I find some people looking at me as if I’m smoking something (which I am) when I tell them I’m making free- range bacon. They say it’s a contradiction in terms. I understand that free- range conjures up visions of herds of energetic and agile Springbok and Nguni streaking across the wide open veld, which is not exactly the image we have of porkers. With sayings like “you eat like a pig, this is a pigsty and I’m as happy as a pig in sh1t,” it’s easy to see why people don’t consider free- range to be uppermost on a pig’s must have list.
But seriously guys, pig farming is big business all over the world and the driving force behind these huge commercial factory farms is money and nothing else. You know, good old free enterprise - supply and demand. As far as they’re concerned the faster they can produce this commodity and the less it costs to do so, the greater the profit, finished and klaar.
For the best results they will have intense concentration of twenty odd pigs cooped up in tiny indoor pens. To minimise the impact caused when fights breaking out they are often castrated, de-tailed and de-teethed. The breeding sows are, for most of their adult lives, kept in gestation crates which are only about ½ m x 2 m in size and often, for fear of them squashing their babies, they’re prevented from ever actually lying down properly.
All these overcrowded and confined conditions, the use of antibiotics and pesticides are essential to prevent the spread of disease and pestilence. Adlib feeding with added hormones stimulate growth and get the animals ready in double quick time.
As soon as they reach optimum weight they’re trucked off en mass to the abattoirs. Here they are herded in to pens with strange pigs and fights beak out resulting in torn ears and gashes all over their bodies. This is extremely stressful and painful for the animals and the trauma toughens their meat.So when I say free range I’m talking about pigs that live their lives roaming around outside in large shady camps where they are can forage for leaves, roots and grass at their leisure and interact with other pig if and when they please.
The sows are comfortably housed when they farrow down and at around 5 weeks the piglets are removed to weaning pens and the sows go back in to the camps. The piglets also go into camps where they’re left to live out their lives for the next five or six months which is how long it takes for them to reach optimum weight in their own time. If additional feeding is necessary this comprises only of natural fodder like high protein cereal, whey and fruit and no stimulants or growth hormones what so ever are added.
They’re driven to the abattoirs by the farmer and to ensure minimum stress they remain in separate pens with only other pigs from their camp, which means they’re calm and relaxed because they know each other. Apart from this being a far more humane existence it also goes a long way to ensuring that their meat is not stressed before they’re slaughtered.
That it come at a price is true. But the price is to our pockets, which I think you’ll agree is worth it.
I’m out to cure the world.