Hats Off to Pork and Dairy

Posted on December 11th, 2017

 

So you might be wondering what made me think to do a series of ways to incorporate pork and dairy into a healthier diet… As a retail dietitian we are fortunate enough to be presented with opportunities to network with other dietitians and the food industry to educate ourselves. And in turn, we are able to pass that information along to our customers.  I had one such opportunity in October to visit Minnesota and meet pork and dairy farmers.  Although I already incorporate pork and dairy into my life at home, I did learn so much more about the operations of both of these industries and I am excited to share with you.

The first night we were treated to an amazing dinner. Pork chops, steak, ice cream… and we mingled with farmers from both the pork and dairy industry.  We also were fortunate to dine with the chef for The Pork Checkoff and bounce ideas off of each other.

The real fun began early the following morning. It is FARM day!! Not only was it 59 degrees (and that is amazing if you live in Oklahoma where it was 80-90 degrees in October), but I was so anxious to learn everything about the sustainability and healthy standards that these farmers ensure for the animals, their families and ultimately the consumers of their product. Off to Wakefield Pork to learn about everything from “snoot to toot”. I had no idea what to expect when visiting a farm that raises pigs. But it literally was one of the most fascinating experiences ever.

Wakefield Pork, led by owners Steve, Mary and Lincoln Langhorst was our first stop. Before we could even see the pigs, each visitor must check in, ensuring that any contact with other farms will not interfere with their visit and all visitors must shower completely before entering the barn. This is to ensure the safety of the piglets and their health.

We first met with the farm veterinarian and learned of the strict vaccination schedule that each pig receives. Vaccinations are important so the piglets grow to produce quality pork for consumers. Yes… all pigs are vaccinated.  Most farmers do vaccinate their livestock. This is different than growth hormone which many consumers worry about. Wakefield Pork actually participates in the USDA Pork for the European program, which allows them to export pork to European and Japan markets.  Their pork CANNOT be injected with growth hormones of any kind per guidelines.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of this farm experience for me was the opportunity to help deliver a piglet. These momma sows are very carefully monitored and usually have no problems birthing a litter of anywhere between 8-15 piglets each pregnancy. However, like humans they sometimes require help. The workers jump right in and help and allowed me the opportunity to do so as well. Such a rewarding experience to see the care that goes into this farming and pride the Langhorst family takes in their livelihood.

 
The pigs are separated into different barns based on their age and led to the weaning process and ultimately sent to market. Their diets are strictly monitored.  Although many would associate the bigger the pig the better the meat, that is not the case. Certain weights are ideal for market, but healthy pigs produce the best pork. These farmers ensure this… from birth to market.

I will also tell you the phrase “squeal like a pig” rings more true than ever here.  Those piglets love their mommas and are always close to her and they let her know when it is time to eat. And once one momma starts feeding, the whole barn starts feeding. But the little piglets better latch on. Once she is finished feeding, she is done until the next feeding (roughly 45 minutes).

After showering out, we boarded the bus to head to Sjostrom Farms. Another family run farm, we were led on a tour of all that goes into dairy farming by Steve and his son Lucas. This family is focused on the health and sustainability of their farm as well. They grow their own feed for their cows so their beautiful farmland is cultivated with help from the cows as well.  The barns are cleaned out twice a day and that manure is recycled for fertilizer of their crop.

 

Cows are milked twice daily. It really is a gentle process.  Each cows utters are cleaned before the milking apparatus is attached and the suction is just enough to milk the cow. The girls in the milking barn are familiar to these cows and take excellent care of them. One of the dietitians milked the cows and thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

For lunch we got as fresh as you can get for pork. A whole hog smoked for 24 hours was on the menu. The farmers went all out to show how well their product tastes.

That evening we also sampled some amazing dishes. Mushroom crusted pork chops and kale salad to say the least. I personally love kale, but many are skeptical. I sat at the table with Lucas Sjostrom and he was thoroughly surprised with the flavor from the kale salad. The addition of cheese really helped with the flavor. This meal inspired the recipe that I used in a live video… You can find the kale salad here. (Keep in mind Facebook was being cantankerous and the live video is somewhat amusing)

The next morning we headed to Cooks of Crocus Hill. Here we were treated with a visual fabrication of the hog. Not only were we able to see how every part of the pig can be utilized, but we were also educated about the new naming, or nomenclature, of some of the more popular pork cuts. This was introduced to aid customers in finding the correct cut of meat they are looking for. My in store butcher prepared these cuts for a live video where I introduce the Slim 7.

I was then given the opportunity to cut my very own chops that we would serve to the group.  We broke into teams and prepared pork and dairy inspired dishes. Hence why you saw a Maple Bacon Ice Cream video last week. If you missed it, you can find that here. To finish out the trip, we were given lessons on food photography. I learned a LOT and proud of my dishes. (those grill marks)

 

  
 

A big thanks to The Pork Check Off, Midwest Dairy Council, Wakefield Pork, Sjostrom Farms and all others who made this opportunity possible. I am so honored to be able to share with you the ways that these farmers strive to provide a sustainable, healthy and delicious product. It was so important to me to be able to bring this information to light.

If you ever have any questions about your pork or dairy needs, please contact us! If we don’t know the answer right then, we will put you in touch with our talented group of colleagues in our meat and dairy departments! Hats off to pork and dairy!

Sarah Cortese, RD,LD is a Reasor’s Registered Dietitian. She strives everyday to learn something new and enjoys passing that information on to the customer and the public. Sarah offices at the 41st & Yale location and provides Dietitian Services at our Brookside, 15th & Lewis and both Owasso locations.

 

Information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle. Reasor’s Registered Dietitians’ opinions and recommendations are their own; they are not paid to endorse any products or services.