Last week I talked to a woman who was selling pork. I asked her what her pigs ate and she said they foraged, but also had access to grain. She said grain, then soy. I took her pamphlet, but not sure about contacting her....I want to buy 1/2 pig in a few months.
So....what are "free range" pigs eating?
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This study looked at the diet of wild boar eating a wild diet in the forests of the French Alps over a year. Although the foods they eat will vary amoung boar around the world this seems like a good description of a wild pig diet. The percentages are the diet composition by dry weight.
- Roots 39%
- Fleshy fruits 21%
- Green parts of plants 17%
- Forest fruits (mostly nuts) 7%
- Corn (stolen from fields) 7%
- Humus (soil) 6%
- Animal matter (earthworms) 1%
- Mushrooms 1%
This study compared how much polyunsaturated fatty acids accumulated in the fat of different wild ruminants and wild boar.
In the fat of the various ruminants tested:
- omega 6 was 1-5%
- omega 3 was 1-3%
In the fat of the wild boar tested:
- omega 6 was 10-20%
- omega 3 was 1-2%
I'm not sure that grains and soy are the best diet for pigs. I may be possible to lower the omega 6 level in pork fat by manipulating the pigs diet. However it does not seem unnatural to me for pigs to have a higher percentage of omega 6 in their fat.
Nuts are an important winter food for wild boar in Europe and were the traditional autumn food for domestic pigs for probably thousands of years. Pigs would be released into the forests to forage nuts including acorns and beech nuts which are favorite foods of pigs and have high amounts of omega 6 fats. None of the foods pigs naturally eat have high levels of omega 3 fats. Wild boar in the wild are lean animals so the amount of omega 3 or 6 in the fat would not matter much.
Here's what Slanker's says:
"Pastured pigs are fed grain, grain by products, stale bread, and other foreign foods and that makes the resulting meat products only slightly better than conventional store-bought pork. The idea that pigs must be fed grain is preposterous and ignorant.
"Our pigs range at large foraging for their natural food. They graze grass just like cattle. Most of what they eat is grass, forbes, and leaves of trees. But they also eat grubs, roots, acorns, berries, fruits (acorns, berries, and fruits are strickly seasonal), eggs, critters of all kinds, and about anything else they come across in the pastures and woods where they live. (In fact, their diet is about the same as a grass-fed chicken!)"
I've found it to be very difficult to find truly pasture-raised pork. Even Marin Sun Farms, which follows Joel Salatin's model pretty closely, uses a grain-based feed and/or finishes with grain.
This is one reason why I'm trying to limit my intake of pork. It's one of the meats highest in n-6, especially when grain-fed.
The local farmer I buy from that sells 100% Grass-Fed beef/cream and the like raises and finishes their pigs on acorns.
Acorn being an oak nut, its composition is mostly fat and carbs with little protein. A quick look up shows they are mostly mono-unsaturated fats, but mostly Omega-6s though.
Whether all of this is the standard or not, I have no idea, but this farm usually focuses on what the most sustainable and healthy for the end users.
Shoot for Forest Fed. Grains and Soy are not for Pigs. Roots and Tubers and Forest Forage.
Pigs "have been known to eat any kind of food, including dead insects, worms, tree bark, rotting carcasses, garbage, and even other pigs" and in the wild they "primarily [eat] leaves, grasses, roots, fruits and flowers" so it's looks like we're faced with a classic "omnivores dilemma."
Presumably the ideal would be leaving them with a sufficiently large expanse of suitably bio-diverse woodland and letting them get on with it. My guess then would be that they need to be given a wide selection of plant matter, including all of the above categories (vegetable scraps ideally) as well as access to grubs, insects, earthworms etc. I think it's illegal to feed them meat.
I have a pet pig called Percephone she is treated naturally and on a natural diet. She will never be killed for her meat she is my pet. She gets, fruit - banana, plums, apple, lemons, greens- lettuce, plus carrots, and then a small amount of milk powder, grain - corn, wheat, maize combo NON GE and she is doing very well. She also forrages for grass and roots. I will add some nuts to her diet as I beleive she needs a little protein. i have trained her to sit before receiving her food, just like a dog, she is very clever and has strategically sorted out her pen. She has an area to sleep which she keeps very clean, an area to go to the toilet - always the same place, and an area to eat and drink. She is amazing.
Not grains. Acorns are great and beechmast. So hard to get a good pig now!
Pigs love to dig. Their behavior indicates that they should be eating roots and tubers. Roots and tubers are low in unsaturated fatty acids and high in carbohydrate. Eating this would make their meat high in saturated fat and low in omega 6.
Pigs probably should also eat some green leafy matter, but I can't give a reason to back this up.
Nobody in this country raises pigs by feeding them roots and tubers. Slanker's focuses on feeding them grass and avoiding grains, so they are probably pretty good. Yet Slanker brags about how his meat is soft which is an indication that it contains unsaturated fat. However, the meat should be balanced in omega 6:3 ratio. Feeding pigs sweet potatoes in common in East Asia.
I don't think that feeding pigs acorns (or other nuts) is a good idea because it will increase the omega 6 content of their tissue.
I had the same problem here in the Netherlands. I couldn't find any pork that was raised on a natural diet. Even 'organic' pigs are fed grains and corn. Since I do care about the omega-3/omega-6 ratio's, I did send out an e-mail to a lot of pig farmers about my wish for good pork.
I got 3 positive reactions back.
Now I 'adopted' two pigs (Duroc x Mangalitza) that will be fed a natural diet (roots, tubers, leaves, grass etc.) and will have plenty of room to mess around in the mud looking for insects (and more).
The fact of the matter is that most pork nowadays is not really Paleo-legal because they generally ALL eat some form of grain in their diet.
I eat it anyway.
Surely, if we are on a paleo diet and eat grass fed beef and lamb, pastured chicken, organic veg, some kefir,raw milk and sauerkraut surely a cooked breakfast with pork sausage with a little too much omega 6 a few times a week isn't going to hurt!