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Demand Grows for Hogs That Are Raised Humanely Outdoors

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page and our All About Organics page.

SHUSHAN, N.Y. - Turn down the road to Flying Pigs Farm here, and two or three of Michael Yezzi's pigs are probably standing in the middle of it.

"They're the welcoming committee," Mr. Yezzi explained recently.

These particular pigs, three Gloucestershire Old Spots that could easily find work in Hollywood, had exploited a fault in the electrically wired fence and gone exploring. "I'm sure you've heard that pigs are very smart," said Mr. Yezzi, a lawyer turned farmer. His farm is about 20 miles east of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

For the last four or five decades, spotting lone pigs in a field was almost as rare as finding a hen's tooth. But Mr. Yezzi is one of an increasing number of farmers raising pigs on hoof, in contrast to the barns and confinement stalls used in large scale industrial settings.

He sells from 900 to 1,000 pigs for meat a year from his own herd and those of other farmers in the area, and says he could name his price because demand is so strong. "Though I'm in a constant state of panic about whether I'll have too much or not enough to supply what people want," he said.

Neither the United States Department of Agriculture nor the National Pork Producers Council has data on the number of pastured pigs, though in 2006, research done at Iowa State University estimated that the drift, as a group of pigs is known, numbered from 500,000 to 750,000.

Several factors are driving the appetite for pasture-raised pork, grocers and chefs say. Consumers are increasingly aware of and concerned about the conditions under which livestock is raised, and somewhat more willing to pay higher prices for meat certified to have come from animals that were humanely raised.   
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