We have just returned from a weekend workshop about starting a free range pig business. It was good, and we learnt a lot about pigs, but it was only necessary for us to do it because of the Intensive Pig Industry. We can run cattle or sheep or goats on our property, but to run pigs, we need to have a Certificate. It shouldn't be any different to cows, as we want to run them in paddocks and use the same grazing principles for them as we do for our cattle, but unfortunately, the "powers that be" don't think the same!
There is a code of practice that states that pigs should be allowed to act as pigs. The only way this can be done is to allow them to free range - not in a bare dirt paddock or a shed! And....I must add, that the supplementary feed should be placed in a trough, not just on the ground! Pigs do eat dirt (incidently not deliberately) as they like to dig in it, but they don't NEED to eat it.
Pigs eat a lot of grass and this will always be their first preference, so it's essential that they have free access to it! They also need to eat a grain supplement, which will include meat meal. Pigs are omnivores and so they do eat grain, grass and meat. Just like us - we need a balanced diet too! The big difference with us, is that we need to make sure that we don't eat too much of a good thing!
If you were to eat true pasture raised pork and conventional shedded pork in a blind taste test, you may think that the stronger flavoured pork is the free range. This is because one of them will have a "gamey" taste. True free range pork tastes fantastic (and simple) - it is not strong flavoured at all! The "gamey" flavour, which you will find is the shedded pork, is not a wild taste, but a taste of their own effluent! So, next time you want to try pork, PLEASE try a pasture raised or organic piece of pork to try and see if you can taste the difference!
Another story I must tell.......at the workshop, we where in the paddock with some young gilts (females before they are mated) and were standing around in a circle talking. One gilt, who wouldn't allow us to pat her, came over and "sat" in on our conversation! About 6 of us humans were standing in a circle and she was sitting on her haunches in the circle and just being "part" of the discussion. Pigs are very intelligent and should NOT be kept in pens in sheds.