Raising the Bar on Raising Pigs

In an exciting new development, the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association (NCNHGA) and Fudge Family Farms have begun requiring all of their member farms to be accredited by the Animal Welfare Approved program, whose standards for pigs necessitate pasture access and prohibit crates and tail-docking. Both groups should be applauded for their recognition that welfare is a key component of sustainable farming.

The NCNHGA is a group of pastured pig farmers who pool resources and build markets for pigs raised with high welfare standards. Fudge Family Farms is based in Alabama and composed of a group of farmers located throughout the South, including many Amish families, who raise heritage pigs outdoors on pasture. The pork is then marketed under the Fudge Family Farms label and sold to restaurants in the Southeast.

“I was going outside [to raise pigs] as everyone else was going inside,” recalls Henry Fudge, the driving force behind the operation. “My research showed me that raising pigs outdoors was natural and better for the animals—they’re healthier when they’re on pasture. And it’s important to respect the animals in your care.” Animal Welfare Approved is in the process of auditing the 18 farms that currently make up the Fudge family label.

For Jeremiah Jones, president of the NCNHGA, making Animal Welfare Approved certification a membership requirement is a natural outgrowth of what the group stands for. Some NCNHGA farmers who have prior experience with conventional pig operations felt the Animal Welfare Approved seal would leave no room for doubt about how their pigs were raised. According to Jones, “Our farmers wouldn’t have it any other way.”