Many producers are capitalizing on the popularization of the Grass Fed Movement through strategic product labeling such as Pasture Raised, Free Range, Free Roaming, Cage Free, Biodynamic, Vegetarian Fed and All Natural. These tactics create a comforting illusion for the uneducated consumer who does not understand that animals may have unlimited access to grains under all of these conditions. An advocate of these labels could claim to be more concerned with the welfare of the animals rather than the nutritional composition of the meat, but in reality the most inhumane act in raising animals is feeding them digestively incompatible substances which detrimentally deteriorate their physical health. The amount of time an animal is kept on pasture has little significance when grain comprises 80% of the animal’s diet.
Some farmers believe that Grass Feeding and grain finishing or only supplementing with grain through the winter season is sufficient in raising a healthy animal. This is far from the truth. The healthy body composition of a Grass Fed animal diminishes within days of any grain supplementation. The Omega-3 fatty acid content of the animal will have halved after a few weeks of being fed grain. It is critical that the animal is not fed grain throughout the entirety of it’s lifetime.
There seems to be a strange unspoken acceptance for pastured pork among a large portion of people who consume Grass Fed beef. The farmers realize this obscurity and silently take advantage of the situation. All photos displayed of pastured-raised pigs are mysteriously deficient of the corn filled troughs where the pigs spend the majority of their time feeding. As scavenging omnivores, pigs require more than grass for optimal nutrition, but it is impossible to justify grains as an appropriate food source. Pigs should be fed items which were historically attainable through their evolutionary period as well as metabolically congruent with their digestive processes. These include grasses, roots, tubers, nuts and scavenged meat.
Bringing pigs to an economical weight through corn supplementation rather than healthy forage is less expensive for the farmer. Surprisingly, farmers are able to please the “educated consumer” by taking this practice out of factory environments and utilizing it on pastures. We should not settle for something that is merely less bad. As Grass Fed enthusiasts and supporters of our own health we need to refuse grain fed pork. Notify your local free-range pork farmers that you are willing to pay the premium for pigs raised on historically natural diets. Please let me know if you are aware of farmers who have already taken this initiative so I can spread the word.