The Essence of the Free Range Pig

Jim Cotten // Silver Creek, GA

The author Jim Cotten’s two unexpected pigs, Bacon and Porkchop. See his other photos from birth to kielbasa at the Pork Memoirs Facebook Page.

I have been raising grass-fed beef for about five years and am continually trying to incorporate holistic farming practices. I fear the commercial food supply and I want to raise most of our own food.

I became a pig farmer by accident when a stray sow appeared in my neighbor’s yard and began destroying it. My neighbor and I captured the sow and I put her in my fenced-in pasture.

Pigs are wonderful animals with great personalities. When no one claimed the sow, we kept her. I am close to all of my animals and she quickly became like a pet.

And she delivered a litter 30 days later. I kept two of the shoats—named them appropriately Bacon and Porkchop—and let them run free with the cattle, eating grass, acorns, and whatever they could find. The sow moved on to a farm where she was going to roam free and raise more piglets.

When I would go into the field or to the barn, Bacon and Porkchop would run to me and nudge my legs so I would scratch them behind the ears. My wife would laugh at my “posse” of dogs, donkeys, pigs, and cows always following me as I did my chores. The pigs never get bored watching me.

When raising animals there is a fine line between food and pets. One must constantly remind oneself why they are on the farm. I believe animals’ short lives should be as good and natural as possible. The same holds true with the cattle I raise.

At seven months Bacon and Porkchop went to the processor. I have never had such a succulent pork chop in my mouth—it was truly amazing. I have taken to curing my own bacon and ham now, and I will never buy pork again. I still view the stray sow as a gift leading me to this next step.

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