If, as the adage says, we are what we eat, why don’t we pay more attention to what slaughter animals are fed? According to some pig farmers, we should. NPR recently reported on the growing trend of growing crops, on site, specifically to feed animals that will be slaughtered, on site.
Seem a little extreme? Not to Missouri pig farmer Russ Kremer, who feeds his hogs his own (or local) grains and legumes, rather than commercial feed. Mass-produced animal feeds, which sustain most hogs in the United States, often encourage unnatural growth rates, and can include ingredients such as animal waste and genetically modified corn and soybeans.
Kremer chooses barley and oats over corn and soybean to avoid GMOs. Similarly, Kelley and Mark Escobedo, from South Texas Heritage Pork, feed their hogs peanuts, peanut hay, and oats, to keep their animals antibiotic-free and healthy.
The knowledge that animals’ diets influence consumers’ diets is nothing new. In 2007, Environmental Health Perspectives published a review of animal feed ingredients, noting that “the ingredients used in animal feed are fundamentally important in terms of both the quality of the resulting food products and the potential human health impacts with the animal-based food-production chain.”
But now not only are farmers increasingly promoting this mantra, but customers are appreciating it. The meat produced from animals that are raised on locally-, rather than commercially, produced feed are not only better for your body, but taste better, too.
Says Escobedo, with respect to the higher prices of his pork, “I’ve never had anyone come back and say it’s not worth it.”