In this era of industrial farming, it is encouraging to find a farm that is doing their best to do things the right way, the old fashioned way. Small farms that let their animals roam free, letting them eat what they are supposed to eat, rather than feeding them corn and antibiotics (to defend them against a bad diet). I visited one such farm on a trip back home to Alabama this summer. Henry Fudge’s Fudge Family Farms is nestled in the back of a small subdivision in the booming town of Madison, Alabama. One would never suspect that there are pigs on this small nine-acre parcel of land. But follow Henry through the open field next to his house and you will be rewarded with the sight of Henry’s prized Duroc pigs. They roam free in the open fields or, as on the day that I visited, they find the cooling shade of their lean-to homes to beat the heat of the noonday sun.
Henry thinks it important to respect the animals in his care. He believes that the animals are healthier when they are raised outdoors on pasture land.
Henry began pig farming in 1971, raising Duroc pigs and introducing no outside genetics to this line since the late 1970s. One of the problems with industrially raised pigs is that they have been bread to have far less fat than they once did. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) have bred their pigs for mass marketing—growing them as big as possible in the shortest amount of time. Henry has slowed down that process, allowing his pigs to put on weight much slower. Henry has successfully bred his pigs back to the way they were in the early 1940s.
The process of raising pigs that Henry uses produces a much better cut of meat. The meat of pork should be marbled with fat. Henry’s is. This marbling produces meat that has more flavor than pork that is raised quickly without much fat. Because of this, Henry was able to sell his meat to restaurants such as The Breslin and Momofuku—for awhile.
The problem: In Alabama, it was difficult for Henry to find butchers that could quickly learn how to break down the meat in the individual ways that the restaurants in New York City wanted them. Henry only uses local meat processors who slaughter the pigs in the most humane way possible.
And in Henry’s part of Alabama, they are few and far between. And the ones that Henry could find were not able to learn and produce the cuts that the demanding chefs of New York City wanted, quickly enough. So at the moment, Henry is not providing pork to any restaurants in New York City.
But Henry will not let his dream die. Henry loves raising pigs, and he will continue to raise them, feeding them the right way, letting them have the run of the field, and trying to find a way to make his small farm profitable.