Friendly hog highs in the news

The long Labor Day weekend can make you forget about the outside world for a while, as you’re enjoying summer’s last hurrah with family and friends.

Here are a couple items that you maybe missed.

Despite what the Chicago Tribune and other general media will tell you, there are some areas that actually are “livestock friendly.” Nebraska adopted a Livestock Friendly County Program in 2003, in the wake of controversy over large hog confinement operations being established in central Nebraska in the late-1990s.

A recent study by agricultural economists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows that, apparently, that program is paying dividends for the livestock industry in the Cornhusker State.

This program enables counties, on a voluntary basis, to seek a designation from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, declaring them receptive to new livestock developments within their counties.

In 2005, Morrill County became the first Nebraska county to obtain the designation, and presently, 37 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have achieved the designation. According to an article on Nebraska Today, several other counties are under review.

That online article says the agricultural economists studied 21 counties that achieved the designation between 2002 and 2012, comparing the numbers of farms reported in 2002, 2007 and 2012 censuses.

Cattle operations saw a 12% growth in counties with the “friendly” designation 2002-12, compared to an 8% increase in counties without the designation. A net increase in cattle farms was experienced in three-fourths of the “friendly” counties surveyed.

Hog farms, on the other hand, did see a decline in most Nebraska counties during the study period, but that decline was significantly lower in “friendly” counties. There was a 15.6% decline in hog farms in participating counties from 2007-12, but the loss was 62% in counties without the “friendly.”

According to the online article, “It does seem to attract more farms,” says Brian Mills, who studied the livestock friendly designation as his master’s degree thesis. “For that, I think it’s good. Where I’m from, the population’s been going down and it’s nice to have people come back and farm.”

According to the Nebraska Today article, the livestock friendly program is unique to Nebraska, but it may be worthwhile for the livestock industries in other states to push for similar programs.

High on the hog?
It is not uncommon for hog producers to explore using alternative feedstuffs in their herd’s diet. Most of the time, these choices are driven by cost and availability. According to the Green Daily Rush (no, I am not a regular reader or subscriber), Washington state hog farmers are experimenting to take that search for alternatives to the extreme.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Washington, and according to the GDR website, recreational pig farmers started scooping up the “waste” from the process of turning marijuana into the medicinal-use format.

A Seattle butcher thought this experiment sense from a flavor standpoint, saying on the website that he’s “always believed that meat’s flavor can be enhanced through a guided diet. That’s why grass-fed beef tastes better than feedlot-fed beef. There’s a long tradition of enhancing the flavor of pork by controlling the diet of pigs. This (feeding pigs marijuana) just seemed like a great experiment.”

In addition to potential improving the flavor of the finished pork product, those involved in the experiment hoped a cannabis-infused diet in pigs would create the same munchy-inducing characteristics in the porcine as it does in humans.

According to the article, four pigs were fed potent marijuana trimmings for four months, and they all gained 20 to 30 pounds more than a half-dozen other pigs that were not fed marijuana.

The online article goes on to tout the enhanced flavor and sustainability of the pot-fed porkers, but I would need to see quite a bit more mainstream study into this alternative before I get too high on it.

Although, eating bacon that gives you the sense that you need to eat more bacon may just be better than sliced bread. 

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