Why Pastured Pork Is the Healthier Choice

The awareness of real food continues to gain momentum for food producers and consumers alike. For producers of pastured pork, also known as pasture-raised pork, the end goal is to produce a real food that provides the best nutritional benefits from animals that are raised in the most ethical and sustainable environment. This begins with healthy, stress-free animals that are raised without antibiotics in a natural environment.


Pastured pork refers to pigs that are raised in the most natural environment possible. They have year-round access to open pastures and can feed on a diverse diet of plant and animal foods.

pastured pork

Farmers who raise pastured pork ensure their pigs forage on a variety of foods including non-GMO feed, acorns, grass, leaves, roots, and grubs, and other natural foods. Pastured pigs get a greater amount of nutrients from a species appropriate diet than they would from eating processed soy and corn feed found more commonly in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.

Promoting a more natural diet and living environment helps foster healthy animals, and in turn, provides us with a flavorful more nutritious food as rich as nature designed. In contrast, pigs in factory pig farms that consume by-products and GMO corn and soybean meal have a lower and less diverse nutrient profile.

Low-Stress, Healthier Animals

Living and socializing in a natural setting with access to sunlight, grass, water, and shelter from the elements is key to a low-stress life for pastured pork. Pigs are one of the most intelligent animals and possess high-level cognitive abilities and are emotional and social creatures that thrive in small groups. They prefer the company of other pigs and will sleep in communal nests at night.

Farms that raise pastured pork provide a place where pigs can engage in natural animal behaviors, for example, sows rearing their piglets in spacious shelters with suitable bedding, pigs wallowing in mud baths, or rooting for food in the soil. Compared to conventional-raised pork, which are often given routine antibiotics and confined to crowded living conditions and/or in sow gestation and farrowing (birthing) crates, pastured pigs range in smaller numbers with access to open spaces to move about freely in the open air and sunlight. They are also free to develop and grow without the use of antibiotics.

Sustainable Farming Practices

By design, producers of pastured pork facilitate sustainable farming practices. Keeping smaller groups of pigs with access to open pastures and proper shelter helps ensure these animals are reared their entire farm life in an ethical manner. Many of the independent family farms are so invested in the care of their animals and the environment that they become Animal Welfare Approved, a certification/label that guarantees these family farms meet the highest standards for the humane treatment of animals and best-farming practices for the environment.

These sustainable farming practices on small pastured-pork farms also benefit the public’s health. Smaller farms avoid crowded, unsanitary living conditions that create the need for repeated antibiotic treatments and as such, less exposure to antibiotics decreases the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. Keeping smaller numbers of pigs on farms that are raised in natural conditions also means less of a negative impact to the environment from manure buildup and runoff into lakes, rivers, streams, and other bodies of water.

Wiseman Health Take-Home Advice

Understanding the nutritional value of real food that is produced in an ethical manner and the way nature designed it certainly helps to optimize good health. When choosing more natural foods like pastured pork, here are a few considerations:

  • Find local independent family farms that raise and sell pastured pork. Localharvest.org and eatwild.com are great resources for finding farms in your area. Many local pastured-pork producers make their products available at farmers’ markets and try to preserve the longevity of heritage hog breeds.
  • You may not see “pastured pork” on the packaging because it’s not a true certification label. The term pastured pork is usually synonymous with pork produced on small, local independent farms. If you are unable to find pastured pork at a farmers’ market or at a natural health food store, look for the term organic and/or the following packaging terms when purchasing pork because these terms have value:
    1. No antibiotics
    2. No supplemental growth promotants used (Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork; however, the beta-agonist growth promotant called ractopamine is FDA-approved and is used by some pork producers to initiate muscle and weight gain in their pigs.)
    3. No gestation or farrowing (birthing) crates
    4. No animal by-products in the feed or GMO soy/corn feed
    5. Animals raised with access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean drinking water, and suitable sunlight
  • Watch for the label natural or all natural: USDA Natural Standards by definition only prohibit the use of artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemicals and require minimal meat processing. The term natural does not encompass the same living and health standards as pasture-raised pork or organic pork.

Watch our Wiseman Health YouTube video at Richardson Farms to learn how they raise and produce their pastured pork.

Editor’s Note: This content was created by our Wiseman Health content and writing team, without the influence of artificial intelligence engines. Our goal is to be your trusted source for natural health and medical information. This article was originally published on July 11, 2017 and has since been updated.

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