Update: Around 2014 I got 'tired' of the pigs always running away and I have decided I am no longer interested in raising pigs. Yes range fed pigs tasted way better, and range fed bacon is my favorite bacon, but alas, the work for my little farm was just too much for the results. I still recommend it, and if anyone in the Calgary area can find a different supplier - let me know, I like it enough to buy it from someone else!/p>
At the request of several friends and my own preferences for the taste of 'range feed' animals, I have gotten into raising a few tasty range feed pigs (hogs) per year. My emphasis is on taste, after all, I'm raising a bit for my family and I to eat - and I love to eat great food..
I've been asked if people can buy some, the answer is - maybe. I have a tight limit imposed by the county, on how many animals I can raise at a time and, as a virtue of being located in the cold North (Calgary area) I obviously can only raise range feed andimals in the summer! So I can only realistically get one 'crop' of piggies per year.
So, my excess pigs will be available on a first come first serve basis (because I already have people lined up for most of what I produce.). If you want to be on the list you can buy a whole pig, a side (half) pig, or specfic cuts, to be delivered fresh in the fall (well, I'll only deliver if you are in the Airdrie area, if you live further a field, better that you find someone local unless you come by Airdrie anyway in the fall.)
Removed: Current available product. Removed since we don't produce/sell this anymore. Basically, the rest of this page is completely out of date.
To secure your pig (or cuts), you first check if I have some available then you provide me with a $100 down payment. While I fully expect to be able to deliver if, due to circumstances beyond my control I can't, I will of course return your money and give you first right of refusal on next years piggies. Then, when I know what day the meat will be packaged, I let you know and we arrage for delivery. If you buy from me 'this' year, you'll also get first right of refusual for next year.
But enough of the busiess side of things, lets get down to more interesting information.
Above I talked about the Duroc's being appropriate for 'free range'. Why are the ones sold commercially not appropriate? Well for one - a white pig sunburns and sunburns badly! Second, the Hog producers are interested (and you can't blame them) in producing the most poundage of meat for the lowest possible cost - why not - most people most of the time want to pay the absolute lowest price per pound and they can't tell whether one cut is better than another anyway. And I admit, I am guilty of this as the next person. But sometimes I like the 'better' stuff and I'm willing to pay a little bit more (occasionally I really like something and I'll pay a lot more - for example, I really like 150 and 200 year old ports, but this is really getting off topic).
From a standard producers perspective, a hog that walks around, rather than sleeping all day, needs a lot more food per pound of meat put on, so a producer wants his pigs tied in place or in tiny little cages so there is nothing to do but sleep.
From a free range producer's perspective (like me), there is lots of grass and weeds for my pigs to eat, so I don't care if they have to eat twice as much food per pound of meat produced.
From a standard producer's perspective, a hog that walks around, rather than sleeping all day, takes a lot longer to grow from a weaner to a 250lb (or whatever size they prefer for their breed) hog that they can butcher - and since they are keeping them in pens all day, that means it is wasting space which means they can't put a new pig in there until they butcher the first one, that means they can't produce as many per year so their cost goes up and profit down.
From a free range producer's perspetive (like me), there is a legal limit to how many hogs I can raise at a time, and because our summers are so short in the Calgary area, I can only raise one set of pgs anyway - so if they take another month or two (instead of 3 or 4) to get to full size - what does it matter? I don't have time for a second batch anyway. So all it costs me is a little more time and effort.
From a standard producer's perspective, since they are paying for all the feed - no chance to forage as above, they want a breed that is efficient as possible turning the feed into meat, the less food to get the pig up to the approximately 250lb size, the better. So, they breed their pigs for that characteristic.
From a free range perspective, those varieties of pigs can't live on forage - they get sick or simply don't grow! I want pigs that love real food, not specific pellets, so the pigs I look for are breeds that are great at eating anything, or green leafy material and bugs in particular and not the ones that have been breed to need pellets.
From a standard producer's perspective - taste doesn't matter, because the customer won't know one shopping day from the next who the farmer was that raised the pork they are eating.
From a free range producer's perspective - my clients know exactly where their meat came from and since they are paying a small premium, they will remember the quality and taste of the meat and they will care that I don't use chemical sprays (herbicides or pesticides) on the food my pigs are eating. (And after all - why would I? My free range animals will eat everything - weeds and bugs alike!)
But what if you want to raise your own? Yes, I have some advice there too!
If you are thinking about raising pigs, there are many things you need to know, the first is - if you are raising pigs free range you aren't going to have the stink that is normally associated with pigs. Pigs are not naturally stinky, but when confined in production ways, yes, there is going to be a terrible manure smell - you just can't have that much manure per day in such a small location without some stink. But, with free range, your piggies will happily act in a way that works for you and your piggies.
Second, how much meat can you realistically expect from your piggies. I'm starting with the assumption that you, like me, are planning on raising your pigs from weaners (just weaned) to about 220-250 lbs, the exact weight depending on how much lard you want and what variety of pig you are raising.
So, if you are taking a lean live weight 220-lb pig (hog), your hanging weight (carcass weight) will likely be around 160 lbs. If you are selling your pigs by the whole or the side, you will probably be selling them by the hanging weight. The next number is the weight of the so called 'retail cuts' will be around 130 lbs.
Depending on how you have the pig butchered and how much fat your piggie has you will get different amounts of each cuts. But again, lets assume that you had the pig butchered when it reached 220 lbs, before it put on a lot of fat. You should reasonable expect to be able to get the following: (These numbers come from 2 different books I've read plus a government web site (US) and just approximate, there are also several other ways to 'cut up' the pig that yield different quantities of several items..)
When pricing it out, you need to consider - do you like free range more than store bought? If you do, what premium would you pay - nothing? 1%? 10%? 30%? more? I read in the local paper several months back (2010) that the average person was willing to pay a 15% premium, if that were true, tha would mean that some would pay more and some would pay less. Based on people I've meet through the years, I'm willing to bet that, while they will say they will pay 15% more - because they are too embarrased to admit the truth, most people aren't willing to pay more than a 5% premium, if that! I know there are exceptions: I've also met people willing to pay as much as double. In any event, I doubt you could find many people willing to pay a 15 or higher percent preimum without a lot of work marketing - but I could be wrong! I'm very sure there are far more people will say they will pay the premium than there are people who actually will pay it. But interestingly enough, I find there are more people who would be willing to do the work and pay 15% more (when they add up all the costs) then there are people who would pay others the extra 15%. For them, like me they should consider growing their own premium quality and taste pig.
New Terra Farm -completely unrelated to me- has a lot of interesting information. Some free with just your email, others at a cost. For information on both types of product, visit: Click here to visit New Terra Farm. But before you buy anything - check out their best offer: Click here to view more details I bought this best offer and I was really pleased with the info I got and I have made very good use of several suggestions in their information.