In 2007, a group of hog farmers banded together to pool their resources and build markets for their high-quality pork products and the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association was born. Currently made up of 25 hog farmers, the group decided to make being Animal Welfare Approved a centerpiece of their production practices.
“The Animal Welfare Approved label tells our retailers and customers that our hogs are raised outdoors, on pasture, with high welfare standards,” said group president Jeremiah Jones (pictured at right with wife, Jessica) of Beulaville, North Carolina, whose sells his pork under the his private label Grassroots Pork Company. “We find that people want to know how we manage our animals.”
North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association members are proud of their farms and their product. The members run the gamut from North Carolina farmer Albert Jones, who grew up on his family's farm and has been raising pigs the traditional way since boyhood, to Mike Jones (below), who worked in large hog confinement operations, an experience that caused him to leave pig farming for many years, until he founded MAE Farm. None of the farmers are related and being named Jones is not a NC Natural Hog Growers membership requirement. “However, it can make for some interesting meetings,” said Albert Jones, the group's vice president (pictured at right).
North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association pork is currently sold at local farmers markets, direct from the farmers and in retail stores throughout North Carolina. A database of Animal Welfare Approved farmers and the outlets carrying their products can be found at www.animalwelfareapproved.org.