Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 20, 2010

Monsanto and the ‘Healthier Pig’

If Big Ag would stop pissing me off, I wouldn’t have to write so many political food posts. From the people who brought us Agent Orange–and not coincidentally Round Up®, we now have yet another layer of genetic tinkering available in the food source commonly known as soybeans. Monsanto have recently revealed their success in growing Omega 3 oil in their patented soybeans. Now we can all eat ‘healthier pig’ courtesy of the factory farming megalith. Thanks Monsanto, but color me just a little cynical and suspicious.

I have been an advocate of ‘healthier pig’ for several years now. But I hadn’t thought about the matter including the confinement pig industry. In fact, I got excited about healthier pig when I read an article in Saveur a while back about Jamon Iberico. Jamon Iberico is the most stringently reared and restrictively designated grade of ham from the Iberian peninsula. These pigs are raised as they have been for possibly thousands of years: they run wild in uplands oak forests for two years, living on forage and mast (acorns and other nuts in their environment). Their flesh has been tested in food chemistry labs. These healthier pigs don’t just have a lower level of cholesterol causing fat; their fat actually can reverse cholesterol levels if ingested regularly.

The secret is in the acorns that make up the bulk of the free-ranging piggies’ diet. They convert the healthy fat in the acorns into–surprise–healthy fat in their own bodies. This stuff is higher in monounsaturated fats than olive oil. Top that, Monsanto!

While I can’t get ahold of  the Pata Negra pigs of Spain (I believe there is an export embargo on this national treasure, and who can blame those lucky farmers for enforcing the legislation), I can do the next best thing. There’s a heritage breed of pigs which has long flourished in the New World: the Tamworth. These pigs are leaner than modern confinement pigs. They are excellent foragers, and slow to mature. Their fat is more integrated throughout their bodies, rather than hanging around the edges. These are all traits shared with the Pata Negra. Guess what kind of pigs live in my barn whilst awaiting their free-range pasturing in our Allegheny Oak Forest cloaked acres?

I’ve even found an organization, Animal Welfare Approved, which issues grants to farmers trying to get their livestock onto pasture–as we are doing here on my farm. Within a year or two of this writing, we hope to have pigs of a similar lifestyle profile to the healthier pigs of the Iberian peninsula. And because they won’t be raised on corn and soybeans, they won’t be contributing to the methane expression problem which has long been identified as one of the many inimical by-products of factory farming practices.

Sorry, Monsanto, your ‘healthier pig’ still doesn’t fly, in my humble opinion. And to all you consumers out there on the market for better food, accept no short-cuts or substitutes: find out where your meat comes from, and decide carefully if you can live with the answers you get when you ask.



  1. Great post and thank you for our mention. Right animal right place being fed the right food is the solution. Surprisingly just what you are doing. Please keep us posting and letting us all know how you are progressing.


  2. Does this meant White-Castle-fed beef is out?

    (Isn’t that what caused mad cow in the first place? And how many times can one say “What were you THINKING?”)

    • What, feeding ruminants the diseased offal of other ruminants to save on feed costs doesn’t make sense? Oh, yeah. It’s why I can never give blood. I might have eaten beef that was tainted when I lived in Britain in ’91….

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