This is a pig farm.
It’s not what I expected a pig farm to look like. And in fact, most pig farms don’t look like this. Small pig farms are the anomaly in this country. But they are growing in number.
This is the farm where pigs grow before they become the pork we buy from SeaBreeze farms. Since we have been eating their incredible pork for over a year — first buying it at the farmers’ markets in Seattle, and now buying it on the island — Danny and I wanted to see where the pigs lived.
Matt Lawrence, the manager of SeaBreeze, allowed us to walk around with him as he checked out the current state of the pigs.
This is one of the youngest pigs. The folks at SeaBreeze buy young piglets (“weaners” Matt called them) from farms off-island. [Earlier, I wrote "weiners," which is probably an unintentionally cruel joke on my part. Thanks to a reader for pointing out that spelling error!] Over the years, they have found a number of sources for quality piglets, but they like two farms the best now. I can’t tell you where — that’s their source — but both raise their young piglets on grass and food slops. The way pigs should be fed, Matt told us.
These young pigs had their own space to roam. They ran in different directions when they saw us coming — they aren’t used to human contact. For the most part, they eat, drink, play, and do what pigs do, all without human supervision.
Here are the older pigs. These were born in February (it’s June as I write this), so they have a bit more meat on their bones. Actually, these pigs cracked us up. They squealed and butted heads and seemed to be playing much of the time we saw them. Frolicking, even.
The owner of SeaBreeze, George Page, says this on his website about their philosophy of raising animals:
“We practice intensive grazing management for the health of our pastures, which ensures the health of our animals, which in turn ensures the health of our customers. Maintaining our pastures in the highest state of vigor produces meat of unsurpassed quality and flavor. The vitality and freshness of the foraged feeds translates into vibrancy and succulence on the plate. Our pasture rotation system is modeled on the migratory grazing habits of cattle and birds in the prairies and grasslands of the world.”
These pigs definitely do forage.
And they drink water from this spout, set up so they can drink whenever they need. You should have seen his tongue curling around the spigot, reaching for water.
(I can’t help it. Some part of me is still 11. This pig reminds me of Wilbur.)
These pigs looked happy.
When I saw these behinds and tails and legs, all lined up, I had to take a photograph. They looked so strong and supple, gleaming in the sun.
When Danny saw this sight, he thought, “Hmmm. Lovely legs. What a wonderful prosciutto you would make.”
This is Danny and Matt, walking to the back pasture, to meet the largest pigs, the ones closest to slaughter.
Most of us don’t want to think about that part. But it’s how pork chops end up in the store.
We think it’s best to face it. This isn’t a bad place to live, if you’re headed that way.
The SeaBreeze pigs are mutts, a cross of Lincolnshire, Berkshire, and Yorkshire breeds. You can see the variation in these two.
There’s a fence here, but that’s because this is the edge of the pasture. We didn’t see the dozen other larger pigs. They never came to look at us. Only these two grew curious enough to look.
We didn’t stay for the slaughter that day. Our baby daughter was with us, and we had to be somewhere soon. Danny, however, wants to go back, to witness it, to see the process. Perhaps we’ll write about that soon. Maybe not.
I can tell you this — we’re grateful for the chance to have met the pigs that become our pork.