SLEEPY EYE, Minn. – It is not every day that consumers have an opportunity to visit a pig farm or see how pork products are made at a butcher shop. In a new documentary, Meat of the North, the Minnesota Pork Board sought to open those doors and create a real connection between pork production and consumers.
In Meat of the North, a Minnesota pig farmer, Tim Schwartz, acted as a tour guide for two consumers, Kat and Jeromy as they went on a journey experiencing Minnesota pork production.
“Kat being an Instagrammer and Jeromy, a pork enthusiast, both from the Metro, were the perfect pair to introduce to the industry,” said Tim Schwartz during a recent phone interview. “My end of it was being the pig farmer who explained to them what we do every day.”
The documentary starts at Kitchen Window in the Twin Cities. Dan, a local chef, teaches the group how to properly prepare pork and how to avoid over cooking it while ensuring it is safe to eat.
From the metro area, Tim takes Kat and Jeromy to Schmidt’s Meat Market in Nicollet. They are allowed into the back area of the Meat Market and are given a few demonstrations. They watch a pig carcass get broken down and cut into the meat products that are sold in the front display cabinet.
Jeromy, the pork enthusiast, was exceptionally excited to watch the process of making and slicing bacon.
The final stop for the group was a pig farm owned and operated by Tim Schwartz and his family.
“The farm tour went quite well. There was a great opportunity to showcase the hard work, dedication and what it takes to raise a pig,” said Tim. “It gave Kat and Jeromy a chance to see how pigs are raised and different production practices.”
The group was able to talk about several important issues surrounding pork production and highlight a few misconceptions that consumers have.
After getting properly showered into the facility, Tim takes the two into the gestation barn where the sows are housed in gestation stalls.
“When they were able to see what a gestation stall looks like and learn about how and why they’re used, they were able to better understand the methods and management techniques that are employed on a sow farm,” he said.
The group discusses how stalls allow for individualized care and feeding and about how sows do fight and can be aggressive in group pens. They even look at some group housing the Schwartz family uses on the farm to see the difference in the animals.
“It spurred some really good conversation and for them to be able to witness it firsthand, I think was important,” he said.
In the documentary, Tim discussed feeding practices with Kat and Jeromy, explaining how hormones are not used, how rations consist mostly of soybeans, corn, minerals and vitamins.
The two quickly picked up on the sustainability aspect of pork production and the cyclical nature of feeding pigs. Crop farmers raising the corn and soybeans and then using the manure from the farm to fertilize their fields.
“People want to know where their food comes from, how it's raised and how the animals are cared for. – all those things that are hot button issues and important to consumers that we as producers have to be cognizant of,” he said.
The documentary can be found online at the Minnesota Pork Board website, www.mnpork.com/meat-of-the-north/ and is being used in various ways to reach consumers and help them connect to Minn. pork production.
It is also available on YouTube and is being disseminated through social media. Kat was chosen for the video because of her large social media following of consumers from the Twin Cities area.
“In Minnesota, there is approximately 3,000 families that raise pigs each year and Minnesota pig farmers employee about 22,000 people directly on those farms,” said Tim. “Pig farming is an important part of our local economy and the strength of our communities. That is something that we are very proud of.”