Posted by Terry Everett on May 29, 2019
       Tori Abner shared a very interesting program on "Sustainable Farming - A 60 Year Success Story."  With growing concerns about climate change and food safety, farmers continuously improve how they raise food and protect the environment.  
      Tori's presentation used pig farming as a case study to demonstrate how a commitment to doing things better has achieved one of the most significant evolutions in food safety, nutrition and environmental stewardship in the last 60 years.  She confirmed that farmers are among the country's original environmentalists by focusing on pig heath and placing high priorities on conservation, land management, soil health and water quality.  
       Tori pointed out that there are eight cuts of lean protein that has been qualified by the USDA.  Two cuts have been certified as being "Heart Healthy" by the American Heart Association.  This has all come about by using 76% less land, 25% less water and less energy. 
       Sustainable farming is comprised of a lot of different things with healthy pigs being one of the main areas of focus.  Today's healthy pig has been made possible by several things including enhanced genetics.  Nutrition is very important as well.  New technology is has improved the barns for raising pigs where security is increased as well to insure healthy pigs.
       In 1959, it took eight pigs to produce 1,000 lbs. of pork.  Today, it only takes five pigs to produce 1,000 lbs. of pork.  Pigs today are 75% less fat than those raised in the 1950s.
       Today's pig farmers have become specialized where they only focus on one part of the life cycle.  They begin with breeding and gestation where they make sure the healthiest pigs are born.  When they are ready to have their litter they are moved into the farrowing barns.  Baby piglets weigh between 2-3 pounds.  They are weaned from their mothers in about three weeks and will weigh approximately 15 lbs.  They are then moved into nursery barns until they reach about 50 lbs.  They are then ready for the growing stage and moved to a finishing barn where they can really pack on the pounds and get ready for market.  Market ready pigs will weigh about 270 lbs.  They whole process takes about 6 months.
       Contrary to popular belief pigs are not raised in the mud.  They are raised in climate controlled barns where the temperature stays at 75 degrees year around.  These barns also protect the pigs from the weather, disease and predators.  
       Tori emphasized how serious farmers are about making sure the pigs produce the highest quality pork.  Every worker must shower and wear clean coveralls before entering the barns.  When their day is over they must shower again before leaving.
       When one group of pigs are moved from one barn to another, the barns are power washed and disinfected.  Every precaution is taken to make sure the pigs are as healthy as possible.
       Pork today compares favorably for fat, calories and cholesterol with many other meats and poultry.  While providing a greater amount of vitamins and minerals, many cuts of pork are as lean or leaner than chicken.  Pork tenderloin is just as lean as skinless chicken breast and meets the government guidelines for "extra lean."  In total, six pork cuts meet the USDA guidelines for "lean," with less than 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat adn 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.  Any cuts from the loin, like pork chops or pork roast, are leaner than skinless chicken thigh, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture data.  Pork steaks and roasts from the leg (ham) are also lean choices.
      Tori is a Denison native and recent graduate from Texas A&M University with a degree in Animal Science.  She will continue her studies at North Carolina State University in the fall where she will pursue a Master's degree in Swine well-being and welfare.
       Tori raised show pigs for eight years and has interned on a commercial farm.  She worked with the National Pork Board in Des Moines, Iowa, a couple of years ago and this past summer with the Texas Pork Producers Association communicating with producers and consumers about pork production.