PROGRESS 2019: A new way to pig
Pasture-raised pigs make for better taste, Alpena farmer says
ALPENA — Standen Acres in Alpena had a humble beginning with the raising of only about a handful of feeder pigs, but, over the last six years, has developed into a Northeastern Michigan leader in the production and sale of non-GMO, pasture-raised pigs.
The farm is owned by Corey and Carrie Standen and has more animals than just pigs, but the primary purpose is to raise black, mulefoot, cross, and Mangalitsa pigs that aren’t confined to cages or kennels.
Corey Standen said that, today, the farm raises about 150 hogs, including several used for breeding. He said the pigs are raised in the pastures, where they feed on grass during the warm months. When winter arrives, an area near the barn is kept open for grazing.
Since 2014, the farm has come a long way and surpassed his expectations for where the breeding venture would wind up. He said that, after raising the first six hogs, he did a lot of research on pig breeds and raising methods and then more hogs were purchased.
From there, he said, things grew rapidly.
Standen said the pork meat from the pigs is different than what you would purchase from a store.
“It is a touch more fatty and has more marbling,” he said.
He said the meat is also redder than the more traditional pork.
Standen explained that his hogs are heritage pigs, purebred with the same traits as their ancestors. They are usually not used in the traditional, large-scale breeding market.
“They are raised and are bred like our great-grandparents and grandparents did, and their natural instincts haven’t been pulled out of them the way they are with large-market pigs,” he said. “They have a more natural maternal instincts. They make a nest and give birth in the pasture and are raised there.”
Standen said all of their pigs are GMO-, steroid- and antibiotic-free, unless they become ill and medication is needed.
“That helps them to taste better,” Standen said.
Raising the pigs that way is hard work.
Standen said he has a series of paddocks, which is an enclosed area, and the pigs are moved from one paddock to another systematically. Once the pigs are moved, he replants the vacant paddock and the process continues on.
“They graze in one and then I move them and reseed,” Standen said. “I grow turnips, peas, and other things, which also creates a good flavor in the pork.”
For now, Standen said he doesn’t want to grow his business much more, because, if he raises more pigs, he may have too many for the demand.
If the market grows, he will reevaluate his situation.
“Right now, I take it day-by-day, and just try to supply the local market and to find a happy medium,” he said. “Right now, I have a good control of my inventory and don’t want to lose that.”
Standen Acres meat is available at the Alpena Farmer’s Market and at Neimann’s Family Market, Standen said. People can also stop by the farm to purchase meat and see the animals and operation, he said.