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Defending niche pork

By Staff | Apr 26, 2013

To the Editor:

It’s too bad David Kruse found it necessary to disparage niche markets (April 19 issue) instead of examining why hundreds of Midwest farmers have found they get fairer from alternatives like Niman Ranch.

It’s too bad he apparently doesn’t understand meat marketing, meat quality or the concept of supplying what the customer wants. Commodities are priced where they are because the emphasis is on low cost production, with no incentive for quality or any distinguishing characteristics.

Pigs for niche markets are raised to a variety of specifications such as breed specific, or husbandry protocols, or ration. Although I don’t work for or speak for Niman Ranch, several years of selling them pigs has made me familiar with their antibiotic-free, humanely raised husbandry protocols, and the lengths they go for third party verification.

Niman is the reason hogs are a part of the farmer-owned livestock that permits our farm to support two brothers, a son and a fulltime employee on fewer than 800 acres.

It’s too bad the columnist thought talking to one dissatisfied farmer and a website visit was enough research to criticize alternative practices.

Raising pigs the Niman way is a system requiring skills that must be learned. In many ways the premium price paid for special production is paying for those skills.

Niman Ranch farmers raise pigs because this is what they believe is right, because this is what fits their farm, because this is what gives them satisfaction in knowing customers recognize the quality of their pork and appreciate the work required to raise it, and because they recognize the value of working in partnership with a company that treats them, their animals and the customer with dignity and respect.

Is Niman Ranch threatening the whole meat infrastructure by buying 2,500 to 3,000 hogs a week from a network of more than 400 farmers? Or is the success of a non-commodity market shaking their belief that industrial methods are the best?

It’s too bad that one of the most overlooked benefits of niche markets like Niman Ranch is the possibility for people to use their own pigs to start farming.

Add to that the number of feed companies, equipment manufacturers, breeders of traditional meat quality genetics and other support services, and it’s too bad the value of niche markets to local economies is not better understood and appreciated.

John Gilbert

Iowa Falls

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