What is Forest Fed Pork?
For centuries Trichinosis has been an issue with uncooked meats, primarily pork, because people were feeding the animals foodstuffs that weren’t properly cooked, often just slop or leftovers. These slop buckets would be left outside for periods of time, which helped increase risk of contamination (no refrigeration back then). People would then consume undercooked pork. The trichinosis would not be killed and people would become infected. Trichinosis is an infection caused from the Trichinella roundworm.
Pork producers began changing how pigs were fed in the 1970s. Instead of feeding leftovers, farmers started feeding a more balanced ration of grains, primarily corn and soy. This led to pork having whiter meat with milder flavor, which removed the gamey taste. The switch from slop to a grain based system reduced trichinosis infection. Around this time, farmers began raising pigs in an indoor climate controlled setting rather than outdoors.. This indoor system was “cleaner” and greatly reduced infection. Indoor systems created giant cesspools of wastewater, another problem in and of themselves.
In the late 1980s, the National Pork Board began to market pork as “The Other White Meat” in order to dispel the reputation that pork was fatty meat. In traditional culinary terminology, pork is considered a white meat, but nutritional studies comparing white and red meats, consider it red, as does the USDA.
In pasture based systems, only a portion of a pig’s diet comes from the pasture, even if they live outside. Pigs have a monogastric digestive system, similar to humans. Unlike cattle or sheep, their digestive system limits their ability to digest fiber or process a large percentage of foraged nutrients found in pastures and rangelands.
In forest or silvo-pasture systems the pigs forage under mast producing trees, such as oaks, beeches, chestnuts, apple, and other nut or fruit bearing trees. The animals eat the acorns and other mast, which add nutrients and flavor to their meat. The nuts add a little nuttiness to the meat, along with Omega 3-fatty acids. In Spain and Portugal, the acorn-fed pork is made into a famous cured ham, known as “Jamon Iberico.”
This disturbance stimulates germination of a diverse seed bank that has been dormant in the soil for many years. Pigs will eat just about anything, including insects, grubs, roots, downed branches, small stumps, rotting logs, and vines. The pigs can be used to root out invasive species, eat surface roots and saplings, and they fertilize as they move around. The aerated, uprooted soil structure regenerates quickly and is ideal for new forest undergrowth. They forage for about half of their foodstuffs.
Bigger trees are more suited to silvo-pasture and providing shade. They have thicker bark and more developed root systems in addition to bearing far more seed. Pigs need shade and places to rest. Open environments allow the pigs to be pigs, rooting in their natural habitats and exercising, making them happier.
Pigs are rotated among paddocks and moved every few weeks to allow the pastures they graze in to recover. The taste and texture of the meat from forest floor nutrients is exceptional. The pigs also receive free-choice non-GMO grains.