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Lard from Pastured Pigs
I grew up stirring an iron lard kettle for hours and keeping the fire at the right temperature to render the lard without scorching it.

In those days we butchered 5 or more hogs at a time right on the farm where they spent their whole life.

Today I make lard the easy way!
All you need is:

  1. Pig Fat
  2. Crock Pot
  3. Glass Jars
  4. Slotted spoon
  5. Strainer
Cut the fat into about one inch squares. Add a 1/2 inch of water to your crock pot. This is to keep the fat from scorching until enough melts. The water will evaporate off as you render the fat down.

Fill your crock pot with the fat and turn on med or high and keep an eye on it
until you're sure it's not too hot. You basically want it hot enough to melt the fat but not hot enough to scorch or burn it.

Lard after several hours
Let the fat melt for several hours until it doesn't seem like the any more will melt and what's left looks like it is more cooked than melted.

Some of these pieces of fat will render down but I typically get it to the point that things have really slowed down and decide it's not worth the wait for what little bit you will get.

Pieces of cooked pork fat
I then take a slotted spoon and spoon out the bulk of the cooked pork fat that wouldn't melt. This would have been put through a lard press back on the farm but we had quite a bit more it in those days. Also the skin was still on the fat as we scalded our hogs instead of skinning them. I can still remember eating cracklin's hot from the lard press.

Today these pieces of cooked greasy (unpressed) fat go to the chickens.

Strain the lard
Next you will need to strain the tiny bits of fat from the liquid as you pour it into the glass jars.

I use a strainer with a piece of coffee filter cut to fit in the bottom. Pour the lard through the strainer, cap tightly and allow to cool.

Lard cooled and ready for the freezer
I freeze the jars until I'm ready to use them and then store them in the fridge.

Making lard is an easy way to have some good fat in the house. To see some of the benefits of lard you can go here.

Until next time..

Tamworth Pigs on Pasture
Over the years I've had pigs fall apart on pasture. By "fall apart" I mean everything from not gain weight nearly as fast as others in the same pasture to the whole lot of them were having trouble thriving.

In some cases they have had to be rescued from the pasture and  propped up with crutches in order to thrive.

Get my latest FREE report: Your Guide to Buying Pigs for Pasture Based Farms - Click Here

What's the cause of this? It would be nice if I could narrow it down to one particular reason but many times it's a combination of things that are contributing. Let's look at a few of them.

Overly Optimistic about Your Pasture Quality.

Pigs need high quality pasture in order for it to be anything other than a supplement to grain. Think clover, or other legumes as a good percentage of the field.

Running Young Pigs on Pasture with too Little Feed.

The general rule is the younger the pig, the less he is able to utilize roughage from the pasture. You can not take pigs that are just weaned and turn them out on grass without plenty of feed supplementation and expect them to thrive. They'll fall apart.

Relying on Alternative Feeds as a Main Feed Source

I've seen small farmers attempt to feed hogs everything you can think of from stale bread to produce items, to distiller grains and everything in between.  Hogs are pretty good at eating what they are given but it will usually show up in health and weight gain.

Some alternative feeds are fine but learn some nutritional facts about swine before attempting to launch out into something that could cost you tons of time and pork in the end.

Not Catching the Clues of Pigs Starting to Fall Apart.

As an old farmer used to tell me "You need to know if an animal isn't doing well before it does."

Spend time observing your pigs on a daily basis. Learn what pigs look like and how they behave when they're healthy and thriving. When something seems different it usually means trouble. Get on top of it before it ship wrecks your pigs health.

Choosing the Wrong Pig for Pasture.

With the term "heritage breed pig" being thrown around all over the internet many folks wrongly assume this is the holy grail of pastured pigs.

It should be a head start in the right direction but it's simply not a guarantee that pigs will do well on grass. Many of the heritage breed pigs are being moved away from what made them great by breeding for different goals then the small farmer would have.

If you see a certain heritage breed showing up at all the fairs and in show pig magazines you can bet the breeder of those pigs has a different set of goals in his breeding program than will fit into your small farm with much success.

That doesn't mean there aren't lines within those breeds that are being developed for pasture and old time hog raising. Just don't assume that heritage breed automatically means good pasture hog.  

I've discussed this issue with the Tamworth breed before but it exists in some other heritage breeds as well.

Another issue is we have is the many small farmers who are breeding pigs with little or no experience in putting together a breeding program that will move them forward in their goals...assuming they have clear goals.

Final Thoughts

Raising pigs on pasture successfully is both an art and science. Study, plan carefully, and observe others. But most importantly get some pigs and learn as you go!

Until next time...

PS - Get my latest FREE Report: A Guide to Buying Pigs for Pasture click here.


Rhode Island Red - Old Breed
The ASPCA has recently launched a campaign "The Truth about Chicken" which is exposing the facts about how chickens are raised in the factory farm model and they are actively promoting slower growing breeds instead of the industry standard, Cornish Cross.

Here's a quote from the ASPCA website "In 1925, it took 16 weeks to raise a chicken to 2.5 pounds. Today, chickens weigh double that in just six weeks!"

So for all the genetic improvement over the last 80 plus years we can definitely see a big part of the focus was get the birds to slaughter weight as fast as possible.

Which begs the question: How fast is too fast?

In this case if you were to compare the growth rate of a human to that of a modern day broiler chicken you would find According to the University of Arkansas, if humans grew at a similar rate, a 6.6-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months. 

You have to admit, that's pretty fast by anyone's standards!

At Spring Hill Farms we have been raising Label Rouge broilers since they have been available in the United States. Although these birds grow slower than Cornish Cross, they are faster than a chicken in 1925.

Of course this type of "exposure" about what's going on in the poultry industry causes some very fervent emotions. The last time I checked there were about 300 comments on the ASPCA's blog where they announced the launch of The Truth about Chicken.

Before this campaign was launched I was contacted by the ASPCA to inquire if I would allow them to use a quote from my blog about what I felt was wrong with Cornish Cross chickens. You can read that blog post here.

I'll be honest with you...I was hesitant at first because I really had no idea what the ASPCA stood for when it came to livestock welfare. After a conversation with them and reading through their website I felt that they have a fairly balanced approach to livestock issues.

Many of the humane and cruelty type organizations have a "do not eat meat" mindset. I obviously wouldn't agree with that type of philosophy.

Of course I believe high welfare standards are a very central part of raising livestock.

See I don't believe that the fastest growth rate obtainable for poultry or any other livestock is the number one one factor.

I believe that high welfare standards should come first followed by nutritional quality of the meat, flavor profiles, sustainability, etc.

A small farm that is ran right should reflect a place:

  • that cares about animals
  • provides food that helps keep you healthy
  • is responsible to the environment

I signed the petition for The Truth about Chicken and I urge you to do so also.

If you are a small farmer let people know you believe the industrial poultry farm model is not the way to raise chickens. If you're using Cornish Cross birds on your small farm stop using them and get something better suited to the small farm model.

If we take a stand on these issues through organizations like the ASPCA and stop supporting the commercial poultry industry with our dollars things will begin to change.

At the very least we'll be able to sleep a little better at night knowing we are doing something to help facilitate change where it is needed  very badly.

Sign the petition here: "The Truth about Chicken"

Until next time...

The USDA has announced it's new 'tenderness' program designed to help consumers choose a good piece of beef.

The new USDA program allows beef companies to label products as "USDA tender" or "USDA very tender" if they are certified to make those claims.

Cargill will be rolling this out in the near future since they are certified to be able to do so.

While I've read a few articles about the whole issue, my take on it is a bit different.

Touting how tender a piece of beef might be is keying in on what consumers are duped with continuously. 

It's like the words 'extra creamy filling inside' on a box of junk food.

Yep - there probably is extra creamy filling inside.

The question is should you be eating it in the first place?

These type of labels are nothing more than emphasizing the taste or experience of a product while ignoring and totally playing down the real issues.

Does it contain GMO's?

Where was it made or grown?

I use these two examples because they are both being hotly contested in various parts of the country.

Maybe I'm wrong but I haven't heard any ground swell of complaints about how we need our beef products labeled for tenderness.

It's another case of attaching a solution to a problem that nobody but big biz knew was a problem.

Until next time..

“China has been very interested and very aggressive trying to get into the United States,....“And they have the resources to do it.” - Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley

With the recent announcement of the Smithfield-Shuanghui

merger much speculation has been circulating around the internet of late.

I've been busy farming and not paying more than a sideways glance at world events compared to my normal research. However, I thought it was time to give my thoughts on the merger as well.

A look around the 'net seems to indicate that the official word from both companies is the merger is more about China needing more pork products rather than China having an interest in selling pork into the U.S.

That makes sense as China has a population that is growing at a staggering rate. Couple that with the fact that the Chinese have always been heavy pork eaters and you can see how that would be the case.

I wonder if that means a whole bunch of piggies will be headed that way instead of to U.S. grocery stores? 

One argument could be that means big-ag farmers are gonna have to ramp up production to meet the demand...and that means more profitable U.S. pig farmers.

Since the majority of those type farm operations are under the thumb of huge companies such as Smithfield I suspect they will get a whole bunch more work and little bit more money. While Mr. Big company gets richer.

That's been the trend since we started down the road of vertical integration of our farm operations. Don't get me wrong...It's a free market. They have the right to operate that way, but it seems like it will continue to make a problem into a bigger problem.

I definitely can see retail pork prices going up over the long haul as more pork gets shipped to China.

And another snippet I found interesting...

"The Chinese also stand to benefit from the merger because of the country’s problems with food safety and sanitation. The U.S. pork industry has a longstanding reputation for food safety, sanitation and environmental integrity." - Hoosier Ag Today

Did that say environmental integrity? From what I can tell the environmental integrity of the huge factory hog farms in the United States is in shambles.

I find it hard to believe that someone would utter the words environmental integrity and industrial hog farming in the same sentence. Maybe compared to the Chinese it looks like integrity, but they're not the latest award winners of environmental stewardship last time I checked.

However, I believe that, as Joseph Goebbels was reputedly said to state, repeat a lie often enough and it is believed to be the truth.

Until Next time...
Spring Hill Farms

Here's a few links to ponder. Do we really want more factory hog farms in America?

PBS Video of North Carolina Hog Farms

Large hog farms emit hydrogen sulfide, a gas that most often causes flu-like symptoms in humans, but at high concentrations can lead to brain damage. In 1998, the National Institute of Health reported that 19 people died as a result of hydrogen sulfide emissions from manure pits. [more]

“The hog farming industry in North Carolina continues to use our waterways and lands as a garbage dump, and the Taylor facility is yet another example of this reckless behavior,” said Gary Grant, director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, an organization dedicated to protecting and preserving North Carolina waterways. “The clear violation of the law and disregard for the local community needs to be addressed, and the lack of any agency action has convinced us that a citizen suit is the only way we can stop this behavior.” Read more here:

I am a big believer in healthy fats. I consume lard from pastured pigs, pastured eggs, fat from grass fed meats, butter from grass fed cows, and now coconut oil.

Recent research on coconut oil clearly indicate it is a healthy oil. My personal experience has been positive since I began consuming coconut oil on a regular basis.

It is a great oil to cook with but beyond that it is a good oil to consume by itself. I take at least a tablespoon or two everyday.

Coconut oil has many benefits such as:

  • Promoting your heart health
  • Promoting weight loss if and when you need it
  • Supporting your immune system
  • Supporting a healthy metabolism
  • Providing you with an immediate energy source
  • Helping keep your skin healthy and youthful looking
  • Supporting the proper function of your thyroid gland

I wasn't aware of all these benefits when I first started taking coconut oil. I was mainly interested in replacing junk carbs in my diet with healthy fats and oils.

Coconut oil has often been compared to carbohydrates in its ability to be "burned" for energy.

However, since insulin isn't involved in burning the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil you get the energy without the spikes in your blood sugar like you do with burning carbs for energy. This is one of the keys to health and weight loss….keeping your blood sugar at normal levels.

I've noticed since drastically reducing my carbohydrate intake and replacing much of it with healthy fats and oils like coconut oil I no longer suffer from the intense hunger I used to experience after eating a carb loaded meal.   As a matter of fact I've been shocked at how gradually I get hungry compared to before I started doing this.

The End Result Since Using Coconut Oil

  • I have more energy
  • No more ups and downs in my energy levels
  • I eat less because I'm not hungry
  • I've lost six pounds
  • 95% of the spare tire around my waist is gone
  • I weigh what I did when I was in high school

Many of you will email me and ask what kind of coconut oil I use and where I get it. I've tried several different companies over the last few months and have settled on this one. Good price and good product. Here is a link to what I've been using. You can save up to $10 off your first purchase.

If you want to research further how coconut oil and other healthy fats can help you in your health journey check out these links.

Dr Mercola

Dr Mercola

Weston Price

Until Next Time...
Tamworth Piglets
Last October a friend talked me into going to the Muskingum County Sale Barn to see if there would be any feeder pigs come through he might be able to buy.

I haven't been to a sale barn in a long time. One litter of pigs went through that day but what astounded me was the

amount of sows that went through the ring…all headed for slaughter. 34 sows (to be exact) that will not be producing feeder pigs this spring. That's a potential 340 pigs lost from this sale barn alone in one day.

I knew right then what this meant... I decided to would check a few other sale barns in the next week or so and see if it was a fluke or if small farmers were unloading their sows at an alarming rate.

I checked four more sale barns in the days following and the story was the same. Tons of breeding stock going to slaughter. With feed prices higher than ever many small farmers have opted to get out of business or drastically cut back on the number of pigs they carry through the winter.

I did some checking around and all the indicators are pointing to a shortage of pigs this year.

Hog farrowings (litters of pigs) are expected to decline in the second-half of 2012 and the first three quarters of 2013 because of high anticipated feed prices. -USDA Economic Research Service

I have been getting calls and emails by the dozens each week from folks asking about feeder pigs.

Our Supply is Tight We will have a very limited supply of feeder pigs this spring as well. Our main line of business is supplying consumers with pork and we need more pigs than ever to meet the demand.

What You Should Do if You Plan to Get Feeder Pigs This Year

If you plan to get feeder pigs this year you better get with your farmer right away and see if you can get them reserved.

If you're waiting for a bunch of pigs to hit the market this Spring...I think you're going to be surprised!

Until next time...

Hickory Smoked Bacon
Bacon and ham have been demonized most recently because of the nitrites used to cure them.This has brought about the 'nitrite free' products you can find at your local health food store. Are they really healthier? The short answer is no. Nathan S. Bryan, PhD, University of Texas Houston Biomedical Research Center, pulls no punches when he states, "This notion of 'nitrite-free' or 'organically cured' meats is a public deception.

The truth is these meats are cured with celery salt and a bacteria starter culture which turns the nitrates in the celery salt to nitrites.

There is a wide range of how much of the nitrates from the celery salt are converted to nitrites. But the end result is much more than would be added from a traditional method of nitrite salt. So even though it's labeled nitrite free it's loaded with nitrites.

Dr. Bryan says. Yet his biggest concern is not nitrite content but the possibility of bacterial contamination. "I think it is probably less healthy than regular cured meats because of the bacteria load and the unknown efficacy of conversion by the bacteria," he says.

If you have followed my blog for very long you know I'm a proponent of bacteria being one of the keys to enhancing or wrecking your immune system.

In this case you risk wrecking it.

This is a prime example of big business taking some highly publicized and flimsy science at best and then using it to capitalize on a trend.

The following excerpt is from Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, the Naughty Nutritionist™

Bring Home the Bacon

Then why do so many health experts condemn bacon and other cured meats because of their nitrite content? Well, why do fats and cholesterol still get a bum rap?

The reason is bad studies and worse publicity, with the latest shoddy work out of Harvard a prime example. According to Dr. Bryan, the body of studies show only a "weak association" with evidence that is "inconclusive." As he and his colleagues wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "This paradigm needs revisiting in the face of undisputed health benefits of nitrite- and nitrate-enriched diets." So what's the last word on America's favorite meat? Indulge bacon lust freely, know that the science is catching up, the media lags behind, and, our ancestors most likely got it right.

Until next time...

If you're looking for portable netting for pigs, poultry or otherwise Premier is the place to go.

If you've never used portable netting you don't know what your missing! Since I bought my first roll I have wondered how I ever got along with out it.

Take a moment and check out there website at:

I recently received Premiers newsletter and loved the article so much I shot Stan a note and asked if I could re-publish it for you. His thoughts on "labels" echo my own. So without further ado Here's Stan.....

In Premier's previous newsletter my comments about the future merits of the organic, sustainable and natural labels surprised and offended some readers. Therefore, a little personal background and an expanded explanation of my views about the future may be in order. My father switched from "chemical" to "organic" farming on our 160-acre Iowa farm in 1955, when I was 9 years old. This change was encouraged in part by reading J.I. Rodale's monthly magazine, Organic Gardening and Farming, which we studied at length.

My folks had a true family (8 children) farm for decades:

• Milked up to 5 cows by hand and sold the cream.

• Raised chickens (hundreds) and sold the eggs.

• Had a large vegetable and fruit garden for our personal needs, weeded, mulched and harvested by hand labor.

• Raised a limited number of sheep, pigs and beef cattle. We butchered and processed meat from them for the family and sold the rest.

• Grew corn, wheat, hay, oats and soybeans, but not many acres of each.

• Heated our home with wood from trees on the farm.

In short, it was the complete opposite of modern specialized farms. The most important product wasn't the food. Instead it was the education and development of the 8 children and our city cousins who visited us each summer. We learned how to think, accomplish, suffer and sweat.

In 1964, I went to Iowa State University and used its excellent library to read every organic/natural farming author on hand, including Howard, Faulkner and Bromfield. In 1965 I switched to Ambassador College, a small, conservative religious college that actively supported and practiced organic farming and gardening.

Two years later I transferred to Ambassador's British campus north of London. Its farm and gardens produced organic milk, meat (chickens and beef), eggs, vegetables and fruit for the student and faculty kitchens. In my senior year I was paid (even now I marvel at this!) to read extensively about organic food and food production for the college's Agricultural Department and prepare summary reports therefrom.

I stayed on after graduation to manage the college's farm and vegetable gardens. By the time the college closed (1974), the farm operation had grown to 300 acres, 1000 chickens, 5 acres of fruit/vegetable gardens and 150 dairy and beef cattle.

During my 6 years as the head of Ambassador's Agricultural Department, I visited research farms and agricultural shows all across Britain, Europe and the USA. We listened and talked with folks like E.F. Schumacher, whose book Small Is Beautiful — Economics As If People Mattered, is probably even more applicable now than it was in the early 1970s. In 1973 I had the privilege to share a lunch in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, with Robert Rodale (now deceased) and Wendell Berry (alive, and a thought-leader I respect highly).

So I have roots developed over 6 decades in organic farming and ecologically sound land utilization.

Why therefore did I suggest that producers might consider supplemental labels to organic, natural and sustainable in my previous newsletter?

1. Because the astute marketing minds of the big "industrial" food producers have already spotted the $$ potential of these labels. Therefore, "organic" labels will soon be commonplace (and may be often attached to food whose production systems may be questionable).

In turn, the smaller producers who began it all will feel pushed out. That's why it's sensible, in my view, to anticipate this — and also attach supporting labels like "no antibiotics, local and/or hormone-free." The nature of large-scale food production makes it more difficult to honestly replicate the extra labels (particularly local and no antibiotics).

2. Because, and this is an opinion developed over 6 decades, I think there is a second, and larger, group of valuable food consumers who are not overly concerned whether their food comes from an organic source. Nor do they care whether the source is a large operation or a small one.

Instead, they want the food source to be one that practices stewardship, that demonstrates integrity (honest, genuine, reliable) and proactively cares for land, animals, employees — and their customers. If they find that the source is too focused on profit as opposed to these things, they will seek an alternative. And they want to buy from people who — to paraphrase E.F Schumacher — "view food production as if people/soil/animals/plants matter, not just for profit and efficiency." Best wishes to you all through the holiday season and beyond.
Stan Potratz, Owner

Health information floating around on the internet and every other form of media can boggle your mind at times.

Heck you can have a conversation with a friend at the water cooler and end up wondering if we're all going to die of some horrid disease from eating wrong. It's all around us - This is bad for you, this is good for you. Eat this, don't eat that.

If you've ever looked at indoor air quality you can be afraid to take a breath inside your own home.  How do can you know what 's the truth?

Unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer for that!

What I can tell you is the rule I live by:

Have the sense of an old cow - Eat the hay and spit out the sticks.

Dr Mercola posted a blog today titled: Why I Do Not Recommend Eating Pork.

Those of you who follow my blog know I'm a big proponent of Dr Mercola. I still am.

However on this particular point,  I don't agree with some of his views or conclusions, particularly about pastured pork.

He has softened his stance some over time. At one time he did not recommend eating pork of any kind.

He now states in his most recent post: "Pork is an arguably "healthy" meat from a biochemical perspective, and if consumed from a humanely raised pastured hog like those on Joel Salatins' farm and prepared properly, there is likely minimal risk of infection. However, virtually all of the pork you're likely to consume do not fit these criteria."

However in the side bar of this post, he has the following: "If you choose to eat pork, I recommend seeking a naturally raised, pastured source, although this is no guarantee of safety. Pastured pigs are vulnerable to Trichinella spiralis infection—aka “pork worm”—due to their exposure to wild hosts. Trichinella is one of the most widespread parasites in the world, and can cause potentially serious health complications."

Perhaps Trichinella spiralis is one of the most widespread parasites in the world but according to the CDC:

Over the past 40 years, few cases of trichinellosis have been reported in the United States, and the risk of trichinellosis from commercially raised and properly prepared pork is very low. However, eating undercooked wild game, particularly bear meat, puts one at risk for acquiring this disease. [More here]

Cases Reported to the CDC
This is one of the favorite arguments  big-ag uses to make us think animals raised outside the way nature intended is actually risky to our health.

We must keep animals inside in an environmentally controlled  setting lest they get contaminated and harm us...Rubbish.

If we mimic nature, feed a proper diet, and let the animals have sufficient room, they will be healthier themselves and impart that health to us when consumed.

A historical research into trichinellosis in swine shows us that it was linked to feeding pigs swill or garbage. This practice today is banned in many states. Most that allow it require a license to feed it to pigs.

I've blogged about alternative feeds before and I personally would not eat pork that has lived on garbage.

Overall I think Dr Mercola did a good job of showing that pastured pork done right is your only option for pork. But when it comes to trumping up the dangers of trichinellosis in hogs that roam outside...this old cow is spitting out that stick.

Until next time...