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Small Heritage Pig Farms Are under Attack

Posted March 26, 2013

Photo ofSmall Heritage Pig Farms Are under Attackby Tender Belly
Fans of great pork are upset at government efforts to make it harder for small farms to raise heritage breed pigs. It started last year when the Michigan Division of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an order intended to eliminate feral pigs, which, like other wild animals, can carry diseases and trample crops. Officials in nine other states are considering similar mandates. The Michigan order outlaws a species commonly known as Russian boars or razorbacks. The problem is that the order lumps together feral pigs with all unconventional breeds, including heritage breeds raised on small farms. The kind of pigs that are raised sustainably and humanely – in pastures, with no farrowing crates and no hormones. Michigan Senator Darwin L. Booher, who opposes the order, said the DNR cannot genetically differentiate between feral hogs and heritage breeds, so it decided to ban certain pigs simply due to their appearance. Many heritage brands share the pointed ears, flat snout and other characteristics of the wild pigs. As a result, according to one reporter, Michigan has basically declared war on all pig breeds except for the select few raised by large-scale factory farms. Agribusiness hogs. “The DNR’s approach to the situation is beyond misguided,” reporter Jonathan Benson wrote in Natural News. “It is a blatantly unscientific assault on small-scale pig farmers.” The order could shut down small family farms in Michigan. If other states issue similar rulings, family farms across the country could be a thing of the past. In addition, Michigan’s order could also reduce or even eliminate customer access to heritage breed pork, which is in great demand from consumers and chefs at top restaurants. The growing popularity of meat from heritage breeds might just be at the heart of Michigan’s order and others under consideration. Senator Booher calls it pig politics. “The small farmers I have talked to wonder why the DNR is singling out their pigs and joining forces with the Michigan Pork Producers Association on this issue,” Booher wrote in Food Freedom News when the order went into effect. “They believe the association wants all pigs to be raised in confinement facilities, and the best way to achieve that is to make it illegal to raise certain swine, especially those offering alternatives to the white pork raised in confinement.” Officials of the Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA) deny any political motivation. “We strongly believe that the DNR is taking the right action to prevent an insidious invasive species from putting Michigan farmers, landowners and thousands of family-owned businesses and jobs at risk,” the MPPA wrote in an alert to its members. “Michigan must take a zero-tolerance approach to all invasive species, from Asian carp to wild hogs.” Pig farmer Mark Baker, of Bakers Green Acres in Marion, Michigan, calls the order “hogwash,” and says  he has no choice but to fight the state to be able to continue to make a living. He told a reporter from National Public Radio that he faces two years in jail and $20,000 in fines unless he gets rid of his entire herd. After filing suit to force the DNR to reverse its order, Baker took his case directly to American consumers with “Bakers Green Acres vs. Michigan DNR - Family Farm under Attack,” a YouTube video that features his family and the hogs they raise. “If Michigan gets away with this, where does it end?” he asks. “They are going to put lots of family farmers out of business, and that’s their goal. We have to stop them.” Tender Belly supports the cause of the family farms that raise animals sustainably. All of our products are raised by farmers and ranchers who care about animal welfare; they feed their hogs well and give them the freedom to run and graze in pastures. We know that breeding and raising animals the right way makes a huge difference in the quality of the animals’ lives and the quality of their meat. If you want to let Michigan know that you’re opposed to this attempt to eliminate heritage breed pigs, click here to sign the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund petition asking the governor to rescind the DNR order, click here: