Meet your pig
Winrose Farm gives tomorrow’s pork chops a good life today
By Lisa Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
We all want to know what’s in what we eat but the true free-range enthusiast can even find out what the animal they eat ate.
Bob Jennings, who raises free-range poultry and pork at Winrose Farm in Greenfield, said today’s consumers want to know that their meat is safe.
“I call it the alternate food movement ... people today are more aware of what is going on with food in this country and they want to know where the food is coming from,” Jennings said. “They want to make sure the food doesn’t have any antibiotics, hormones or steroids in it.”
That’s why Jennings is busy. Jennings raises pigs and chickens for people to buy.
“We raise animals the way the good lord intended them to be raised,” Jennings said. “They are raised on grains and grass and vegetation.”
In other words, the pigs and chickens are free-range animals; they’re not confined in dark crowded stalls.
“I view it that it is livestock that is being raised for the purpose of food,” Jennings said. “Why is it if it is being raised for human consumption that the animal shouldn’t have a humane and healthy life for its short stay on Earth?”
At Winrose Farm, animals are rotated through the pasture and the pigs are fed grain and vegetation.
“We don’t feed them junk, no table scraps, no garbage,” Jennings said. “There are operations that raise hogs and feed pigs garbage and go and get table scraps from all the restaurants. Why would you want to put that in your body?”
Jennings became a pig and chicken farmer almost out of necessity.
“We used to raise a couple of hogs a year and our own chickens and that is what started it,” Jennings said. “We got tired of buying meat from the supermarket — we didn’t want to buy adulterated food.”
No chemical fertilizers are used on the fields at the farm and all organic matter that is spread on the fields is matter generated at the farm. The animals are not given growth hormones, steroids or antibiotics. Jennings says pork raised on his farm has a different taste than what is found in most grocery stores.
“What is injected in the pork? It’s something to enhance the meat.... If it were worth a damn, why do they have to enhance it?” Jennings said. “Supermarket chicken tastes like sawdust. Pork is the same.”
Jennings takes pride in offering unpolluted food to the public from animals that have been closely monitored.
“We have our own breeding stock, we have a closed herd, we don’t bring in pigs from the outside of this farm,” Jennings said. “Any pork that I sell was born and raised on this farm ... it’s the only way to control disease.”
People who want to buy a pig sign up for the animal in advance. Jennings encourages his first customers to buy just a half of a pig or a quarter of a pig.
“Most people envision buying a whole hog and picking at it through the year. I say, ‘Don’t’,” Jennings said. “Pork doesn’t hold up in the freezer like other meats, so don’t buy any more than you plan to consume in a four-month time.”
When you place an order for a half or a quarter of a pig, you are put on a list to wait until a pig is ready. Jennings raises the hogs for about six months until they reach 160 to 180 pounds, on average. Once the animal is ready for slaughter, customers specify how they want their meat cut.
“It is all custom-cut to your specifications, cut and packaged the way you want, if you want one-inch pork chops or three to a package ... pork is versatile, we have customers who won’t do ham, they want it cut into other things,” Jennings said.
Buying a pig that has been raised free-range is more expensive than buying pork at the grocery store. Typically customers are charged about $2.60 per pound of hanging weight plus processing fees, slaughter fees and smoking fees if they want some of the meat smoked. Jennings said by the time the pork is delivered, it is costing the customer about $5 a pound.
“People that purchase from us are willing to pay more for it when they know where it came from and how it was raised,” Jennings said.
Before buying a portion of a hog, Jennings invites people out to Winrose Farm to see how he operates his business.
“When people come to our farm to buy our product they are so grateful for what we do, “ Jennings said. “When I go to Shaw’s, I don’t see anyone getting all excited at the meat counter.”
Winrose Farm poultry and pork is available at Concord Food Coop in Concord and at Earthward Natural Foods in Amherst. For more information on Winrose Farm visit winrosefarm.com or call 547-3390.