The Illinois Farm Field Moms had the wonderful opportunity to tour a Hog Farm at the Old Elm Farms in Sycamore, IL (February 23, 2013)
Give them a label-Not a name
"Don't get attached, the hogs are our income and food." This is the advice Steve Ward, president of Dayton Farms of Sycamore, IL, gives his two children Sarah and Dayton, when a new litter of piglets are born.
It's in the Marketing
Of course it's in the marketing. Marketing is key; it is what sells the product. So from that said did you know that hog producers never give hormones to their hogs, EVER! So why does that packaged pork you just picked up today at the grocery store say NO Hormones Added? To clarify Steve Ward and other hog farms like his just are the wean to finish farms and have nothing to do with the label you see in the grocery store. The final destination (or grocery store) of each of Steve Ward's hogs is unknown to him. The big companies who sell the finished product may add that "No Hormones Added," label. According to the Ward family this is just a marketing scheme to make the buyer believe they are getting a healthier piece of pork for their family.
To Market to Market
To buy a fat pig. Two hundred and eighty pounds that is. Free Range, Barnyard, Organic Pork? You might want to re-think this option next time you buy your pork at a grocery store especially if you are on a budget. Tim Maiers who works for the Illinois Pork Producers Association questions what exactly makes that choice of pork healthier. Tim, along with Steve Ward and his father John Ward, president of Old Elm Farms, described the possible uncleanly conditions of hogs raised in the outdoors and the added cost of grain needed to keep the hogs warm in the winter(hence the markup in price at the supermarket). We learned that these hogs have to share their living space with other rodents and birds that may carry diseases. Hogs raised inside such farms like the Ward Family Farm provide a more controlled environment which means less grain is needed for consumption since it is all climate controlled. The hogs living conditions inside the farm are very clean and the hogs definitely have more roaming room then I previously envisioned. However, what this all comes down to are choices for the consumer. Steve and Tim stress nutrition-wise, free range or not, they are both the same.
Five Key Observations
I’d like to recap my experience with five things that I learned and found to be very interesting.
- The children who are born and raised on the farm willingly take on the responsibility at an early age to help their parents with much of the work on the farm.
- The hog manure never goes to waste but instead is plowed into the corn fields.
- Farmers recycle almost everything.
- Hogs are killed by means of gas.
- Old Elm Farms got its name from the oldest living Elm tree in Illinois. It lived to be 375 years old until it was cut down due to Dutch Elm Disease.