Ethics and Swine

The restaurant company Chipotle gets it.  The current front page text on their web site goes:

It is not just a burrito.  It’s a foil-wrapped, hand-crafted, local farm supporting, food culture changing cylinder of deliciousness.  Learn more about food with integrity.

It is fantastic to see major buyers take “food with integrity” seriously.  Getting significant change at scale in how farmland and farm animals are managed requires a market demand.  We know it exists in abundance for certified organic food, but farming doesn’t require the organic label to be ethical, nor may the organic label be sufficient in all cases.  I commend anybody who takes the time to consider how the choices they make impact others, including non-humans and the environment all living beings share.

Chipotle has a series of videos that educate their customers on important agriculture topics and the ones I’ll share are about hog production and confinement production systems in general.

The first video features Paul Willis, an Iowa pastured hog farmer and co-founder of Niman Ranch pork.


Overall, the message is very positive, but I was also struck by something Paul says, which is pretty hard hitting:

If you took dogs and put 5000 of them in a building, in cages, people would go absolutely crazy.  I mean there would be an uprising, but’s it okay with pigs.  It’s sort of out of sight out of mind kind of thing, but for me that is not good enough.

According the video, 95% of U.S. hog production is under the conditions Paul describes.  It is great to see somebody motivated by a sense of ethics and is able to do something tangible about it.  I also find it interesting that Paul discusses how producing hogs on pasture was common when he was a kid but is now rare.

This brings me to the second Chipotle produced video I’d like to share (h/t Big Picture Agriculture).  The title is “Back to the Start,” which is the refrain in a Coldplay song sung here by Willie Nelson.  The obvious implication is that we, as a society, need to bring back to the fore many of the livestock practices that were common up until the middle of the last century.


In the context of ethical swine, I want to thank Chris Hansen for producing on Farmland LP land.  He now has two outdoor seasons behind him and is getting better at what he does through successive planning, trial, and observation.

Whenever I give farm tours the pigs are typically a crowd favorite.  They are playful, often active, have distinct personalities, and make amusing sounds. It is great that we can give them a joyful life.  My wish is for 95%, not 5%, of hogs to be treated as well as Chris treats his.