Health Benefits of Free Range Pork
What is pastured pork and what are the health benefits for you?
In a pasture-raised system all pigs are born and raised outdoors with continuous and unconfined access to pasture throughout their entire lives. The pigs have access to feed, shelter and wallows, and are able to graze and forage freely. Stocking rates are managed to ensure forage is always available through a sustainable, rotational grazing system.
Meat from pigs raised on pasture contains a significantly better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty-acids compared with pork raised in an intensive free range environment. This Omega-3 combined with high levels of vitamin E, A and iron gives you an amazing mix of those essential nutrients vital for brain and body health. Not only that, our pasture-raised pigs are free to roam and bask in our beautiful Australian sun – soaking up all of that wonderful vitamin D.
Pigs are not able to get all of their nutritional and energy needs from pasture alone, therefore feed supplements are given to ensure all of their nutritional requirements are met.
Our pigs receive a grain mix that has been specially formulated for pigs. Our feed has no chemical, hormone or antibiotic additives. We only supplement around 40 to 50% of their feed to ensure they are consuming their required daily energy intake – depending on the quality of pasture available (this changes with the seasons). Their feed is weighed and rationed twice daily (morning and night) to ensure that every pig stays healthy and happy. They graze and forage throughout the day on their pasture.
We mix Diatomaceous Earth (DE) with our pig feed to control internal parasites. DE is a natural product made from tiny fossilised algae called diatoms. It’s mostly silica and is an amazing natural dewormer. DE also promotes intestinal and digestive health and gives the pigs healthy shiny coats.
We do provide shelters for the pigs, however our sows tend to prefer to build a nest anywhere in the paddock when they farrow. The video below is one of our beautiful sows in the process of building one of her many nests before she finally decided on a nest under a tree.
Free Range Pork
Unfortunately, the term free range can be exploited to suit the target market. Many products are labelled free range and yet the actual growing systems do not reflect what most people imagine a free range farm to look like.
The standards of a free range system have changed many times over the years and each accreditation program will have its own standard for its members to follow. The generic standard for a ‘free range’ system is that the animals must have some access to the outdoors, however, this does not necessarily mean pasture and it does not define the size, quality or amount of time that the outdoor area is accessible.
Pigs in these free range systems usually have continuous access to self feeders, so they will be consuming up to 100% of their daily feed as grain or other supplement.
Some free range accreditation schemes have been accused of misleading consumers, because once weaned the growing pigs are raised primarily in sheds with minimal to no continuous outdoor access. It has been said that these systems are closer to ‘bred free’* than true free range.
Sow stalls are being phased out in Australia, however this doesn’t extend to farrowing crates, which are still allowed in any system under the current Welfare for Pigs model code of practice. Mating stalls are also allowed – this is a crate used for the purpose of holding a gilt/sow for artificial insemination; the gilt/sow can stand up and lie down, but the crate prevents her from turning around.
*Often confused with free range, this is a marketing term referring to pigs that are born outside, but after weaning at around three or four weeks are raised indoors with no outside access.