Thursday, March 19, 2009

Response to: "Death on a Factory Farm"

By Alan Hummel
New Seasons Market Meat & Seafood Merchandiser

Some of you may have seen or read about HBO’s new documentary called Death on a Factory Farm. In this film, there were many scenes depicting the unhealthy, inhumane conditions that most hogs live in prior to processing. It’s heartbreaking because it doesn’t have to be this way. Our current system of industrial farming is not sustainable and each of us can do our part to fix it by voting with our dollars. Every time we purchase bacon or pork chops that were produced in a sustainable manner we send a strong message to the people who are responsible for raising the animals. Our cash is a commodity crop and we can influence the way our food is grown by spending it on sustainably produced products.

So what do we mean when we say “sustainably raised pork”? We mean that first and foremost, we know where and how our hogs are raised. We’ve actually been to the farm to see for ourselves, and not only do we know the farmers, but we’ve enjoyed dinner together, watched their kids grow up, and they’ve become like family to us.

Our Pacific Village Pork is raised on two Northwest farms by Greg Rieben and Paul Klingeman. Greg and Paul raise their hogs without antibiotics and on a strictly vegetarian diet on farms in Banks, Oregon, and Ephrata, Washington. They are hands-on hog farmers, and they take a lot of pride in their level of involvement with the animals on their farms. They know everything about how their pork is produced, from the first days of the piglets’ lives to the final delivery to our stores. Each is actively involved in organizations overseeing the hog farming industry, including the Oregon Pork Producers Association, which educates consumers about the industry and provides support for small pork farmers throughout the state, and the Oregon Farm Bureau.

In large-scale factory farm operations, sows are routinely confined in gestation and farrowing crates, which are narrow cages that allow just enough room for the sow to stand up and lie down, but no space to turn around. Our Pacific Village hog farmers don’t use farrowing crates, opting instead for roomy pens that give the mother pig plenty of space to move around and a safe warm place for the piglets.

We’re always looking for ways to help our farmers improve their operations, and we’re willing to pitch in and get our hands dirty in support of our hog farmers’ fantastic stewardship of the animals and the land. Recently, our Meat Department Managers teamed up to help raise a hoop structure for the Rieben’s on their farm in Banks. This structure will be able to house more hogs in humane, sustainable way, and you can take a look at the hoop-raising and finished structure in this video.

These small, local hog operations are far removed from the unsanitary, inhumane conditions of factory farms that have been spotlighted in the media. Agricultural animals are not subject to the same anti-cruelty laws as your family’s pet dog, or even the raccoon that lives in your tree, so it’s up to individual farmers to make ethical choices in raising their animals. As a result, there are enormous hog operations nationwide that abuse this lack of animal rights protection.

Given the choice, it just makes sense to support farmers like Greg and Paul who provide us with our Pacific Village meats. These Home Grown hog ranching families are committed to delivering natural, antibiotic free, vegetarian-fed pork to New Seasons Market customers, and we’re truly invested in their success. Plus, when you choose a Pacific Village product, a portion of your purchase goes directly back to support our community’s farms through grants to area farmers’ markets.

And you don’t have to take our word for it. Food Alliance, a third-party sustainable agriculture certifier, has worked closely with our hog farmers on implementing sustainable farming practices. You can find a detailed list of the requirements for certification, from food safety to humane animal care, at

Let us know if you have any thoughts or questions and maybe you might even want to share your favorite bacon recipe with us!

Here are two other thought provoking articles by New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof: "Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health" and "Pathogens in Our Pork".

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Heidi said...

Hoorah for happier pigs! and Hoorah for New Seasons and the vision you give us all

Anonymous said...

Will you be opening stores in VA?
specifically Virginia Beach.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate knowing the food I eat comes from my region. I know meat is a beastly business in some ways, but raising animals in the most humane fashion is showing them the respect they deserve and helps us to maintain our own humanity and our connection with these animals. Thank you.

KARK said...

I do believe I might be related to you guys. My maiden name is Rieben. We are from Memphis, TN. My great grandparents were John Gilgin Rieben, Sr. from Lenk, Switzerland and Katherine von Franz Rieben from Austria. The next time I come to OR to visit, I plan on visiting your lovely farm there in Banks, OR and would love to try some of your pork from New Seasons Market.