We have been looking into purchasing fresh pork, and it has been an adventure. The result of the process has been that we have chosen to work with Eden Farms, a farmer owned Cooperative in Iowa. Many of you were able to meet a few of the farmers from Eden Farms at the warehouse party, where we tasted some of their products (many thanks to those that cooked them up). Instead of bombarding you with the usual buy our product because it is better spiel, we thought it would be helpful to share our process for selecting Eden Farms.
As is always the case the first thing we are looking for is that the product tastes good. Once we know we like the flavor we ask the producers a lot of questions about the process and raw product. Learning what questions to ask is important when we are looking into a new product, and in this case it has been hard to know what to ask. Below are some of the questions we asked and the answers we have found.
What breed are the pigs?
- Eden Farms raises 100% Berkshire pigs, and they have registration papers to prove it. Eden Farms are members of the American Berkshire Association, which is said to be the first and the oldest existing Swine Registry in the world. It was established in 1875 with the intention of protecting and maintaining the pure Berkshire breed from the “Common Hog”.
How do you validate the heritage of your breed?
- The lineage of all Eden Farms producers breeding stock originates from purebred stock that is registered through the American Berkshire Association. There are other accreditation arms, such as the North American Berkshire Association, but they are owned by the producers that they accredit.
What is important about this breed?
- To this day, the Berkshire has remained pure and has maintained its excellent flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. Berkshires are also known for their hardiness and reproductive soundness. However, the cost of raising Berkshires is much higher than commodity hog which will have litters as large as 14 while Berkshires litters are only around 7. Berkshires are less efficient with their feed consumption and take approximately 8 months to reach market weight as much as 2 months longer than commodity hogs. Market weight for these pigs is approximately 300# live weight which translates to approximately 200# dressed weight.
Who owns your pigs?
- Eden Farms owns their pigs from sow to slaughter. Eden Farms is owned by the thirty farmers who produce the pork.
What do you feed your pigs?
- Eden Farms feeds their pigs a corn and soybean rations and never feed them any rendered animal by-products. These pigs are not given food-grade antibiotics nor do they add growth promoting additives.
Where and how are they slaughtered?
- Eden Farms uses two slaughterhouses one is at Pine Ridge Farms in Des Moines, IA and the other is SiouxPreme (National Food Holdings) in Sioux Center, IA. Pine Ridge is a skin off processor and SiouxPreme has the capacity to do skin on hogs. Both processors have the ability to break the animals down into primals and sub-primal cuts.
Do you use any growth promoting products?
- Eden Farms does not use any type of growth promoting additives. We learned that it is important to ask whether any growth promoting products are used. Growth hormones are illegal in the United States; producers are not allowed to use “hormones”. However, there are growth promoting compounds that the USDA has not outlawed. The USDA has not outlawed Ractopamine hydrochloride, also known as, Paylean. While these substances are allowed by the USDA, the EU and China have banned the import of animals that have been fed Paylean.
Is your program a “never ever” program?
- Never ever programs cull animals that have had antibiotic treatment. Eden Farms only allows producers to use antibiotics if the pigs are sick and need treatment.
If you use antibiotics what is your withdrawal time?
- The withdrawal time is how much time given to clear a substance from an animal. Eden Farms will wait 100 days after treatment before slaughtering an animal. When you consider the total lifespan of the animal is ~250 days that could represent a substantial cost. If a pig is treated in the last 100 days before market, it is diverted to another market.
Orders for Eden Farms product will need to be placed each Monday. Animals are slaughtered and inspected on Wednesday, and shipped to Great Ciao for delivery on Friday. Send us an email or give us a call to talk more about pricing or any other questions you might have about this product.