What does that mean to you? To me it means eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies along with lean protein-rich foods, mostly whole grains, nuts and other foods rich in heart healthy fats. That makes me feel like I am eating lighter and healthier. And I am.
But I didn’t know much about how updated farming methods play into the “clean” equation.
I was recently privileged to take a tour of an Iowa pig farm with several other dietitians. It was a revelation in terms of the precautions that farmers (and their resident veternarians) take to keep their animals safe and clean. Prior to our trip, we were informed that we would need to “shower in and shower out” before being allowed into the main barn, where the pigs were raised. After the “shower in” they gave us clean jump suits, new undergarments, and new boots to wear. The farmers did not want any potentially harmful bacteria or viruses being brought into the farm, or if some infection should occur, it would be prevented from spreading from one barn to another. After our tour we showered again before changing into our own clothes and leaving the barn. HEPA filters for the incoming air were another important step taken to prevent bacteria or viruses from entering the barns. This is a stricter anti-contamination program than hospitals use for patients with antibiotic-resistant infections!
The pigs on this farm were kept inside from birth. Why? It is cleaner. Beyond significantly reducing the risk for any kind of infection, it also reduced the risk of the animals getting environmental parasites. Virtually all pigs that are raised (even partially) outside will get worms, mange, and lice. Indoor life for these pigs was another advantage for cleanliness.
The farm used additional means to reduce the chance for illness, by using an “all in/all out” approach to moving the pigs from area to area. For example, all the piglets were moved from the birthing room to their weaning room at the same time; their mothers were also moved out together. This allowed for scrupulous cleaning of each room between groups of animals.
My favorite part of the trip was the birthing room. The goal of the first day care for the babies (yes, just like a hospital nursery) was to clean and dry them immediately after birth, help them get a full belly, and keep them warm. We actually got to assist in some of the births! Yes, indeed! We “pulled” baby pigs by putting a gloved arm into the birth canal of the sow. If a mom has 20 – 30 babies, she gets tired and can use some help with the deliveries. We helped clean and dry the newborns and then put them next to their mom to latch on. Heat lamps helped keep them warm.
The food supply for the pigs was primarily corn (raised on the same farm) with other key nutrients such as vitamins and minerals added to optimize nutrition. The amount of feed they received was calculated to provide appropriate growth. Our group of dietitians noted that these pigs probably received better nutritional care than most people!
We had some fun while learning how pigs are raised humanely, cleanly, and perhaps with better health care than we are. If you want to eat clean, pork can make a great addition to your diet.
*This farm tour was sponsored by the National Pork Board, to help educate dietitians about production methods of American farms. I received no other compensation for this trip. #NationalPorkBoard