By: Asher Wright
The 2 major differences between the two types of pork are related to meat quality and nutrient composition. Because the animals raised outdoors are on large areas of land to prevent environmental degradation they get a lot more exercise than pigs raised indoors. Hogs raised indoors do not exercise as much because the inside stocking rates are so high that they do not afford much running or prolonged movement. What this gets you is a meat that is similar to the difference between a runner or regular cardio person and one that is more sedentary. The meat from the outdoor hog is darker in color which is due to increased levels of hemoglobin to bring oxygen to the working muscles. The main element in Hemoglobin is Iron and Iron is reddish in color; as you increase Iron concentration you increase the reddish color in the meat.
The other primary difference between the two types of meat has to do with the nutrient composition. There’s not much difference within the protein but within the fat, vitamins, and minerals there is. Even though the pigs are still on free choice grain in both systems, pigs living outdoors can frequently get increased polyunsaturated fats within their meat from  the grazing of forages in their field. This is reliant on good pasture management and the pigs actually having access to pasture otherwise there is no difference. It is also common to see increased levels of beta-carotene and fat-soluble vitamin E, which are in high concentration in forages.
Overall, it is commonly agreed upon now that meat from pasture raised pigs is more in-line with what human health professionals would recommend as compared to conventional, confinement raised pork. In my opinion it also tastes better and is better for the animal and the environment, when raised responsibly. And so that’s the other main reason we should all eat it instead of the alternative. So why not everyone have yourself a pork chop or a delicious ground sausage product this evening for dinner.

From Guest Blogger: Ann Araps Sitler- HNG Meats General Manager

Rolled Up Pork Tenderloin

I love my grill and am easily pleased by a simple salt and peppered 100% grassfed burger any day, but sometimes I feel the need to mix it up. Pork tenderloin is a favorite cut of mine… small enough for 2-4 people, delightfully tender, and fairly uniform in shape. The shape is what makes it fun to cook and present. It is surprisingly simple to filet it open, line it with seasonal goodies, and roll it up. The result is a beautiful spiral of meat, cheese, and anything else you please.

Rolled Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1/3 cup chopped greens (spinach, watercress, kale, anything fresh)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped or shredded cheese (Looking Glass Drovers Rd is a favorite)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Butterfly the pork tenderloin, leaving some space on either end to tuck (make a ½ inch deep cut 2” from the top of the pork tenderloin along one side down to 2” from the bottom or to the point where is starts to thin. Pull the tenderloin apart and continue to cut along the side until the whole thing laid out is ½” thick). Rub the outside with olive oil and salt and pepper. Pan sear or grill for 30 seconds/side on medium high heat. Remove from heat and set aside. Mix your greens, onions, garlic, and cheese. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the opened pork leaving 1” around the edge. Roll lengthwise, tuck in the ends, and tie with butchers twine. Grill for 20 minutes on low heat or bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Let it sit at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Play with all different types of fillings for your pork tenderloin. Some suggestions are apples and goat cheese in the fall, shredded beets and sweet potato in the winter, or garlic scapes and brie in the spring.

 

Spring is here!

Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, the weather is warming… but more than anything else, the sign that indicates spring’s arrival is that we finally moved our pigs out of the barn and onto pasture!

There is a long tradition of herding animals in this area. The old Drover’s Road comes right through the farm. Farmers from the West drove their mules, pigs, turkeys, and cows to eastern markets along what is now 74-A. The house that my great grandparents bought when they moved to Fairview in 1916 was actually an old Inn. Fairview is about a day’s walk from the city, perfectly situated for the drovers who were pushing their way east.

One thing I will say about days spent herding pigs: It’s not easy. I have so much respect for those farmers who were driving their animals hundreds of miles. We only herd our pigs several hundred yards. We set up fences and gates to keep them from taking off wherever they please. We make sure to have people ready to block off routes that look enticing. And, even with all those precautions in place, we have plenty of disasters.

Pigs are smart. Once they learn a fence line (especially an electric line where they’ve experienced a good shock) they are loathe to cross it. Our herd has been in the barn all winter, enjoying deep bedded warmth in a small and well defined area. The most difficult part of herding them to new pasture is getting them out of the barn. They know their space, they have rooted right to the edge of the fence line and made the contours their own. When we take the fence down, they can still see the line where their rooting stops. They know from experience that they shouldn’t cross that line.

One trick we learned that helps us get the herd over that mark is to spread fresh hay on either side. This disguises the line and the pigs also like to root in it, searching for food or anything else exciting (pigs find a lot of mundane things exciting… bits of wood, rubber, metal, basically anything they can gnaw on). Once they’ve crossed the threshold, they are perfectly willing to go as far as their chubby legs can carry them.

This week, when we moved the herd out the barn, our biggest issue was that one group moved out over tate line quickly but a second group was more obstinate. Pigs are not like cows. They don’t have the same strong herd mentality. One group took off toward greener pastures while the rest refused to leave their home of the past four months. Zach had to sprint off after the first group and herd them into the corral while Walker and I stayed back to watch the second bunch. Eventually we had to grab several unused metal gates and use them like plows to slowly push the pigs out over the line. Once they crossed it, they ceased to have any qualms about leaving the barn. From there out it was as simple as stopping traffic along Sugar Hollow to allow the porky fellows to make their way to the corral and rejoin the herd

It feels great to see the pigs out in the pasture, happily rooting through dirt and grass, stretching their legs in the wide open space. I also like joining in the tradition of the drovers. I am glad that our route only takes us down the road a little ways and not over mountains and across hundreds of miles of rugged terrain. Hats off to the drovers. They must have known their animals well by the end of a trip like that.

Happy springing,

Sweetbread.

Pigs are gross. Plain and simple. Ok, maybe these pigs are cute, but on the whole– not cute, gross.

A Pig may make a nice pet if it is well trained, consistently cleaned, and not allowed to grow to enormous proportions.  On the whole though, pigs are pretty nasty.

Even when they have a huge paddock full of grass and shrubs, it only takes them about two weeks to turn it into a muddy, stinking wasteland. I’m always amazed, when we move our hogs to a new pen, how quickly they destroy every living thing within the fenceline. Granted there are anywhere from 130-200 of them, but it’s still an impressive feat of rooting, mucking, and eating.

It seems strange then to suppose that we can keep our herd inside the barn for a full four months without the space becoming so fetid that it becomes impossible to enter. Surprisingly, the barn remains fairly pleasant through the winter mainly due to our practice of deep bedding.

Every couple of days we roll out one or two round straw-bales, spreading it evenly through the barn (we have to buy our straw because, as you may have picked up from the last post, we no longer have our own hay equipment). This bedding not only cuts down on the smell, it also provides warmth and comfort for the pigs on especially cold or windy nights.

Over the course of the winter we spread upwards of 70 bales which, weighing roughly 500lbs each, comes out to around 35,000lbs of straw! In the spring, when we move the pigs out to pasture, we can take the tractor and scrape that rug of hay and manure out into a pile and let it sit for a few months. It will reach temps of over 100 degrees and quickly break down to a beneficial compost for some of our fruits and vegetables.

They may be nasty, but pigs are an important part of the farm. They may destroy plants, but they help us grow plants too. That is part of the beauty of farming!

Best,

Sweetbread

Summer is a great time for bacon lovers. I think I mainly say that because I LOVE BLTs. I suppose that bacon tastes nice all year round, but nothing beats farm fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and crunchy bacon on good hearty bread. Add a little avocado in there, ooh, you’re set. I know I’m not alone in this desire (we’ll steer clear of the term fetish, even if it is more accurate), because every summer I witness the trends. As soon as the farmers at the tailgate markets start whipping out those luscious ripe tomatoes, people line up at our booth for bacon. I’ve even gotten a few harsh words and angry glares from those customers with heavier addictions who show up too late for our last pack of smoked and sliced pork belly.

But lets be real. Bacon is always enticing. Listening to that popping sizzle and catching the scent of smoky, salty, succulence, your mouth can’t help but start to water. I bet you’re getting a hankering for bacon just reading this post! If that’s you, then you’re in luck. BaconFest, Asheville’s hog celebration, is coming up on August 31st. If you’re into weird bacon themed desserts, bacon flavored drinks, or just the plain unadulterated stuff itself, this is the event for you. Presented by 105.9 the Mountain, and hosted by Highland Brewing Company, the festival will include music, tastings, and lots and lots of bacon! For more info click here. We will have a booth at the festival where you can buy our fresh and smoked bacon as well as some other tasty pork products from the farm.

Of course, if you can’t make it to baconfest, you can still get our bacon, both smoked and fresh, at the farmstore and at our tailgate market locations (North Asheville, Asheville City Market, and West Asheville Market).

Happy Frying!

Sweetbread

This has been a hectic week on the farm but, thanks to all the rain, I may get to do a little work in the office. Steve, the wholesale manager, is on vacation in Vermont with his family. While they’re paddling around in the cool northern lakes, I got stuck filling in for him, taking orders and trying to keep the books straight.  When he got hurt earlier in the year, I think I was even more overwhelmed, but now I’ve got a little more of a handle on things thanks to that previous experience. I’ve certainly made a few mistakes already, but nothing grievous as yet.

Meanwhile, our animals are all swimming in mud soup. The poor chickens looked comically pitiful this morning as we moved their house, subdued and huddled together under the tarp. The  pigs, after only a week in their new paddock, have made such a mud hole that we’re afraid we might not be able to get the tractor in to bring them their feed. I slopped to the feeder this morning and cleaned great gobs of mud out of the trough. Unlike the chickens though, the pigs were absolutely content with the weather and the lake of sludge that their home has become.

On another note, Our new interns started work this week! Hallie and Tina are great, at least, that’s my impression from the little time I spent with them this morning. They stayed very positive, even while trudging through pig mud in their sneakers (Tina found some muck boots in the shop soon after).  Their first day of work, Tuesday, was CSA pickup day at the farmstore, but they immediately rose to the challenge, learning the register, retail prices, and quirks of the job while dealing with and unusually high number of customers. It was a blessing for everyone to have them around during such a busy week, I just hope we didn’t scare them away already by expecting them to step right into the mix without any time to get adjusted.  That’s what it’s all about, though. Jumping in, hanging on, and trying to learn a thing or two along the way.

Our pastured pork chops are on sale this week and next for $7.50 per pound. The weather has finally taken a turn for the better and it’s time to break out the grill and get your chop on! Here is a tantalizing recipe for spicy grilled pork chops that will make for a great spring evening outdoors. http://www.marthastewart.com/316323/grilled-pork-chops-with-spice-paste.

If you want to try some seasonal cooking, this is a recipe that includes fresh asparagus! It’s hard to beat a combination like that. http://www.charmofthecarolines.com/charm-of-the-carolines/2011/10/asparagus-asiago-stuffed-pork-chops.html. The sale ends April 20th so don’t miss out!

Sorry for any confusion about the April date that appeared here earlier. May 18th is the new official date for the Open House.  If you’ve been telling yourself for months that you need to make it out the farm but you just haven’t had the time or found the right occasion, look no further. We are having an Open House on May 18th at the farm, which is located at 57 Sugar Hollow Rd. in Fairview. The event also includes a  Farm Tour at 3pm and free samples! 

Come check out our farmstore where you can buy fresh 100% grassfed beef, pastured pork and poultry, plus tons of other local food and craft items. Go on the Farm Tour with Jamie Ager and romp around the farm to see how we raise our animals and learn about our vision as a farm and local business. Try some of our cured pork and fresh cooked meats. No need to reserve a space or rsvp, just come on out and enjoy a little springtime on the farm. Hope to see you soon!

Just don’t have time to drive all the way out Fairview? Come visit us at our farmer’s market venues. We will be selling our products on Saturdays at the North Asheville Market on the campus of UNCA and at Asheville City Market, which is located at 161 South Charlotte Street in the parking lot of the Public Works Building. We’ll also be at the West Asheville Market on Tuesdays. Hope to see you there!

There is no doubt in my mind that full grown pigs are the ugliest animals on the farm. They’ve got stunted snouts, bristly hair, sandpaper-rough skin, flabby haunches, awkwardly pointed mouths… they’re just unattractive. Not only that, but they smell to high heaven and any time you go into their pen they nibble curiously at your shoes, which wouldn’t be so bad except that, without a proper shooing, they’ll quickly develop a taste for leather boots and go for a full on chomp. I can’t even begin to embrace the width of their acoustic production, a category which is rife with sounds as diverse as the throaty grunt and the shrill, intolerable squeal. Even the various titles which we use to refer to them hint at the creatures’ comeliness; pig, hog, boar, sow, etc. They are words that seem to be derived directly from the grunting language of the pigs themselves.

Despite all that, if you asked me to assert which is the cutest animal on the farm, I wouldn’t hesitate to put forward the infant version of this same animal. It may seem strange that a creature can develop from an absolute delight into an unmitigated irritant, but it’s true. For some reason the stubby nose on a piglet is endearing. Their grunts sound almost like giggles. They squeal, but it makes you want to offer protection rather than cover your ears.

We don’t farrow pigs here on the farm. Normally we only raise feeder pigs, meaning they are several weeks or months old when they come to us. One of our sows must have arrived on the farm pregnant because when we went to sort the pigs out a few months ago, we were surprised to find that she was certainly carrying a litter. We made her a cozy nest of hay in one of our mobile shelters and covered the entrance with a tarp to keep out the cold drafts. Sure enough, about two weeks afterward she gave birth to eight of the cutest little creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on. I don’t know exactly what quality it is that makes infants so appealing other than their total need, both physically and emotionally, for protection and provision. Once that obvious need is gone, I find that much of my patience diminishes too. For now though, these guys positively reign in the cuteness department (though Amy and Jamie’s son Levi gives them a run for their money).