TO EAT, OR NOT TO EAT?

There’s a lot of talk, well, mainly hype and marketing, about what to feed one’s family. Being a mom as well as the primary procurer of all things edible, I find myself wondering if my family is getting enough leafy greens, colorful fruits, all while not having too much sugar. Did my girls drink enough water? Did they eat the crusts of their bread? Did I remember that Josie likes peanut butter and jelly minus the jelly…or is it Anna?

Anyway, as much as I seem to focus on the details of my family’s likes and dislikes, I hardly ever seem to worry about the actual foodstuffs that my family is consuming. Why is that? Why am I more concerned about eating the colors rather than eating organic? Why am I not following the free-range, grass fed, hormone-free trend?

Because I trust my farmers. Whether they are livestock men or women, produce growers, or grain farmers, I have a trust in my food source. We as Americans are so fortunate to have the safest food supply in the world. We have had a scare or two with spinach and sprouts, but I can count those on one hand. However, I have lost track of how many times I have stopped at the grocery store this year so far. The good works of our food supply and those who grow it far outweigh the scary stuff.

Americans have become more and more spoiled with this abundant and safe food supply, and thus, have less to worry about. Consequently, many Americans have become increasingly crazy about the picky details and over-marketed, over-hyped food trends, because it seems to be our culture’s nature to worry when there’s nothing to worry about! So-called experts on television, on the Internet, and in parenting magazines have created such a monster of basically scaring the pants off of moms and dads all around our country, when, in reality, we shouldn’t be. Farmers such as my husband care deeply for their animals, keeping them healthy and safe until their time comes to be the hamburger you may have just enjoyed for lunch. Morbid in a way, I know, but true. The television ads and movies that have been produced that lump all livestock farmers as money-grubbing, bottom-line loving, and animal hating group are not the norm. I realize that there are livestock yards that are cruel. There are livestock farmers who should get out of the business, but then there are those like my husband who give their livestock the care they need.

As any good herdsman would do during calving season, he is out there in all the elements (you have to love February and March in Illinois) checking everything from the most experienced cow to the inexperienced heifer during this busy time. To answer a trendy question, yes, we administer antibiotics to our cattle, only when necessary, as a parent would do for a child. But, unlike a lot of anti-livestock press would lead one to believe, I do not lose sleep at night knowing that my kids ate beef from animals who were given an antibiotic when they were ill. Rather, because I trust my beef source (and happen to spend my life with him!), I know that the administering of antibiotics to this animal will have no effect on me or my kids, other than to make the animal better and in the end result, better tasting! Most livestock farmers are ones who went into the business because of their love of animals, and this fact alone should give the American public something to trust.

In celebration of National Nutrition Month, I challenge you all to find out more about your food source and celebrate it. Be thankful for the good farmers out there who are slogging through mud covered snows to ensure your food is not only tasty, but safe. I challenge all of you to share what you know with anyone who asks a question, or quotes a random fact gleaned from a recent Oprah show. I encourage you all to continue to trust farmers, as I know most of you do. Maybe we can start our own trend! Happy National Nutrition Month!

Emily Webel
The Farmwife

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PIGS ON NATIONAL PIG DAY

It seems that there are special days for all kinds of things to honor and celebrate. March 1st is National Pig Day. While this has not yet become a recognized Hallmark greeting card holiday, the pig is an amazing animal and does warrant celebrating. We do have a whole month reserved for celebrating pigs & pork during October Pork Month, but an extra day of attention on the pig won’t hurt.

The pig truly is an amazing animal; it’s where bacon comes from so how much more amazing can it be! There are many pork products and by-products that we use in our daily lives that come from pigs. So we wanted to share some information on pigs and how they are raised.

We need to state up front that pigs are not pets. They are raised for food and the many by-products that we get from the pig.

People that raise pigs for their job are called pork producers. Pork producers work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, on the farm providing the best care possible for their pigs.

Most pigs are raised in clean, indoor climate controlled hog barns, so that we can better care for the pigs and they are healthier. Have you ever heard anyone say they sweat like a pig? That’s not true. Pigs can’t sweat – that’s why pork producers use misters in hog barns – like sprinklers in the summer – so they stay cool. In the winter, pigs are kept warm because the buildings have piggies, baby pigs, swineheaters, just like your house.

Baby pigs are raised in special barns with their mothers, called sows. To keep the baby pigs from getting hurt or stepped on they are kept in birthing pens called farrowing stalls. When the piglets reach 10-15 pounds, they are weaned – taken off their mother’s milk and given solid food.   

Pigs eat a balanced diet of corn, soybean meal, and vitamins. Pigs eat a lot.  It takes 5 billion pounds of corn and soybeans to feed all the pigs in Illinois each year. If you filled a big truck to the top, it would take 100,000 trucks to move all that grain! Put them end to end, they would stretch from Illinois all the way to Disneyworld!

Baby pigs weigh about 2 pounds when they are born. In only 6 months they grow to 270 pounds and are ready for market. The pigs are then transported to a processing plant, where they are harvested and then processed into the delicious pork that we eat such as – pork chops, bacon, ham, sausage, ribs, pork burgers, and more.

Pork is the most consumed meat in the world and American pork producers take pride in producing a food they feed their own family, as well as many families worldwide. From farm to fork, U.S. pork producers provide good food at a great value for families nationwide.

Pork is good for you and an important part of your diet. It provides your body with protein that builds muscle and helps your bodies grow. On average, the six most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent. Including lean pork in the diet can help you lose weight while maintaining more lean tissue (including muscle).

There are also more than 500 pork by-products that come from pigs including life saving items such as replacement heart valves, skin grafts for burn victims and insulin. Other pig by-products are used in making industrial products such as gelatin, plywood adhesive, glue, cosmetics and plastics.

For more than 1,700 delicious pork recipes, tips on cooking pork and many other pork resources visit www.TheOtherWhiteMeat.com and for more information on the Illinois pork industry visit www.ilpork.com.  

Tim Maiers, Communications
Illinois Pork Producers Association