Sunday, November 1, 2015

Surprisingly healthy hog bones!

We processed a few hogs this week for customers that bought a half or whole hog straight off the farm.  Lately we have been doing all the processing in a USDA plant, so we were not present to evaluate the health of the hogs. Yes, during processing you can tell quite a bit about the health of the herd, so on farm processing is quite helpful.  This week, we found a great surprise!

First off, the livers and organs looked beautiful. That's where obvious problems would show up. But all of these hogs were near perfect.

We noticed something else, a first... about the bones. A part of processing, of course, is to remove the feet.  Usually this is a process of clipping a few ligaments and "snapping" the feet off by hand. We have watched this done numerous times without fail. It normally doesnt take that much strength to pop the joints apart. Until now...

The butcher had a very difficult time! In fact, a few times they had to resort to a bone saw to separate the joints, as it was impossible to snap it apart with human strength.  The first one we did was a retired breeding sow, so I thought maybe it was maybe age. But no.. all the rest of the growers had the exact same strength in their joints.  Amazing!

It is not due to only breed, as we have processed this same breed mix several times before without these extra strong bones. The only explanation I can come up with is diet. These are the first set of hogs that have been fully produce fed. All the squash and pumpkin seeds are loaded with the goodness that build bones. In between produce batches these hogs were fed sprouted grain and fodder. Again.. a step well beyond commercial hog feed in nutrition. Sprouts and fodder are "live foods" as opposed to dead dry cracked grain used in commercial feed.  There just is no substitute for live food!

There is one other possibility that could contribute to extra healthy bones.... Leaves! Last year we collected a few tons of fallen leaves in the fall and spread them in a particular garden area. There was maybe 6 to 8 inches of leaves that decomposed and worked into the soil. Then in spring we planted that area with melon that never really made well (a different story)... but the weeds grew like CRAZY! especially.... purslane! it was thick and consistent .  When the pigs finally were let in to "clean up " that area, they ate all the purslane, roots and all.  How does this help? well... the leaves hold a high mineral content, because trees have very deep roots, and deep roots means bringing up deep minerals. Those minerals get deposited in the soil, and a prolific weed like purslane will pick up the minerals and make them bioavailable.

So , bottom line, we were impressed with the bone health of these hogs. what does that mean to you? Extra nutritious pork and broths made from the bones. We have never seen bones and connecting joints this healthy, so the broths and stocks made from these bones should be super nutrition!

The moral of the story is..  everything matters... your farmer can raise or lower the nutrition and health of your food by his processes...  What has your farmer done for you? Ask them!

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