All Natural Pork, Brown Eggs, and Produce
Published in the Chillicothe Gazette on: 2007-02-02
The name on the barn is Lewis Van Meter, who built the farm in 1948. Now, fifty-nine years later, the family farm is being run by his grandson, Tony Van Meter. Over time, this farm has been used to breed beef cattle, dairy cows and hogs, finally focusing on hog farming exclusively in 2001.
Tony Van Meter, who also drives a truck for a living during the week, explains that “hog farming is less time consuming than dairy farming,” which means that he has more time available to do the type of animal farming that makes the best product. By this, he refers to the fact that his hogs are raised with no antibiotics, and with all natural feed. Tony raises his own corn for hog feed, and supplements it with soy-bean meal and alfalfa hay. That’s all. His farm raised hogs also enjoy other benefits not found on large commercial hog farms. Van Meter’s hogs have much more spacious pens, and get a lot more exercise than battery raised hogs, making them a leaner meat product than most manufactured pork.
The breed of pig generally found on Van Meter’s farm is York. They are the pale pinkish-white variety. He also has some Hampshire pigs, which are black with a whitish pink band, usually around their upper torso. By cross-breeding the two types of hogs, he often gets pigs that are pinkish white on the front half of their bodies, and a bluish black on the hind part of their bodies. These are called Blue-Butts. On a brief trip over the internet, a request for information on blue-butts brought up this website; The “Breeders World Swine Forum.” The site had this to say on the matter, “There is dominance in the color of pigs: white, black then red, but not total dominance. Color in pigs is referred to as Incomplete Dominance, which means that when you breed pigs of two different colors you get a mix or blend of the colors…. You usually refer to them as roans. We call them ‘blue-butts’.”
While on the subject of clarification, the difference between a pig and a hog is simply a matter of maturity and weight. A pig is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a swine not sexually mature and weighing less than 130 lbs.” while a hog is defined as “a domestic swine weighing more than 120 lbs”. These are handy numbers to know, especially when we look at the prime numbers for processing pork.
Van Meter’s pigs are weaned after 5-6 weeks. Hogs are sent to process when they reach approximately 300 lbs. and usually reach this weight at about six months. Van Meter’s sows produce approximately two litters per year, with an average of twelve pigs per litter. Compare this to most commercial hog farming, where pigs are weaned after 2-4 weeks in order to gain an extra litter every two years from the sow. Though the only hogs that Van Meter will process are in the 300 lb. range, commercial farms are likely to send old sows, past litter prime to be processed for sausage. They usually range in weight from 600 – 800 lbs. When you consider the amount of exercise a breeding sow of eight hundred pounds may get, it is obvious that we are looking at two distinctly different qualities of meat.
On average, Van Meter keeps 200 swine on his farm at any given time. Only two or three males are kept on the farm for breeding, while other male swine are castrated at a young age. Because of this, there is no discernible difference between the meats of a male or female hog. The mix of male to female hogs on the farm is a pretty consistent 50/50.
The hogs are sent to be processed at Dave’s Custom Butchering in Wellston. Van Meter makes choices as to the desired results, whether they become loins, chops, mild, medium or spicy sausage. They also make a fantastic bratwurst. It’s very reassuring to read the ingredient list on a package of their sausage….these are ingredients that don’t require a chemistry degree to understand. For instance, ingredients of sausage patties are: pork, salt, red pepper, sage, sugar, and black pepper. That’s all.
Currently, the only way this antibiotic-free, farm-raised pork is available is at the Chillicothe Farmer’s Market and Hirsch's Fruit Farm and Market in Chillicothe. Over the swiftly coming winter when the market is closed, the Van Meter Family is looking for a venue to continue the year-round sales of this wonderful, organically-raised product. I truly hope they find one. If not, the Van Meter farm is definitely worth the drive to Peebles.
Walking around the Van Meter’s barn we noticed a chicken coop with around 20 lively chickens in it…Van Meter said, “I like those nice fresh brown eggs…to go with my sausage.”