Aug 21, 2012

Heritage Breed Pig Farmers Under Attack In Michigan

heritage breed Mangalista pigs: image via
The majority of  pigs raised for food in the United States are born and raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where they are subject to antibiotics to fight the disease caused by living in their own waste.  Humans that then eat this meat treated with antibiotics are getting a dose of antibiotics as well. Swine CAFOs are notorious not only for their ammonia emissions into the air, but also for drinking water contamination from the massive amounts of animal waste generated.  In other words they are raised living in confined indoor settings without much movement living in their own feces and drinking water with animal waste, and eating GMO grains instead of grass, and then given antibiotics to prevent them from being diseased (since it's only logical that any farmer raising animals this way would eventually lose them all to disease).


When we eat these CAFOs animals we are killing the good and bad bacteria in their own bodies and therefore increasing fungal infections and lowering the general populations immune systems.  We are also ingesting the GMO fed grains that they ate (which we really have no ideal of what that will do to our health long term).  And because the pig is feed GMO grains, the fat in the meat becomes a higher level of Omega 6 fats (while Omega 6 is an essential fat to high amounts in proportion to Omega 3 contribute to inflammation and chronic disease).

The state of Michigan appears to not care at all about swine CAFOs, and instead is choosing to target small farmers raising heritage-breed hogs, in humane, sanitary, outdoor conditions that nature intended.  Farmers like Mark Baker of Baker's Green Acres (featured in the video below) chose some heritage breeds because they are heartier for cold weather and therefore able to stay in pastures longer.  According to Cornell University, "The breeds that do the best in pasture based systems are not the refined white market hogs found in commercial systems. Preference should be made to purchase breeding stock from hogs that have been raised on pasture systems or have been selected to have a higher tolerance for stress and adaptability to range conditions. Pasture-raised hogs face different stresses and require different traits, such as hardiness in extreme climates, parasite resistance, foraging ability, and good mothering attributes." These small farmers, they say, are raising “invasive species” of feral hogs – and they must be stopped at all costs …
                               Baker's Green Acres Story about their Fight Against the MDNR (7 min)

                       Mark Baker of Baker Green Acres at the MI Agriculture session at the capital (44 min)

Farmers Raising Non CAFO Breeds Could Face Felony Charges
According to Mercola, On April 1, 2012, the Invasive Species Order (ISO), issued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), went into effect.  The ISO prohibits anyone in the state from possessing what MDNR defines as “invasive species of swine,” which can basically include any type of hog raised outside of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)

There is no genetic test to determine whether the species on these farms are invasive, so they are basing their cases against these farmers solely on visual observations.  The MDNR include such a wide variety of characteristics that virtually any pig other than the familiar pink domestic breed raised on CAFOs could potentially be deemed "feral" here are just a few (watch the Mark Baxter at the capital video below, about 20 min in, for a full explanation of all the characterizations they are using to judge a feral pig):
  • Erect or folded/floppy ear structure
  • Straight or curly tail
  • Solid black, wild/grizzled, solid red/brown, black and white spotted, or black and red/brown spotted coat colorations
  • "Other characteristics" not currently known to the MDNR
 Any farmer or other individual found to be in possession of a hog with even one of these characters could be charged with a felony and subjected to up to two years in jail and a $20,000 fine. Really any hog could be defined as feral under the MDNR’s outrageous ISO. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) explained:
“ … under the [M]DNR's declaratory ruling, the department can determine that a hog is prohibited under the ISO if it possesses physical characteristics common to any pig even if the animal was raised under the husbandry of humans. In other words, all pigs not raised in confinement cannot possess even one illegal DNR characteristic listed in the declaratory ruling; this is impossible since all swine will have at least one DNR characteristic and would therefore be an invasive species and illegal to own.”

So why did this new ISO come about anyways?  We'll one can only assume it's due to the powerful pork industry trying to ct out their competition.  May be they're realizing that with the local food movement people are willing to pay more for quality, something they can't compete with and are hoping to force people to have no choice but to buy their CAFO pork.  Big Pork in MI has been planning this for years.  In a 2010 issue(Vol 35 #2 pg 8) of Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA), they discussed why ISO needs to become law stating that wild boar is a threat to the MI economy and compare it to Asian carp and zebra muscles.  What I don't understand is if the wild boar is truly a problem in MI (I don't know enough about the topic to say if it is or isn't a problem) then why wouldn't they restrict their definition of invasive species only to wild boar?  Why make the definition so vague as to include heritage breeds clearly used in agriculture and therefore domesticated?  Smells fishy to me... 

 So what does this mean for all of us?  While you might not live in Michigan and think it doesn't affect you, most likely it will soon if this battle in MI is not won.  It will most likely spread slowly nationally.  What about freedom of choice for consumers?  Many restaurants order pork from these small farmers because their heritage breeds taste better.  Shouldn't the market place dictate what type of pork is raised and not the government?  Will species of domesticated animals go the way of seeds?  We've already lost an unbelievable amount of heritage seeds (in Mexico alone numerous corn breeds are now gone due to GMO crops and imported corn from the US).  Are pigs to follow?  What next chickens? Will we still be able to always have pasture raised pork?  

                         Pasture raised pigs at Polyface Farm (the farmer in the documentary Food Inc) (9 min)

How Can You Help Save Pasture Raised Pigs?
According to Mercola, "The ISO is not a law; rather, it’s an “action” or “order” that’s been taken by a state agency. The Michigan Governor Rick Snyder could tell MDNR to rescind the ISO, but so far has refused to.  In March, sixteen Senators and Representatives sent a letter asking Governor Snyder to either rescind the ISO or amend it so it only applies to feral swine (pigs running at large outside fences), "not those under the husbandry of humans and inside a fence," FTCLDF reported. MDNR Director Rodney Stokes even had to step down, presumably because the ISO has generated such public backlash.'

So it is possible to still have an impact and fight this.  And as Mark Baker points out the people who are in power of changing this law or creating it are just getting a paycheck, they are not passionate about this.  It only takes a small amount of passionate people to make a change.

For more info you can listen to an interview with Mark Baker on the Peter Schiff show from 11/01/12 here.

Here's how you can protect your right to food freedom and small farmer’s rights:
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