My first in depth encounter with pigs was in 2001 when I was required to do a feeding trial with 60 feeder pigs as part of my Animal Science degree requirements. I was immediately fascinated by this often misunderstood animal. I was amazed by their intelligence, their cleanliness, and their personalities. Our university feeding trial required each pig to be let into its own feeding stall according to its ear tag colour and number. The first few days were chaos but in no time flat those pigs knew which stall they belonged in and lined up accordingly. I realized then that I was “strangely drawn to pigs” and hoped that some day I would have the opportunity to raise these intelligent and sensitive animals.
When I made the decision to raise pigs I began researching breeds. I knew that I wanted to raise pigs naturally on pasture in social groups – no farrowing crates or intensive barns for me. That meant finding a breed that would fare well in an outdoor system with minimal intervention. My research brought me to the Berkshire, or “Berks” as we affectionately call them. Berks are a hardy black and white breed originating from England. We have found them to be well equipped to contend with the challenges of outdoor life. Their pigmentation means they are less prone to sunburn and they are covered in a coarse hair to protect against the elements. Our Berks are well equipped for foraging and rooting, a necessity on pasture. We have found the breed to be very docile and personable, making day-to-day handling in an open outdoor system a pleasure. They are very social animals and wonderful, doting mothers making them ideal to raise on pasture in groups.
Additionally, Berkshires are a heritage breed which is currently listed as Endangered by Rare Breeds Canada with less than 115 purebred females registered the prior year. I feel it is important to preserve genetic diversity and felt compelled to do my part to promote this wonderful heritage breed.
My research also indicated that Berkshires have superior carcass traits with excellent quality and taste. This is due, in part, to the shorter meat fibre and increased marbling of the breed. The breed is so renowned for its superior flavour that it is often incorporated into crossbreeding programs to improve carcass traits of other breeds. In fact, this breed is world renowned for its excellent carcass quality and has been used extensively in cross breeding programs to improve the overall meat quality of the fast growing white swine breeds. We are confident that once you taste our pastured pork you will never turn back!
If you like pigs so much, why are you raising them for meat?
To put it simply, when I am raising them I can ensure that they have good quality of life from start to finish. To me this means raising them in a biologically appropriate manner that meets not only their physical needs, but also their mental and social needs as well. It means treating the animals with dignity and respect from birth through finishing, and ensuring that they have a good life while they are here.
Why All Natural?
The decision to go “Natural” really wasn’t much of a decision at all. I wanted to raise my pigs as naturally as possible. To put it simply, I wanted to let “the pigs be pigs”. It is my goal that our pigs be given the opportunity to live as nature intended…with soil beneath their feet, and often times, all over them! I want to produce quality, healthy products. My feeling is that the best way to end up with a healthy end product is to start with a healthy animal. We ensure this by providing the elements necessary for physical, mental and social well being in our pigs.
Ravenwood Ranch’s Recipe for Healthy Pork
- good quality, complete feed free of antibiotics and hormones.
- adequate shelter with ample straw for nest building.
- social companionship for mental well being.
- lots of space for rooting, foraging, rolling and running.
- mud to wallow, roll, wiggle and grunt in.
- clean water.
- fresh air.
Click to learn more about Ravenwood Hog Management.