We recently traveled to Kenansville for our annual pork producer meeting with members of the NC Natural Hog Growers Association. We shared a meal together and this one featured pasture-raised ribs excellently prepared for us by Geer Street Garden. We showed off our new company video and gave a round of applause to hog farmer, Dwight Hall, who is featured prominently. After wiping off our fingers, we got down to business, talking through a range of issues that impact how we do business together.
One area we always explore is pork quality. What are the key production strategies that produce optimal marbling, color, tenderness and fat:lean ratios. There are so many issues to consider! First is genetics. Pork quality is usually dictated by the selection of a boar (male hog) whereas the gilt (female hog) is selected for her mothering ability. Second is nutrition. Optimizing feed rations and ensuring that young hogs never go hungry is key.
Selecting hogs for slaughter that are in the desired weight range is also important for optimizing quality – too light and the animals will be lean, too heavy and they are likely to have excessive fat which can be wasteful. This is a key service that the NCNHGA provides for us – scheduling the arrival of market ready hogs week in and week out. It’s no small feat to accomplish when you consider it involves 20 different farmers.
As the years go by, we experience the trust that our partnership has built and are grateful to the Association and our other supply chain partners, including Acre Station Meat Farm, which provides slaughter and fabrication services and A Greener World, which provides critical animal welfare certification services.