Communicating With Pigs Is Key At High Desert Hogs

High Desert Hogs Founder Claudia Gutierrez tells us how the Oregon-based pastured pork venture keeps things ethical as seek to give pigs a good life.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: High Desert Hogs

“It’s so cool to understand the nuances of pigs and to be able to give them a truly good life based on what I know about them,” says Claudia Gutierrez, who runs the woman and Latina-owned High Desert Hogs pastured pork venture in the city of Redmond, Oregon.

Gutierrez says that the initial instinct to start High Desert Hogs came as a reaction to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having moved from Seattle to Portland in late-2019, Gutierrez was job hunting when the pandemic struck. A combination of businesses shutting down, hiring freezes and food insecurity prompted Gutierrez to look for volunteer opportunities on local farms. This eventually inspired her to start High Desert Hogs in 2021.

Taking a moment away from hog duties, Gutierrez spoke with us about learning to communicate with the animals and the ethical basis of High Desert Hogs. We also got the scoop on how a pig named Dirty Dan helped Gutierrez fall in love with hogs.

The Roots of High Desert Hogs


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“I found an internship program called Rogue Farm Corps that works with farms all over Oregon,” recalls Gutierrez, recapping her steps to starting High Desert Hogs.

“While participating in this internship, my host farm acquired a new boar for that season named Dirty Dan,” she continues. “At first I was terrified of getting near him for feeding and cleaning out his pen. But as the weeks and then months passed by, we developed a great friendship.”

“[Dirty Dan] came to recognize the sound of my voice when I called him. And I came to understand his moods and needs,” recalls Gutierrez. “Eventually he would come out to greet me and immediately roll over for belly rubs. I really fell in love with pigs then.”

Keeping Things Ethical

After becoming smitten with pigs, Gutierrez began carrying out research into how commercially-raised pigs are treated. “It’s truly horrible. Pigs are the fifth smartest animal in the world—according to what I’ve read—and it’s sad to read about how poorly we humans treat them.

“So I decided I wanted to raise pigs as ethically as possible so they could have good lives and just ‘one bad moment.'”

Learning to Speak Pig

When it comes to pig behavior, Gutierrez says the way they communicate is fascinating.

“At first, all of their grunts and snorts kind of sound the same. But as you get to know them better you start to differentiate the noises they make,” explains Gutierrez.

“When I scratch them on their backs, they make this high squealing noise that indicates pleasure or intense satisfaction,” she says. “When the mommas are ready to feed their babies, they make these short low grunting sounds and the piglets know the milk bar is open. When they are hungry, they basically sound like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. It’s just really cool to know I can speak pig!”

A Better Taste of Life

Reflecting on the High Desert Hogs journey to date, Gutierrez says that she feels a great connection to the pigs. Additionally, raising hogs in an ethical fashion brings about a rewarding feeling.

“Just the knowledge of where my food comes from and knowing that these pigs aren’t being fed crap and injected with hormones and unnecessary antibiotics,” says Gutierrez. “I know they’ve had a healthy and varied diet and have enjoyed their lives. And they really do taste so much better.”

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