When I told my friends that the youngest and I were going to visit a hog farm, I got some weird looks. I mean, why visit a hog farm, right? It’s probably dirty, smelly, and gross, isn’t it? Who would want to do that?
Well, I wanted to visit a hog farm because I had questions about the meat I buy from my local grocery store. There’s a lot of buzz lately about food safety and antibiotics in meat, and I figured the best way to get my questions answered was to ask a farmer. My friend Jeanette was kind enough to let us visit her family farm, and she and her husband Rusty answered all of my questions. Maple Acres Farm has been in Jeanette’s family for over 100 years, and it’s still a family farm today.
What was my most surprising find at Maple Acres Farm? Cleanliness! Most people think a pig farm is going to be dirty, but the barns I visited at Maple Acres were cleaner than most people’s garages. Cleanliness is such a big deal at the farm that we had to shower before we could enter. They are committed to keeping their pigs healthy, and that includes protecting them from any germs we might be carrying.
Another important thing I learned was in regards to the health and safety of the meat that comes from the Maple family farm, and every other farm in the country — including the hundreds of family farms in Indiana. You hear lots of talk about antibiotics in meat, and that has made some people afraid to buy meat from the grocery store. Did you know that all meat and milk coming from farms in the United States is required to be free from antibiotics?
In fact, there are hefty financial penalties if farmers send animals out for processing that still have antibiotics in their system. So no farmer wants to put meat containing antibiotics into the food system. Farmers will use antibiotics to treat animals that are sick, in the same way I use antibiotics when my kids are sick. But the meat in your grocery store is free from antibiotics, and most likely came from local family farmers like the Merritts.
The animals at Maple Acres were also incredibly well cared for. Jeanette made a great point as we walked through the barns — the farm is their livelihood, and happy and healthy animals are what will make sure their family can pay the bills. It’s to their advantage to treat their animals well; it would make no sense for them to be cruel or inhumane. And every animal we saw looked healthy and was content, with one exception — the sow who was thisclose to giving birth. She was communicating what I think every woman who has given birth has felt: “I am ready for these babies to come out!”
I left my visit from the Merritt’s farm 100% confident in the pork chops, bacon, and other products sold at my local grocery store. And I hope that you feel the same way. Pork is a tasty and affordable meat option for your family, and you can buy it knowing that whether the label says so or not, it’s free from antibiotics, is safe to eat, and is totally delicious!
Subbing ground pork for ground beef in my recipes is one of my favorite ways to save money without skimping on taste. Here’s one of the most popular and affordable dinners in our house, Ground Pork Chili.
Ground Pork Chili
1 lb. ground pork
1 clove garlic, minced
32 oz. chicken broth
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large can kidney beans
2 tsp chili powder
1 bay leaf
Sliced jalapeno peppers (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, crumble ground pork. Add garlic and salt/pepper, and cook over medium heat until pork is cooked through.
Add chicken broth, jalapenos, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Blend.
Add beans, chili powder, and bay leaf.
Cover and simmer on low heat for at least thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.
For optimal deliciousness, serve with cheese and onions on top, and a side of cornbread!