I just spent quite a long time responding to an email about our pork production, that I thought I might post it here. Perhaps there are others out there who have the same questions. Looking for our pork? Just look for our Mendocino Meats label. Cheers!
I’m happy to answer your questions about our pork.
Yes, our pigs are born and raised at Heart Arrow Ranch. We have 23 sows (mother pigs) and 4 boars. Last year we raised out 140 pigs that went to market, and this year, we expect to almost double that. In the pork world, that is a small number. We based the number of pigs we can raise on what the land can handle without being degraded, and other resources, like feed and labor. The ranch is 2,000 acres and comprised of oak woodland – rangeland. All of our pigs are raised outdoors with access to shelter, whether that be trees in the rangeland or the barn in the winter for farrowing sows (mother pigs about to give birth). Pigs are weaned from their mothers and put out into the rangeland around 2-months old, and they go to market around 8-10 months old.
For us to raise our pigs in this manner, we raise heritage breeds of pigs – older genetics of pigs that live well outdoors. Conventional industrial pigs were bred to survive in warehouses and have very lean meat. Our pigs actually have the build and muscle conformation to endure running around outside, stronger immune systems, and a temperament where they enjoy being outdoors. Their meat has more fat than conventional pigs, which makes them tastier, as pork should be.
100% of our pig’s feed is food waste or food byproduct. We used to buy organic feed from a feed mill, but it’s more economical for us to get free or cheap food waste/byproduct that would otherwise get thrown away. While we cannot get our pork certified organic because of this, we feel that we are mitigating the endemic problem of food waste
, and most organic feed is imported from abroad
, having a large carbon footprint anyway. On a dry-matter basis (if all the moisture was removed), the food waste/byproduct is 50% organic. Their feed includes:
– cheese snacks deemed not salable from a manufacturer in Sonoma County
– expired bread from a local bread outlet
– hemp seed meal and other miscellaneous food byproducts, cleanings from machines, and nonsalable items from Nutiva
– surplus ingredients from test batches and excess ingredients (nut butters, fillings, soy crisps, chocolate, etc.) from Clif Bar
We receive tons of these items and analyze their nutritional content to formulate the best rations for our pigs. We’re fortunate to have worked out the logistics of feeding our pigs this way, and the pigs seem happy for it!
Along with food waste and byproduct, our pigs enjoy foraging plants, insects, etc. in the hills, including acorns in the fall.
Most of our pigs are slaughtered at Marin Sun Farms in Petaluma. When we retire a sow (she has gotten old or is not farrowing well anymore) or boar, we take it to Redwood Meat Company in Eureka. Marin Sun Farms does not have the equipment to slaughter pigs over 450 lb, but Redwood Meat Co. does. The Local Butcher Shop and a few other butcher shops and restaurants get whole or half pig carcasses delivered to them. If we are selling cut-and-wrapped meat or sausage to a store, households, caterers, etc., the carcass goes to Sonoma County Meat Company in Santa Rosa, where it is fabricated. We are fortunate that we have a few options for USDA-inspected meat processing, and the drive is not too long from the ranch to the slaughterhouse for our pigs.
“Beyond organic” and “sustainable” have various meanings in the food and farming world, depending on who you talk to, and our farming practices reflect our personal values and mission, which you may have seen on our website. I hope this information is helpful for your project, and we wish you the best of luck! If you have any questions, feel free to get back to us.
Paula & Adam Gaska
Pigs drinking whey. Buckets of nut butter in the background.
Loading expired bread into the livestock trailer.
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