- Forage available in the pasture.
- Weather impact on soil and pasture.
- Size of forest pasture enclosure.
- Number of hogs in the enclosure.
We walk the pasture daily to monitor the state and quality of forage available for the hogs. When it's time to move, we set up the next enclosure and open up a gate for the hogs to move through. They quickly learn to love moving day! It's a whole new world full of wonderful, tasty food for them to forage.
(Red Wattle Hog)
There are only 3 or 4 standard breeds (or mixes of those) that are used in conventional farming. But there are many more heritage breeds. Here are a few:
- Red Wattle
- Large Black
These are breeds that have been raised and developed in backyards and small farms throughout our country for hundreds of years. These heritage breeds are hardy, expert foragers, and have great vitality. They do not do well in sterile, confined hog grow barns. They thrive where their natural tendencies can be expressed. We choose heritage breeds for this reason. We want hogs that will root in the soil, know how to take shelter during bad weather, have good parasite resistance, and thrive in the forest.
Now you know about how we raise our hogs! Would you like to taste the difference? You can view our entire line of pork products here.
Or maybe you would like to see them for yourself? Check out our events page for upcoming tours of the farm!