Best Option: Know your farmer
The best way to buy pork is directly from a farmer you know and trust. Most importantly, how was the pig raised?
The term “pastured” in reference to pigs, implies that pigs get to spend the majority of their lives outside, it can also mislead people who don’t know very much about how pigs eat. Pigs don’t eat grass exclusively. They are omnivores who love to eat scraps, food waste, grains, and more. On a traditional farm, pigs are fed “slop”, a mix of kitchen scraps, the whey leftover from cheesemaking, canning leftovers, you name it. A well raised pig gets to forage. Pigs like to graze. They like to use their snout to root around in the straw or dirt and find old acorns and other half-rotted goodies to eat. They like to eat plants like clover, oats, and rye. They like to maw on old tree roots and fermenting corn. What may be unappealing or seem “unhealthy” to you is in fact what pigs love and thrive on the most.
Good Option: Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved
Your next best option would be buying pork that has the Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved label on it. The Certified Humane standards for pigs and the Animal Welfare Approved standards for pigs:
- Be fed a nutritious diet
- Not receive non-therapeutic antibiotics or hormones
- Be given appropriate shelter from weather
- Not be confined unless its for short, necessary periods (like when they’re being examined or weighed)
- Have resting areas with comfortable bedding like straw
- Be allowed sufficient space in their resting areas to turn around and lie down fully stretched
- Engage freely in natural behaviors
Similar Option: USDA Certified Organic Pork
Organic pork standards require that pigs be fed organic feed, prohibit non-therapeutic antibiotics or hormones, and have good standards for providing for the pig’s comfort, bedding, outdoor access, etc.
Avoid: “Natural” and Factory Farmed Pork
The label “natural” often gets applied to factory-farmed pork products. All the word “natural” means is that the pork was processed without the use of artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemicals. It strictly refers to how the meat was handled after the animal was dead, and has nothing whatsoever to do with how the animal was raised.