PHOTO: Chelsea Green Publishing
Robin Hackett
August 22, 2019

It’s hard to think of a pig-related topic that author Alice Percy overlooks in her new book, Happy Pigs Taste Better. In a few hundred pages, Percy touches upon breed selection, butchering animals, and marketing and selling the meat. Unlike many other books on raising pigs, Happy Pigs also details various systems for raising pigs on pasture, making the book a valuable resource for commercial farmers or homesteaders looking to range their pigs.

Percy sets the tone early by dedicating one of the first chapters to understanding pig behavior. As Percy explains, “just as mimicking natural soil processes fosters healthy plants … building our livestock systems around the natural needs and behaviors of our animals fosters healthy growth and production.” This focus on humane husbandry animates the rest of the book.

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happy pigs taste better book cover review

  • Title: Happy Pigs Taste Better: A Complete Guide to Organic and Humane Pasture-Raised Pork Production
  • Author: Alice Percy
  • Cover Price: $29.95
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing

It also quickly becomes apparent that humanely raising meat is personally important to Percy, coming as she does from a background in vegetarianism. As she describes in the introduction, her farming career began when she started keeping her own pigs as a way to feel OK about reintroducing ethically raised meat into her diet. Her operation, Treble Ridge Farm, eventually became Maine’s largest certified organic hog farm. This substantial personal experience is evident throughout the book, which is dotted with anecdotes from Percy’s years of raising pigs.

What really sets Happy Pigs apart from other books about pig-husbandry, though, is its detailed descriptions of pasture-based systems. Although raising pigs on pasture is a centuries-old practice common in many cultures, it has been largely absent from modern pork production. The vast majority of pigs today are raised indoors or outside in permanent paddocks without the ability to express their natural behaviors such as rooting and foraging. Consequently, most of today’s literature on raising pigs either pays little attention to pasture-based systems or fails to mention them at all.

Percy, however, makes repeated cases for the benefits of raising pigs on pasture, describing that “a well-managed pasture system can help maximize animal health and welfare; farmers may be able to reduce their grain costs … and pasture-raised pork is arguably more healthful and of better quality than pork from animals that do not have access to pasture.”

Beyond merely advocating for raising pigs on pasture, Percy delves into the details of various pasture-based systems. She provides instructions for ranging pigs at high and low stocking densities on large acreages, as well as using rotational grazing systems to move the pigs from plot to plot. The book also provides substantial detail on how to plant forage crops for pigs, including what kinds of crops to plant and how they can be incorporated into a pig’s diet.

For homesteaders or commercial farmers looking to begin raising pigs on pasture or scale up their hog operation, Happy Pigs Taste Better contains an abundance of knowledge and insight.

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