The North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association is a cooperative of hog farmers whose members are committed to growing pasture-raised hogs that are free of antibiotics and growth promotants and who have high welfare standards. The farmers who formed the association in 2007 wanted to work together to build markets for their products. The association helped them stay in business as factory hog farming moved into the region and small producers were closing their doors.
In 2009, the 25 members decided to make the Animal Welfare Approved certification a requirement. Certification is free and is the most stringent farm animal welfare standard in the United States. The guidelines for the certification cover everything from animal breeds to living conditions to the slaughtering process. For example, hogs must be raised outdoors on family farms; they must have separate feeding, wallowing, and foraging areas; and newly weaned piglets must be kept with their litter mates. The association members chose to become certified because they wanted their customers to be certain the animals were being raised right.
Association farms include GrassRoots Pork Company in Beulahville, R. Turner Farms in Albertson, and Albert Jones’s farm in Chinquapin, all in Duplin County. The farms raise breeds such as Duroc, Chester Whites, and Berkshire crosses that are suited to pasture-based systems.