We raise pigs. We currently have 24 pigs on pasture. Needless to say, fattening pigs is on our mind. Our last pigs, American Guinea Hogs, ate way too much feed for the amount of meat we got off of them (1,000 lbs of feed each–roughly $500, and they only produced 50 lbs of meat!!). We are studying how to fatten our pigs in a healthy way that isn’t too fast, but is fast enough to still make them profitable (who wants to pay $30 for 2 pork chops?!). 🙂 In the midst of all of this studying, I’ve realized that the way commercial hog growers fatten pigs is not really that different from how most Americans live. Read below to see what I mean.
How to fatten pigs and people
Feed them Skim Milk
Skim milk has been used as a method of fattening pigs for a very long time. According to a report called Fattening Pigs for Market by Oregon State Agricultural College from 1930, skim milk is “not only the very best supplement for growing pigs, but is of almost equal value for fattening purposes.”
This is also true for children. A study found that kids who drank 1% or skim milk had higher BMI (body mass index = more fat on their bodies) than children who drank whole milk. Word to the wise: do not move your kids to 2%, 1% or skim milk in their growing years. It is detrimental to their health. It is also detrimental for adults to drink low fat and skim milks.
Including the fat with the milk will curb your cravings for sweets. The fat in the milk minimizes the impact of the sugar in the milk when it hits your body. The higher the fat content in the milk, the better your body is able to handle the milk. The best milk to purchase is whole, unprocessed, non-homogenized, unpasteurized milk.
Are you eating low fat sour cream, yogurt, and other dairy products, believing that you are making a healthy choice? Eating low fat dairy products leads to a higher risk of obesity and heart disease. One report (which quotes many studies) says that we should not be avoiding the saturated fat and cholesterol in milk, and that components in whole milk likely protect against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Feed them Corn
“Yellow corn continues to be the basic feed grain for hogs and most other livestock species.” –Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs
Corn is a cheap feed for pigs, and it fattens them quickly. Studies show that corn fattens pigs much quicker than barley. Corn is an incredibly efficient feed for pigs and used widely by commercial hog growers as well as most small farmers, because a pig only needs to consume 3.66 lbs of corn to produce a pound of weight gain (opposed to 4.06 lbs of beans or 4.63 lbs of wheat).
Corn is being consumed regularly by humans in many forms, including high fructose corn syrup, which has been implicated in the obesity epidemic. You can look at the history of nutrition in America and see that the rise in obesity has paralleled the rise in the use of high fructose corn syrup. Even if you don’t eat corn syrup, you’re likely eating corn. Corn is hidden in so many processed foods. An obvious source of corn is corn oil, and long term ingestion of corn oil makes rats consume excessive calories. Before I ate healthy, I used to have a theory that eating fast food (like Taco Bell) made me crave more food. It is absolutely true. There are certain foods (like corn) that create more cravings. The hidden sources of corn includes a long list of sweeteners, preservatives and chemical ingredients that are a part of many every day foods. To truly avoid corn in your diet, you would have to avoid all packaged processed foods, all bottled juices, all candy bars, all salad dressings and canned foods, etc. You would have to stick to a diet of completely unprocessed pure grains, meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables and fruits, from local sources. If you do not eat this way and you truly believe that you don’t eat much corn, you are fooling yourself. Corn is hiding in everything. Even if you eat a diet of primarily fruits and veggies, if they weren’t grown by a local, trusted farmer, they’re likely coated with a wax made from corn.
Some of the names that corn is disguised under include: acetic acid, alpha tocopherol, artificial flavors or sweeteners, ascorbic acid, calcium sterate, caramel color, cellulose, citric acid, dextrin, dextrose, ethyl acetate, food starch, fructose, glucosamine, glycerides, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, lecithin, linoleic acid, lysine, magnesium citrate, malic acid, maltitol, maltodextrin, methyl cellulose, modified food starch, mono- and di-glycerides, monosodium glutimate, natural flavorings, olestra, olean, propylene glycol, saccharin, iodized salt, simethicone, sodium erythorbate, sorbate, sorbic acid, sorbitol, splenda, stearic acid, sucralose, sucrose, tocopherol, unmodified starch, vanilla, vanillin, vitamin c, vitamin e, xanthan gum, xylitol, yeast. Source: Corn Allergen List
Feed them Sugar
Pigs who were fed molasses and cane juice products the night before slaughter had a 34% larger liver than pigs who were fed a traditional grain-based diet. A larger liver = a sicker liver. Adding sugar to a pig’s diet increases their rate of carcass growth. Weanling pigs have a greater growth performance when they eat milk chocolate products leftover from the candy making industry. Go figure. Pigs who have diets that are sweetened end up eating more. In fact, simply giving the pigs a sweetener increased their chewing behavior. Ever feel the need to chew something, even though you’re not hungry? You’ve probably been eating too much sugar.
I don’t think that you need me to link to a bunch of studies that prove that sugar makes people fat. It’s a no brainer, really. What you probably don’t realize is how much sugar you eat, if you’re eating packaged, processed foods or if you are dining out. Please read my post, The Myth of Moderation: Sugar, to see how much sugar is hidden in the average American’s daily meal plan. Sugar is hiding in tomato sauce, salad dressing, taco seasoning mix, salsa, yogurt, and more. There are many foods that contain sugar that absolutely do not need it. The best way to avoid this is to make your own food. Start making your own ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, and seasoning mixes.
Keep them Sedentary, Out of the Sun, and in a Confined Space
Pigs that are grown in confinement (most of the pigs that are raised for meat in the US) grow at a faster rate than pigs that are raised on pasture. People who live a sedentary life are also prone to obesity. People who work in offices are more likely to gain weight. People who lack Vitamin D (which is primarily acquired from exposure to the sun) are more likely to be obese. If you’re stuck working a corporate job and you feel like you live in a cubicle, just make sure you’re taking breaks and taking a walk in the sun. Getting to work before the sun rises and leaving after it sets, without any exposure during the day is detrimental to your health. Also, consider a treadmill desk to get some daily movement!
The moral of the story?
Don’t eat like a pig! Literally! 🙂 Truly, if you want to live a healthy life, eat real fat, avoid low-fat dairy products, limit your consumption of corn, avoid all packaged and processed foods, limit your consumption of sugar, and get out in the sun and move!