hog barn tour

Hog Farm Tour: A New Perspective

To be honest, the hog farm was the City Mom tour I was least looking forward to. That’s why I chose it as one of my assigned blogs. If I was going to have negative preconceived notions, I felt it was important to write about what I saw and felt during the tour and reconcile my idea of a hog farm and my actual experience.

Growing up we didn’t eat much pork. It wasn’t something my mother prepared often and, in turn, I don’t prepare much pork for my family. It never occurred to me why but I believe you usually cook what you’re used to eating. As the hog tour approached, I tried to think of why I was apprehensive about the tour as pork production was not a top-of-mind topic for me. I realized that it really came down to my fear of seeing how an animal is treated on a modern farm. This was the first tour in which we were going to come face to face with animals that are raised with the sole purpose of human consumption.

It was explained prior to the tour that the Gould Farm specializes in the farrow to wean portion of hog farming, basically gestation and caring for piglets until they are weaned. This did not make the scenario brighter for me as the tour would specifically focus on mom hogs and their piglets. It was also explained that we would have the unique privilege of viewing the gestational stalls and the farrowing stalls. We were told that this was, indeed, unusual because of the constant fear of possible illnesses that could infect the resident hogs. The idea of viewing the stalls was a bit uncomfortable for me. Were the animals comfortable? Would they rather be free to roam?

The answer came down to perspective. This tour reminded me that the Gould Farm was preparing a product and its existence was driven by the demand for that product. This was not a petting zoo. This was an operating farm caring for animals that would eventually be slaughtered and sold in grocery stores to people like me and the Gould’s were doing this in the most safe and manageable way possible.

Here’s what I learned

  • The Gould Farm specializes in gestation to ween in hog production. The hogs are sent to other farms contracted by the same company where they are “finished” and sent for processing.
  • The hogs aren’t owned by the Gould Farm. The Gould’s are paid to breed gilts/sows and raise piglets with feed and medical care supplied by Tri Oaks.
  • The manure on the Gould Farm is not stored in lagoons, instead the manure is held in tanks below the animal housing. The manure is not sprayed as I originally thought. It is injected where it is needed after the soil is tested.
  • Hormel buys hogs from farms that follow stringent guidelines. These guidelines must be met with consistency without exception. Doug England was the Hormel representative that spoke with us. He was in charge of purchasing hogs for Hormel. His description of the purchase, delivery, and processing of the hogs reassured me that companies like Hormel were interested in producing a quality product and a huge part of that was the care of the animals. Sick, injured, or stressed animals were not part of the equation.

This tour put in perspective the reality of animal farming. The reality is that I eat meat and I prepare meat for my family. I care about the safety of the meat I purchase and cook for my family and I care about the welfare of the animals that are raised for this purpose. I walked away from Gould Farm with a better understanding of the realities of hog farming and what needs to occur to provide safe and healthy environments to produce pork for human consumption. I was also impressed by the Gould family’s intent to explain this to us. Again, I was totally awestruck that these very busy people have the foresight to take the time to educate us, the people on the other end of the equation, the people who want reassurance that they are preparing healthy, safe food for their families without unneeded animal suffering.

Bridget Evanson


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