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A fair price is a tough thing to peg down. For us a fair price would be covering our expenses, paying us for our labor, and not gouging the customer. Unfortunately, consumers have grown comfortable with artificially low priced goods. We all want cheap. The problem is we don’t fully recognize the actual costs of cheap. Across the US the prices will vary. Right near us there are no large CFAO’s putting downward pressure on local pork. Nor is there a lot of competition in the pastured pork arena (yet.) However we have the difficulty of living in an economically depressed area. We’re in the “rust belt” We have high unemployment, and even now working hours at factories and in manufacturing and even some service sectors are being cut.  Layoffs are happening in many industries. Because of this we’ve had to re-think our prices. Right now we are re-budgeting to try to come up with new prices that can accommodate all the costs, infrastructure, taxes, electric, fencing, housing, we have feed, seed, breeding stock, vet costs, straw, hay, gas to and from the processors and to get supplies. When everything adds up it is VERY difficult to make any profit in pork.

This is part of the problem. Profits are hard to come by and many farmers are happy to break even and not give themselves pay. We were guilty of this at times and we’ve had to step back and smack ourselves. Our biggest competitor is the grocery store.  There is no way we can compete with those prices.  I wouldn’t say they undersell farmers because I honestly don’t believe the quality is there.  WHen you take like for like they are probably charging too much for the quality of some of the meat they are selling.  However, getting consumers to recognize this is part of the battle.  I’m hoping that the HBO special on pigs will drive more business our way once people can get a face to the food and see where it comes from.

Part of our key is marketing.  Marketing to consumers is all about sharing our excitement and our true affection and belief in the product. We are willing to let people come and see the animals for themselves. They are able to recognize the humane treatment. They see the animals express natural behaviors. They can see the vigor in the pigs and see the food they eat. This helps. We constantly explain away the stereotypes of pigs: they are dirty, pig farms stink. None of this is true if treated and raised properly. This ability to talk one-on-one with the end consumer is key.  Ian and I truly live, eat and breath pig here.  We are converting people one pork chop at a time.

The land prior to pigs

The land prior to pigs

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Pigs on the land two full days

Pigs on the land two full days

Ian hating the mud...

Ian hating the mud...

Saturday the pigs arrived at the pasture land from our woods down the road.  Since then it has rained and rained and rained.  Today we had a break in the rain because it turned to snow.  It is supposed to rain Tuesday and Wednesday as well.  The animals and I are sooo not looking forward to it.  I guess its easy to forget how much mud hinders daily life on a farm.  I know I was sick of the snow and cold but overall having it cold and dry and frozen is easier on all of us than having wet and cold and mud.

Because of the mud I added more straw to the huts tonight as I wanted to make sure that the girls were able to keep cozy and dry.  Prior to getting the port-a-huts we always had huts with floors.  These proved to be terribly difficult to move and sanitize hence the port-a-huts.  However, when it comes to mud nothing beats a floor.  I figure we’ll need to add a bale every other day if the rain keeps up.  That way the ground builds up a straw pack keeping everything upabove the mud level.  I’ve recently bought  straw at 4.95 a bale because we needed it (hay just isn’t as good for bedding when its muddy plus the pigs eat a lot of it, leaving them with less bedding)  With the straw they are much less likely to eat it and it holds up better in the wet than does hay.  Luckily I found a man selling hay for $2 a bale.  I told him I’d take all he has.  This weekend we are getting the 50 bales he has figuring the money will be well spent.

We still don’t have a clue when the pigs will definately farrow.  Tomorrow is the full moon.  The girls are due anytime after the 12th.  I know I saw a boar mount each of the tamworths the day that they were put together.  I also saw one of the old spots breeding as late as January 18th.  This means that the piglets could start coming as early as the 12th by the math and then as late as April 13th.  Its always a waiting game this time of year.

Speaking of waiting, the goats are bagging up real well.  I still have two weeks until the scheduled kidding date for Riley one of the LaMancha does.  She will be a first freshener and is  due the 21st.  She has an udder that really impreses me.  This is my first time with dairy goats but I think she is looking huge.  Her ligaments are still really strong so I don’t expect her to kid soon.   I just don’t know how much larger an udder can get on a goat.  If it keeps going, in two weeks time it will be weigh as much as her!!!  Rileys udder 2 weeks to scheduled due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Today when feeding the animals we were totally surprised to see our egg count.  We hit 20 eggs today for the first time this season.  We aren’t up to production levels but hate to see them go to waste.  So the dogs, pigs and we get to eat a lot of egg.  However, with that being said, we don’t want to turn into an egg so we have decided to give a dozen eggs with any pork order of $20 or more.  This is a limited time offer so don’t wait 🙂

When I got on to the blog this morning it was doing all kinds of crazy things. For the time being I put up a new header image and used a different theme. Piglets make me think spring even though it looks like we won’t break freezing yet again this week.

I have plans to go get a bit of straw and hay after work today. We put a new floor in the current pig house this weekend and I feel it needs more bedding than what we currently have in it. Also the goats and chickens could use a top off of bedding as well. I tried to pick up some wood shavings at tractor supply but they were out.

We also spent time organizing/ doing an inventory of the meat that we got from the last butcher of hogs. We came up with some different packages to sell and we need to e-mail out flyers for this. I’m currently unsure what I think of the new butcher/processing facility. He was super willing to talk to us and was willing to let us see him in action. I checked out the kill floor and it was clean and tidy. However, he is not keen on pigs. Now not everyone has to like every animal but it was a very strong dislike “the only good pig is dead.” type of dislike. Just makes me wonder how careful he is with pigs going into slaughter when he is less keen on them. Perhaps I’m being picky but it just puts that doubt in my mind. Its a proven fact that the treatment just before and at the time of slaughter affects meat quailty so this is not just me being a softy, it affects our business.

Also on a side note. The Cyro-wrapping is nice and it does a good job in presenting the meat. However, there were at least 5 packs of meat that were not sealed well. One ham, one pack of spare ribs a couple packs of chops and something else that I cannot remember off the top of my head. I cannot sell these since they are already getting ice crystals on them. I kinda feel like I shouldn’t have to pay for wrapping on those items since they are unusable. If we use the facility again I’ll have to address that with the butcher.

Serious Eats had a contest to win a box of bacon related goodies. There were tons of excellent entries. Below is just a sampling…
clipped from www.seriouseats.com
Pigs, I know, are much maligned
Rarely named as Valentines
And scarcely recognized as fine
In spite of all the smarts of swine.
Swill they do, and snort they must,
Even so, they’ve perks robust.
They live in life with clever quickness
Heads betrayed by portly thickness
Ere they’re ended–porky picnics.
Lo, in death, elevation
Above the mud, now my salvation
Roasted shoulder, sausage, bacon,
Dearest Pig–my tongue’s elation.
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Rich in color, rich in flavor.

Rich in color, rich in flavor.

During the week I decided to pull out some porkchops and have them for dinner. That is one benefit of having a farm.  If you aren’t sure what to have for dinner you just go to the freezer and pick out something tasty.  Ian has become a fan of a brine recipe in the book Charcuterie and when I got home he had the meat resting in the brine solution.  I was appreciative of his effort so I finished up the meal and we had some super tasty chops.  I took this picture after taking it out from the brine but before coating the chops in a whole wheat flour and pan searing them to get them ready for the oven.

When we have shown people our pork the comment we most often get is, “I thought pork was the other white meat.”  This should not be the case.  Pork even by the industry standards, should not be white or pale in color when raw.  The image above is a bit dark in representation, the color was actually a bit less of a dark red.  If I was being critical I would have liked to see a bit more marbeling.  That being said, the meat was juicy and tender and remains so even if not being brined however that was method of preparation that Ian chose that night.

Almost daily I research new recipes and I try to keep abreast of various pork and pig related topics.  In looking for pork color charts to link to, I found a nifty site showing “Hot new cuts.”  I found this to be a great advertisement for pork given that in most people’s minds pork is not necessarily an exciting meat.  I really like the idea of promoting new cuts because it shows the meats versatility.  Many people see pork as a comfort or homestyle food and don’t experiment with it using various flavors other than the drippings and gravy.  One of our favorite flavors to pair with pork is curry.  Combining the pork with curry flavors is something that you pretty much have to do at home because you won’t find many Indian restaurants serving a pork dopiaza or jalfrezi.  In addition we live in a region where there is very little ethinic diversity and the nearest Indian is well over an hour away.

Ok, getting back to the chops shown above, I mentioned before that I would like to see more marbling.  I think production wise the fact that these pigs were butchered about a month later than planned lowered the overall fat content(Note to self: remember to consider hunting season’s impacts on your local butchers’ schedules).  The pigs finished in heavy snow and extreme cold.  We wanted and anticipated that they would be finished just after the glut of apples and acorns but again due to scheduling this did not occur.  December and January butchering was not planned.  Forages were down because it was later in season.  Regardless, the meat turned out great just leaner than we had hoped due to the lower amounts of forage and extra energy expendature due to weather conditions.  This leaness, to some, is a great thing and many customers really appreciate the less fatty meat.  However, for our taste we prefer a bit more fat.  There was some marbeling but we would have liked to see more.  I am excited to see and compare the next batch which will be finsihed on pasture and some early season forests.

I received an e-mail with this supposed ad from the 1950’s. The advertisement is reportedly a British spoof and not really a historic ad however, it did get me thinking about Lard. This past week I had the opportunity to try a cured delight, Lardo. Lardo is the back fat from a pig and that fat has been salt cured. Lard, as we think of it is pig fat which has been rendered. Both start with fat, however, each turn out to be completely different end products. Lard, when properly made can be an excellent fat product for pastries or for cooking in general. Lardo on the other hand is a rosemary herbed culinary delight, excellent on a crostini, or even on a nice slice of bread. I’ve read somewhere that it even has 40% less saturated fat than butter.

Now the slice of lardo that I had was not on bread, but held in my husbands hand melting away when I arrived at the end of my seminar. Nonetheless, it was more than delicious enough to make me decide that our next gloucestershire old spot that gets butchered will be turned into lardo along with the other charcuterie delights.

For a great fun read on lard, check out this blog.

clipped from www.pbase.com

1950s? - Lard Information Council advertisement
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