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INTRODUCTION Sd Why Happy Pigs? Pigs and humans have been together for a long time—vell over ten thousand years! The history of the two species likely first joined in southwestern "Turkey, though new evidence based on DNA. sequencing suggests that wild boars may have been domesticated independently in thirteen other regions, ranging from central Europe to the Indian subcontinent to central China and Oceania," In the millennia that followed, domesticated swine spread to practically every comer of the globe. Christopher ‘Columbus brought pigs to Cuba, while Hernando de Soto brought them to the North American mainland. They arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and in New Zealand with whalers in the early nineteenth century, All around the world, pigs’hardiness, versatility, and tastiness have made them desirable companions for humans In North America the pig quickly natural~ ized in southern regions and was brought west by European colonists traveling from the eastern seaboard. For pioneers on the move or living in crude conditions, pigs were easier to care for than sheep or cattle and provided a valuable source of cooking fat. ‘Their appeal to settlers was further enhanced by the fact that their meat could be easily preserved by salting or brining before the invention of refrigeration. In the early days of pig production, swineherds moving pigs to urban markets only expected to travel 10 miles (16 km) per day, so operations were generally small and local, with each farm keeping a small number of swine for consumption by the family and neighbors.? The advent of rail travel facilitated the movement of grain to pigs and pigs to market, allowing the size of opera~ tions to increase, With the invention of modern grain harvesting machinery, traditional methods of feeding hogs by ranging them on wild land or in cornfields lost popularity, and by the 1950s the development of modern intensive swine production was well under way. The physiology of the pig changed in tandem with production methods: With easy access to cheap vegetable oil and widespread adoption of refrigeration, demand for lard and salt pork fell while demand for lean meat rose. Early American settlers would scarcely recognize a post-World War II hog farm. Instead of a handful of short-coupled fat hogs rooting in the woods for grubs, they would see hundreds or thousands of long, lean animals packed into indoor facilities and eating grain. Efficiency became the name of the game. Farmers and researchers made enormous strides in swine productivity in the second half of the ‘twentieth century by breeding for reproductive capacity (the average litter size increased from 7.5 pigs to 11 pigs, and the average number of pigs weaned per sow per year nearly doubled), feed Happy Pigs Taste Better efficiency (the average feed-to-gain ratio shrank by more than 20 percent), and phenotypes that increased marketable yield (average lean yields increased by 30 percent).' Improved knowledge of swine nutrition, the ability to accurately measure the nutritional contentof feedstuffs,and the devel- opment of certain feed additives contributed to the improvements in feed efficiency and reduced the excretion of nitrogen and phosphorus in swine effluent. In and of themselves, these developments had the capacity to improve farm profits, benefit consumers with lower grocery prices, and ease the strain on the natural environment by reducing the land base required to produce the US pork crop and reducing the threat to water quality. Unfortunately, things did not work out that way. The new efficiencies required scale and heavy capital investments to fully realize, which impeded entry to the market by smaller producers. Today, just four large meatpacking operations process nearly two-thirds of the hogs produced in the United States.* ‘These operations have extensive control over market pricing and, understandably, prefer to work with larger producers who can provide high volumes of meat and afford to run on slimmer margins. ‘While per capita annual pork consumption has fluctuated between 45 and 60 pounds (20.4 and 27.2 kg) for half a century, the American popula- tion has more than doubled since 1950, resulting in an increase in overall pork consumption that significantly outpaces the gains we have made in feed efficiency.’ And despite small farmers’ complaints about the modern consumer's expec tations for cheap food, even the consumer hasn't benefited: The inflation-adjusted price for bacon at the grocery store rose by 6 percent between 1950 and 2016.‘ ‘the biggest beneficiaries of modern pork production techniques are wealthy middlemen, not farmers, eaters, or the earth. Meanwhile, the biggest losers are the hogs themselves. The modem pig lives a very differ ent life from that of its ancestors a century ago. Instead of roaming the woods, foraging, or living in a sty with an outdoor yard and eating scraps, it lives indoors from birth to death and eats a scien- tifically balanced but very homogeneous diet. A well-run confinement grower facility is not neces sarily injurious to hog comfort—the best facilities are climate controlled, well it, well ventilated, and impeccably clean—but producers in the single minded pursuit of efficiency cut comers in these departments all too often, It is not difficult to find the sort of operation featured in exposés by animal rights organizations: crowded, dirty, damp, dark, stinky, and staffed by overworked and under- tained handlers. Even in the better facilities, the incentive is always there to produce more animals in less space and less time. By the late 1960s most sows were confined to farrowing erates for birth~ ing and lactation—eages so small that the animals could not turn around, let alone move freely. Later, crating was extended to gestating sows as well Meanwhile, the average age of weaning dropped by about half, which required the devel: opment of highly refined, protein-rich diets based ‘on animal products such as dried blood plasma. Growing hogs stressed by overcrowding resorted to cannibalism, leading producers, in turn, to begin the practice of routinely docking tals. Farms chas- ing ever greater feed efficiency use synthetic feed additives such as ractopamine, which is certainly effective but increases stress response to aggressive handling and increases the number of nonambula- tory pigs.” Selecting for ultralean, heavily muscled body types has encouraged the proliferation of the halothane gene, which can cause sudden death in stressed animals. As long as reducing production costs is the only way for the producer to succeed, the animals will continue to be the losers. Introduction Fortunately for the pigs, many consumers care about them. Few Americans have a direct connec- tion to how their food is produced anymore, or think much about where their BLT came from, but most are sentimental to some degree about animals and want them to be treated well. Most also want their great-grandchildren to have water to drink, food to eat, and air to breathe. When confronted with the negative impact of the modern livestock industry on the environment and animal welfare, some consumers will abso: lutely go into ostrich mode rather than change their buying habits, and some will decide to avoid meat entirely. Others, though, learn about alternative ways of getting meat to the table and decide either to raise their own meat or to support producers who are dedicated to environmental protection and animal welfare—and they under- stand that those principles come at additional financial cost. This demand creates a genuine opportunity to start creating a better system. Alternative methods of hog production (including certified organic, pasture-based, and other extensive methods) on homesteads and family-scale farms benefit the farmer, the hog, the environment, and the consumer. High-welfare hog production benefits the farmer because the product distinguishes itself on the market. ‘Competing in the mainstream markets as a small producer is most likely a nonstarting proposition, and definitely a losing game, especially if you are committed to maximizing animal welfare (the margins in mainstream production are too slim to allow this commitment). As a niche producer, however, you can exercise some control over your scale, your markets, and your profitability. The pig obviously benefits because it is allowed to be a pig (anda happy pig, at that!) instead of just a produc tion unit. Like its ancestors, it gets to experience sunshine and free movement and exercise its natu- ral instincts. The environment benefits because small-scale farms are well adapted to composting ‘manure instead of handling it as liquid effluent, turning farm “waste” into a resource rather than a contaminant. If you grow or purchase organic feed, the environment benefits doubly because your farm supports crop production practices that conserve soil quality and avoid toxic synthetic materials. Consumers benefit from the satisfac~ tion of a connection with the source of their food, the comfort of knowing that their bacon habit doesn't come at the expense of animal welfare, and above all an improved dining experience—happy pigs really do taste better! Fully realizing all these benefits at a sustain able price requires informed decision-making by both farmer and eater—and that is where you and this book come into play. A Bit about Me I was born and raised on a small dairy goat farm in Whitefield, Maine. Every summer my father raised a couple of pigs in the backyard in a ramshackle little pen that we moved daily so that the pigs could enjoy fresh grass. My parents wouldn't buy me a horse, so I spent a lot of time playing in the pigpen—one of the first things I learned about pigs is that they won't cooperate with a rider! My childhood on the farm led to an abid- ing interest in crops and animals alike. My high school advisor urged against pursuing an agri- cultural degree because I was a “good student,” so I enrolled at Colby College in Waterville, ‘Maine, in their environmental studies program. Atthe time I was a strict vegetarian. My eating habits were the result of concerns about the living conditions of livestock on large confine ment farms—having grown up cating happy