This Little Piggy Went…
No other animal is as vilified or as admired as the pig. If you decide you want to insult another person, you could call them a pig. However, in the foodie community, the swine are one of the most revered of the barnyard lineages. Indeed, pigs have long been recognized for their intelligence. Winston Churchill, renowned leader of men, may have been speaking to the nobility of pigs when he said, “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Sweet Briar Farms is known for its farm-raised pork steaks, ribs, bacon, ham, roast and sausage made popular by its presence in Portland farmers markets and local restaurants. I drove to Sweet Briar Farms to meet with a member of the Cooper Family, the owners and distributors of some of my favorite pork. During the drive, I found myself questioning how it is that I have no moral qualms about eating pork products. I loved the movie, Babe! And I’m not generally into the whole slaughterhouse scene. Though… I have found it to be true that everything really is better with bacon.
Just past Eugene, I took a country road decorated with signs that offer honey and wine. The sight of green pastures with bowed horses grazing easily upon them bring to my mind the phrase “Hog Heaven.” I can almost hear the contented grunting of pigs. I arrive at Sweet Briar Farms to find Keith Cooper, who smiles and waves my car through the gate. We finally meet in person just outside the barn, surrounded by company vans and neatly stacked coolers ready to take Sweet Briar Farms’ products to market.
Keith Cooper is a quiet and friendly man. When I asked him how he got started in the pig business, he shared with me it began as a 4H project.
“The kids raised pigs and then it just kind of grew from there,” he said. Keith took us into the first barn where the feed is kept. It is an admittedly small operation. The site is clean and the pigs seem satisfied, huffing their welcome. Keith said he cleans their pens twice a day.
“If I had the choice, I would never leave the farm, not even to buy groceries or go to the bank,” Keith says. We are walking to a different barn, one that houses the sows or mother pigs, as well as “porkers” and “baconers,” or medium-sized and larger sized pigs. These pigs are fed five times a day on combinations of wheat and vitamins. Keith shares with me that he was raised on a farm and so it seemed natural to start a business. “Growing up, I was the one who always stayed home. Unfortunately, that farm wasn’t the type that the indentured slave inherits. I had to get my own.”
Sweet Briar Farm products are available at many Portland Saturday Markets and local restaurants. For more of the story visit www.chitchatchew.com, your local source for whining and dining.