Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
At Christiansen’s Hog Heaven we are committed to providing our customers with the freshest, healthiest, nutrient dense pork and beef (and hopefully soon poultry) possible. We do this through pampering our animals. We handle them gently and provide nutritious feeds they are designed to handle. We never use antibiotics, hormones, or growth promoters. If you want to see where your food comes from, come out and see. It travels a very short distance from our farm to the butcher shop and then to your home. Our feeds are all grown in
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Would you like your hams and bacon cured/smoked or fresh?
Do you want breakfast sausage or ground pork?
Do you prefer loin roasts or pork chops?
Once in a while customers will ask for my opinion on cured meats. Or more commonly if our meats are cured “naturally without nitrites”. In an effort to provide the healthiest, highest quality, and most delicious foods possible, we have done a fair amount of homework regarding cured meats and naturally cured meats. We have spoken with numerous butchers, visited smokehouses (curing facilities), and read through a fair amount of material. To our surprise, we found that health conscious consumers have once again been lied to and mislead. (Don’t ask me why I am surprised at this point. I suppose I am too trusting.)
At this point I would like to offer a disclaimer that I am not a food expert, doctor, nutritionist etc… I am a farmer who is trying to simplify the confusing information out there. What I present here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Each side of the spectrum puts forth information to convince that their way is the right way. In studying this I too may have been mislead. Please research this for yourself and form your own conclusion.
Cured meats by definition contain some kind of curing agent like salts. When you read “salts” don’t assume sodium chloride (table salt). The most common curing salt used today is sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is what gives bacon and ham its pink color even after it has been cooked. It is used to prevent the growth of bacteria like Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. It also gives bacon and ham that distinct flavor that so many people love. The health concern with sodium nitrite is that when cured meats are exposed to high temperatures like those reached when grilling, that nitrosamines form. Nitrosamines are a carcinogen and can therefore be linked to causing cancer.
The meat industry counters with claims that the studies connecting cured meats to causing cancer were conducted during the 1970’s and that since then they have reduced the amount of sodium nitrite in meats to 10% of the amounts used in the 70’s. They claim that they have also added erythorbate and ascorbate to their curing solution which inhibit production of nitrosamines and deplete any residual nitrite.
Well what about “Nitrite Free”, “No Nitrite Added”, “Naturally Cured”, or “Preservative Free” meats? (If you have high blood pressure, don’t read any further. I don’t want to be responsible for killing you off!) Products labeled with the claims above all contain “natural nitrates” which by themselves are harmless. In fact, these “natural nitrates” are derived from sugar cane, vegetables, and sea salt. Celery is one of the most common vegetables used as its juice naturally contains high levels of nitrates. There are some farms that intentionally add extra nitrates to the soil so that when the celery or sugar cane is harvested for “natural curing” that it will have even higher levels of nitrates than would normally occur. When this “natural nitrate” is added to the meat, bacteria reduce it to nitrite! While it hasn’t been “added”, the nitrite is present in every way! Since the products are “natural” they are not considered “preservatives” and do not need to be labeled as such. The newly formed nitrites are just as capable of forming into nitrosamines when exposed to high heat. In fact, I am left wondering if the “naturally cured” meat isn’t more harmful as it doesn’t have the erythorbate and ascorbate that supposedly inhibits the formation of nitrosamines! Additionally there is no regulation overseeing the amount of nitrates added to the cured meats like there is when sodium nitrite is used. The next time you are at the grocery store and reach for those “nitrite free” hot dogs, bologna, ham, bacon etc… and are willing to pay double the price, you may want to think twice.
In our opinion, there is no such thing as a cured meat that is free of nitrates/nitrites!
I recently met up with a butcher who after much begging and arm twisting tried an experiment for me. We injected a ham with a simple brine solution (table salt and water) and then smoked it. We got it back last weekend and cooked up for our Sunday dinner. As usual we invited our
As it stands we will continue to let our customers choose how they prefer their pork. The butcher we currently use does a fantastic job and uses gourmet quality recipes when curing the hams and bacon and mixing sausage. The curing solution uses sodium nitrite with the erythorbate and ascorbate as well as brown sugar. The result is the best tasting bacon and ham we have ever tasted. That being said, a pork roast (alternative to cured ham) is my favorite dinner. I prefer to have a fresh roast slow cooked with diced onions. Our fresh side (uncured bacon) is also delicious and a nice change from bacon. We like to cook it up and serve it on sandwiches just like BLTs. The fresh side tastes a little like pork rinds. Yum! I like to taste the premium quality of the pork that we have worked so hard to produce by feeding the pigs only the highest quality grasses, alfalfa, grain, fruits and vegetables. Our pork is loaded with flavor something the store bough pork is missing. So you will not miss out on anything should you decide to have your pork processed without curing.
UPDATE: We are making progress. All of our sausages and breakfast sausage are now MSG, BHA, and BHT free.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Our Murray Grey steers are treated humanely and have lots of pasture to roam on. In the winter time, we supplement their feed with a premium quality grass/alfalfa mixture that the cows just love. There are absolutely no antibiotics, growth hormones or any other weird stuff used. Our cows are not in areas where plants like sage or rabbit brush can be consumed and cause the to meat taste funny. We do not feed our cows grain. They are "finished" on pasture. This will give the beef a rich, delicious but different taste to the meat than the meat sold in stores. The beef is also much leaner than grain fed beef which offers more health benefits and more meat for your dollar as you don't have to trim off lots of fat. Lean beef does not mean that its dry. In fact our Grass Fed Beef is very tender and juicy.
We are committed to offering our customers the cleanest, most natural, beyond organic, healthy, nutrient dense, and delicious food possible. Our beef is dry aged by our USDA certified butcher for a full 21 days before being hand-carved into mouthwatering steaks, roasts, and hamburger. Dry aging the beef for this amount of time tenderizes the beef and helps capture the full potential of its flavor. Consider that store bought beef is typically on display within 3-4 days of harvesting the animal. What little aging it gets is done through a wet age process. The bottom line is this, just like you have noticed a huge and dramatic difference in our pork from other pork, so too will you notice a huge difference in our beef. Our beef has flavor! And the flavor is in the meat not just the fat like we are accustomed to with store bought and grain fed beef. Plus our beef is local and not shipped back and forth all over the country.
We understand that we are all in different circumstances whether it be the amount of space we have, the size of the budget we work with, or the number of mouths we feed. We will therefore be offering our beef by the whole, half, quarter, or eighth!
A typical beef will have a hanging weight of 600-700 lbs. Sometimes they will be a little smaller and sometimes a little larger but that range is what we shoot for. Roughly 75% of this will be take home cuts of meat. The loss is due primarily to bones being cut out (bone loss) and a little fat trimmed (fat loss). (Pork is much more efficient in this regard.) Variety meats like liver and heart are available on request. Just keep in mind that since a beef could potentially be divided among 8 customers that there may not be enough for everybody who would like it. Prices are based on the hanging weight as this is how the butcher measures and charges us and includes cut and wrap and delivery to a central location.
Whole Beef - $3.00/lb ($400 deposit)
Half Beef - $3.25/lb ($200 deposit)
Quarter Beef - $3.50/lb ($100 deposit)
Eighth Beef - $3.75/lb ($50 deposit)
Please send deposits (checks are fine) to:
PO Box 32
Vernon, UT 84080
Our first mouthwatering, nutrient dense grass fed beef will be available around the end of January/first of February 2010. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Thank you for supporting your local farmer!
PS. We are in the process of setting up a new website which will take online payments and make future ordering easier.
Our phone: 435-839-3482
Our email: email@example.com
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Since I want to end on a positive note, I will start out by sharing the “worst of times”. Last week we started running low on apples to feed to the pigs so we decided that on Friday we would go pick up some more at Hollie’s parents’ farm. By now many of the apples have fallen on the ground which isn’t very friendly on our backs. Friday rolled around and we were delayed in the morning by a friend who was having a much worse day than I care to have. By the time we were ready to leave, I realized that we wouldn’t make it to Hollie’s parents’ farm in time to get back and take the kids camping that evening. They had been looking forward to it and you just can’t break a promise like going camping. So we ran a few errands and enjoyed the beautiful day.
We arrived home in time to load the camper on the pickup and grab some hot dogs and marshmallows. We drove the entire ten minutes it takes to get “in the middle of nowhere” by the Vernon Reservoir. The boys and I met up with my brother in law and his kids and later my childhood friend and his kids showed up. We had a good laugh at our campers all lined up in a row. All three are the “cab-over” style that sits in the back of the truck. The three of us combined spent less than $800 on those campers! All three are older than we are! The kids had a blast and were cozy in the campers sipping hot chocolate and popping popcorn over the stove. I absolutely cherish each moment I can spend with my boys and feel very blessed that I can take them camping so easily. The next morning we woke up to snow and I woke up with a head cold. We tried to do a little fishing, but it was just too cold for the younger kids.
We went home and unloaded the camper and hooked up the flatbed so we could get apples. As we pulled into Lehi, the snow showed no signs of letting up. And it never did let up. The kids were going to help pick apples to begin with but since it was so windy and cold we decided to keep them indoors. This meant Hollie would need to be inside as well to keep an eye on them. (If you’re doing the math, this leaves me to pick up apples.) So I went out to the orchard all bundled up to now dig the apples out of the snow.
If I ever had any doubt that my father in law, Sherman, loved me, it quickly vanished when he pulled up with the tractor and maneuvered the front loader for me to load the apples. He too was all bundled up.
He moved the tractor along as I first kicked off the snow and then picked up the apples. It is during times like these that I begin to wonder if it is even worth the effort. I start to calculate in my head how much an hour I really make raising pigs. I continued to grumble to myself, cursing those pigs all the while those annoying snowflakes keep landing on my nose and eyelashes. Friday would have been such nice day for doing this kind of work. (The picture of me smiling is because I am utterly delirious at this point!)
It was the best of times…
The next day I slept in a little and woke feeling much better. I hurried and got all the farm chores done. I watched the pigs wake up and run over to the apples and start eating. Then they roamed over to the haystack and started eating some alfalfa. After that they moseyed over to their grain and then up the hill for what little grass is left. The sun was shining even though it was only 15 degrees but it quickly warmed up. Despite my grumpy mood the previous day I realized that I truly love raising those pigs. I hurried and got ready as we were expecting visitors to the farm. Some of the chefs from the Viking Cooking School came as well a few others. Jim Light who I mentioned in a previous post wanted to see the farm and had asked if he and some of his colleagues and friends could make a visit.
Everybody seemed to enjoy the pork as was evident by the orders we received. We heard several comments like, “This is the best pork I have ever tasted!” which made us feel good especially since it was coming from a group who enjoys a wide variety of high quality, gourmet foods for a living. Suddenly picking the apples in the snowstorm didn’t seem so bad and maybe even worthwhile. We had a wonderful visit with everybody and decided that we would have to offer a farm visit to all of our customers sometime in the near future.
We have been overwhelmed with the positive response we continue to get with our pork and the many kind notes, emails, comments, and letters we receive. Thank you all for your input and response to our announcement of offering pastured chicken and turkey and grass fed beef. We will keep you updated on this blog as we move forward with these efforts. If you have suggestions or comments we would love to hear from you. We want to grow the natural, healthy food you want. We want to be your farmer! We are now taking orders for February and April 2010 deliveries. For ordering information see here.
Since I began this post with the opening line in Charles Dickens', "A Tale of Two Cities", I will end with its final line,
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
We will raise non commercial heritage breed turkeys and probably start with 100 or so. We anticipate we will be able to sell them for $4.00/lb. This is far cheaper than other farms we have seen. As we have stated before, our goal is to make wholesome, clean, yummy food affordable for as many families as possible. Heritage breeds grow slower than the commercial breeds and take more feed to raise as well. They are more expensive to purchase as chicks because they are not as common. Also our farming methods are sustainable and more labor intensive than factory lots like the ones you see in Moroni, UT. We will also be setting up our own processing station and purchasing all of the equipment necessary. We really don't anticipate making a profit our first year and will try this as an experiment. The heritage breed turkeys offer a whole new world of flavor. When you combine this with our sustainable farming practices and premium feed, it truely offers a mouthwatering, gourmet meal for your family.
We will also start small with the chickens with 400-500. We are unsure of which breeds to use. We have a great source for Poulet Rouge type chickens which are traditional breeds raised on pasture. Poulet Rouge is a label placed on chickens that are raised on pasture and allowed to grow to the age of 11 weeks+. These chickens are the not the heavy breasted chickens most people are used to which is why we are a little reluctant to start with them. Any type of pasture raised poultry has firmer, denser, leaner meat that is similar to turkey in texture. This is because the chickens actually get to run around and be chickens! The commercial chickens are raised in such confinement that in most cases they can't even stretch their wings. The non Cornish X chickens have longer lighter breasts and longer legs. We will most likely try to raise both varieties since we are in the experiment phase and see what our customers prefer. In crunching the numbers, we will most likely be priced at $3.00/ lb for pasture raised Cornish X (heavy breasted) and $3.50/lb for the Poulet Rouge chickens.
This past year we raised 35 of our own chickens. The meat is the most flavorful chicken I have ever tasted! The texture is out of this world! In addition to eating this delicious food, it is also more nutritious than factory raised chicken and without the chemicals and drugs! It also feels good to not support the factories that produce meat that comes from animals that in our opinion are tortured. Did you know in many beef, pork, and poultry factories that wastes like chicken manure, processing extras (guts) and all kinds of bizarre and disgusting things get cooked and fed back to the animals? It's no wonder that the animals need a constant supply of antibiotics to stay alive. Nor is it any wonder that we have all of the food recalls and health problems. I would be willing to bet that if as a country we ate wholesome, local, natural food raised sustainably that a large portion of our health problems would go away. It sure makes a lot more sense than spending trillions of taxpayer dollars on health care reform. Let's fix the problem at the source and stop trying to put a bandaid on it. I'll step down from my soap box. : )
We actually have 5 turkeys this year that we are selling for Thanksgiving. They are pasture raised, humanely treated and all natural. These will be harvested the day before Thanksgiving and be sold fresh not frozen. They are $4.00/lb. We can meet you in SLC on Wednesday evening to deliver them. Since we only have 5 available, you will need to call quick to get one in time. They will be processed at a facility in Tremonton as part of this year's 4H projects. We expect them to dress out at 15-25 lbs. Please call with any questions.
Based on the information above, we would like to know how many people are interested in buying pasture raised chicken and turkey from us. How many birds do you think you would buy at one time knowing they were only available once a year? How many a year would you buy if they were availble 2-3 times a year? Any feedback you can offer us will be helpful in determining how much money we can justify investing and how many birds to buy. Also, if anybody is interested in a business opportunity and would like to set up a small processing facility we can send A LOT of business your way. This would allow us to raise more chickens and turkeys as well as offer them at a lower price. If you are interested in this, call us and we can go over more detail. Thanks again for all of your support of our local, family farm and loyalty!
Monday, November 2, 2009
Hollie, on the other hand, grew up on a small 5 acre farm in Lehi, UT. Her dad converted an old dairy operation into a thriving apple orchard. He has about 3 of the 5 acres planted in Red and Gold Delicious apple trees. Hollie grew up with horses and chickens and they dabbled in pigs and cows. Their main focus of course was on their 700 apple trees and large family garden. Hollie grew up pruning the trees in the late winter, planting new trees in the spring, and then picking and selling in the fall. Hollie’s family still jokes about how she could out sell anybody in the family when she sold boxes of apples door to door.
Their family still tries to gather together every year to help with the apples. Sadly, the last few years sales have been down, the grown children are busy with their families, my father in law’s health isn’t what is used to be, and the new generation of potential customers doesn’t seem to have much interest in preserving their own food. Last night Hollie’s dad called and announced that he had broken even for this apple season and was done picking and selling. The orchard still has tens of thousands of apples in the trees but with so much work for so little return it isn’t worth it for my father in law. Hollie and I won’t let the apples go to waste. We will take the kids and finish picking the apples, and then feed them to the pigs. Apple finished pork is delicious and gives the pigs an additional source for nutrients. We are fully aware however, that this orchard will soon meet the fate of so many other small farms in this country. Hollie is the second youngest of 8 children and is currently the only one of her siblings who continues to live the farm life.
After Hollie and I were married, I tried my hand at my own business. It did pretty good considering my lack of business experience and although I was passionate about owning my own business, I wasn’t passionate about the industry. I sold out to my partner and enrolled for school. I decided that in order to be successful as a student and in my career, I would need to find an area of study that I was passionate about. To the disbelief of many, I decided to work towards a Bachelors degree in Agricultural Science (Agronomy). We were very fortunate to find a job managing an apartment complex that helped keep student loans to a minimum. The downside was that we were the new “parents” of 180 freshmen girls who for the most part were living on their own for their first time.
Although I had not been a star student in high school, my college studies came very easily to me. I became very interested in hydroponics and aquaponics and helped initiate the building of the first hydroponic greenhouse for the university. Getting so involved in hydroponic food production opened my eyes to the potential symbiotic relationships that could be developed to utilize waste. Hollie would come visit me in the greenhouses and see what I had been working on. My dream was beginning to form. I cruised through school graduating at the top of my class in 2.5 years. We had also turned a failing apartment complex into a successful and profitable business. The best part was that it didn’t really feel like work. (Except of course unclogging sinks full of hair in the apartments we were managing. That was just plain miserable.)
Hollie and I used to sit in bed at night and read Hobby Farms magazine. (Actually, we still do this.) We dreamed of one day owning a small plot of land that we could grow something on. Then about three years ago, Hollie called me at work and explained that she had found a little fixer upper on a couple of acres for the same price as we were paying in rent. We bought the home and have spent the last three years fixing up the house and cleaning up the land. We decided to put the land to use and start raising as much of our own food as possible. Soon we had a few people approach us and ask if we could raise a pig for them along with the ones we were raising. This lead to a few more and then a few more. We continued to research methods to raise food cleanly and efficiently.
This brings us to where we are today. We have found that we like the heritage breeds the best. We raise our own eggs, chicken, and produce. We also raise Berkshire pork which experts agree is far superior to the commercial breeds. Out of the 24 sensory qualities in pork, Berkshire is 1st place in 21 of the 24. In addition, we raise our pigs like pets. They are pampered and treated humanely. They are free to roam in our field and graze on the pasture. We don’t medicate our pigs like 99% of pigs in this country. It isn’t necessary when you raise them right. Our farm doesn’t stink either. Our pigs are fed locally grown grain and alfalfa and seasonal treats like apples and pumpkins. I honestly feel that the methods used to raise the pigs have a greater impact on the meat quality than the breed does. However, when combined, we are able to literally offer the highest quality, best tasting pork in the state. The best part is that if you look at the cost of the various cuts of meat in the store, you don’t pay any more than when you buy from us. Our pork tastes better, is healthier, is raised sustainably, is raised ethically, and is superior in every way! It hasn’t traveled a long distance meaning less pollution. Economically, buying our pork helps support our local farm and the local butcher that we use as well as other local farmers that we buy feed from. We feed our pigs any garden wastes we have. The chickens don’t get fed at all. They are able to live a healthy life just cleaning up after the pigs. This means that our eggs don’t technically cost us anything. Over the summer we raised 35 meat chickens. Other than the time they were chicks, we didn’t feed these chickens anything either. Our freezer is now full of the most flavorful chicken we have ever tasted. Our farm is healthier because of them. We had virtually no flies because the chickens kept them in check. This is symbiotic relationship because we (family, chickens, and pigs) all benefit from one another’s efforts.
My dream is to expand our efforts exponentially. I have posted before our desire to raise meat chickens to sell with our pork. However, that isn’t even scratching the surface. Hollie and I dream of having a large irrigated pasture (80+ acres). We would like to be a one stop farm. We dream of raising beef cows, dairy cows, meat goats, dairy goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, fish, bees, and a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. Each of these animals and plants can be teamed up with other animals and plants in symbiotic relationships that are good for the land and good for the animals. I would love to have greenhouses full of fresh produce year round. I can imagine feeding the harvest wastes like lettuce roots to the pigs and cows. I would love to process as much food on the farm as possible. We would open a small store where we would sell cheese, milk, butter, cream, ice cream, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, fish, honey, turkey, bread and other baked goods, jams and juices, dried fruits, fresh fruits when in season like raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears etc…, fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms, year round lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and sprouts. We have even dreamed of opening a small restaurant in SLC that serves only foods that were raised by us and that are fresh off the farm. We dream of opening our farm to visitors and teaching weekend courses in growing a particular food, or preserving food. We can foresee the farm hosting family reunions or weekend getaways where city folks are welcome to come try their hand at life on the farm. The fall would be especially fun with hay rides and harvesting in full swing.
If I am successful in reaching this dream, I will then begin to assist other farms across the country in setting up similar operations. My ultimate dream is to sustainably produce clean, healthy food for the local community. I would love to see everybody be able to enjoy food this good and healthy. For now we are focusing on the task at hand, raising pigs. When we have sold enough pigs, we will be able to buy the land to take the next step towards fulfilling this dream. For now, that means selling a lot of pork! We are passionate about it however, and hopefully that will lead to success.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Slow Food is an organization that believes in eating the kind of food we believe in raising. They are the opposite of "fast food", meaning that they want healthy, natural, tasteful food that is raised sustainably. They accept the fact that nature does not produce uniform food year round but varies and has seasons. I am sure I am not justly describing the organization, so I will instead post their link here.
After reading up on the Slow Food website, Hollie and I quickly realized that we had very similar philosophies when it comes to food. Slow Food Utah has graciously added us to their list of local producers which we are proud to be a part of. See our Slow Food Utah link here.
In the middle of all this, a very exciting opportunity has developed! Jim Light, who I believe is associated with Slow Food Utah and who is the Executive Chef for the Viking Cooking School, has agreed to host a hands on evening course for Christiansen's Hog Heaven's customers. Of course the main dish, Stuffed Pork Loin Roast will be provided by us. Jim rattled off several ideas over the phone that literally made my mouth water. Jim will teach the class how to prepare a delicious Stuffed Pork Loin and a few other dishes that will complement the main dish. After we have all had a chance to help prepare the food, we will sit down and enjoy the meal. The cost will be around $65/person and will be limited to the first 20 people interested. The event will take place at the Viking Cooking School in Salt Lake. Jim will be getting back with me at the end of this week with more details. We are tentatively shooting for somewhere around December 28-30. Please let us know if you are interested and we will add you to our list. These spots will fill up very fast. If we have a strong enough response, we will see if we can talk Jim into hosting another class at a later date. This will make a great Christmas present for those loved ones who would like to learn from a master chef. Once we have it set up, payments can be made online at the Viking Cooking School website.
We appreciate the response from the Slow Food members. They are a very enthusiastic group! I encourage everybody to check out their website and look at joining the Slow Food Utah chapter.
Our December order is nearly filled up and we will soon be taking orders for February. We sincerely appreciate your business. We are grateful for the referrals and ask that you keep them coming to help support your local farmer. As always feel free to contact us with any questions, comments, or suggestions.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Will life ever slow down? Hollie and I ask ourselves this nearly every day. It seems like every time we get close to catching up on our projects a new one pops up that costs both time and money. Here is one of those extra projects we had last week.
We bought 12 tons of premium dairy grade alfalfa that is a staple ingredient of our All Natural, Humanely Treated, Pasture Raised Berkshire pigs’ diet. We purchased the alfalfa from our neighbor Scott or “Scooter” as us locals call him. Even though I learned how to judge alfalfa in college, I am sure that anybody could take one look at this alfalfa and recognize quality when they see it. Scooter, does many things well but he excels at putting up quality hay. Because he was so busy selling his hay this year, I arranged for another neighbor, Marlin or Vern as us locals call him to pick the bales up out of the field with his bale wagon. (Are you noticing a pattern here with nicknames? I don’t dare ask what they call me : ) ) A bale wagon is a nifty piece of equipment that picks up and stacks the hay 9 or 10 bales high. When Vern came to drop off the hay, I was prepared with a 16’ long steel section of pallet shelving to serve as a brace as his bale wagon slowly scooted the hay stack from the wagon to the ground. As I was bracing the hay, the 12’ high stack started to swagger and I dove out of the way as 4 tons of alfalfa came crashing down. Unfortunately, the next two loads didn’t go any better and when we were all done, I had a huge unstable mess with rain in the forecast. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to restack this hay by myself before the rain came. So I called the biggest kid in town Melvin or Big Mel, and offered him a higher wage than he normally charges to come help me stack hay. Then I called Vern and asked him to come over with his tractor so that we could stack bales in the loader and lift them as we stacked higher and higher. For the next two nights we met after Vern and I got home from work and Melvin got home from baseball practice. My brother in law Stan and good friend and neighbor Rich were kind enough to stop by and help stack as well. We finally got the hay stacked and covered. When I woke up the next morning, it had rained all night and fortunately, the hay was dry.
Extra projects like our hay experience can quickly eat into our time and profits. We closely track our farm budget to help make sure we are staying profitable. However, when we forecast our budget it is difficult to anticipate these unforeseen expenses.
Once the hay was stacked, I was able to finish my watering station. This is my own invention consisting of a pressurized pipe with watering nipples lined with a heat cable and then heavily insulated. We will see if it keeps us from chopping ice all winter. Part of this project was pouring a concrete pad all around the watering station to prevent a mud hole. I decided to mix and pour my own concrete which ended up using 38 bags. It honestly was a little easier than I anticipated and I have some other projects I will attempt next spring using concrete. In order to power the heating cable, I needed to run electricity out to our pasture. So I bought lots of wire, conduit, fittings, and outlets and went to work. I decided to run the conduit on top of the ground along the fence lines. In this case the cost of the extra wire and conduit around the perimeter was cheaper and faster than trenching a line across the field. While I was at it, I ran a line up to the chicken coop so that we can heat the chicken waterer and provide extra light so we can have a few eggs through the winter. Once you have eaten fresh eggs, you just can’t go back to store bought eggs regardless of the bogus labels they put on their eggs.
In between these projects, we also decided to till up an acre and replant it with new pasture. It is coming up nicely and hopefully by spring it will really take off. Prior to tilling our field, I dug up and moved some fruit trees that we had planted a few years ago. They just haven’t done so well. When I dug them up, I saw why. The gophers have been eating the roots. On some trees the trunk was just a sharpened stick in the ground. So now it is World War III at our place. With the field plowed, it is easy to identify the new mounds that they dig. I have been digging their mounds until I find their tunnels and then set traps in the tunnels. With just one acre, I have already trapped 18 gophers; including one great big gopher that dug a huge mound right in the middle of our new lawn. It would be much easier and quicker to poison the gophers but we are committed to keeping our land free of chemicals and such. Besides, with chickens and pigs roaming the pasture, we don’t want to ever risk poisoning our animals and food.
As you can see, we have been busy, but we love (almost) every minute of it. : ) I hope we have made all the necessary preparations for winter.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Feeding pigs apples, makes the pork even a little more tender and actually gives it a subtly sweet taste. The reason for this is that pigs don't fully break down the fats in the foods they consume. Rather they have a unique ability to deposit the fats from their food into their own fat. (I really simplified this, but I am sure you don't want a lesson in pig biology.) This is why feeding pigs the right feed is so important. We feed our pigs only feed that we wouldn't mind eating ourselves. Of course, we don't eat alfalfa but it is clean and nutritious enough that I wouldn't mind. While many farms will throw moldy hay and such to their pigs, we actually pay a premium for dairy grade alfalfa. The same goes for our grain and apples.
We are now taking orders for a December 20th delivery of mouth watering, delicious, wholesome, clean, pasture raised, humanely treated, all natural, Berkshire pork. We have many satisfied customers who can vouch for the taste and quality difference in Christiansen's Hog Heaven's pork. You have the choice of having your hams and bacon hickory smoked and cured with a brown sugar recipe or fresh. The curing process adds a small amount of nitrates to the meat. Some of our customers want to avoid the nitrates while others prefer the extra flavor that it offers. The same goes for the sausage. The recipe the butcher uses contains BHT which a preservative. Some customers love the flavor of their recipe and others prefer the fresh ground pork. Some of our customers are very talented and actually smoke their own meats and make their own sausage! Also since many of you will be having guests this winter, we can offer you larger hams by not cutting off hams slices and keeping the ham whole rather than cut it in half. We let you choose whatever is best for you and your families.
The butcher has offered to place the pork in boxes which will make it convenient to give as a gift to family and friends. Whether our bodies are down and chilled from the cold winter or our spirits are down and chilled from the roller coaster we call life, few things in this world bring warmth and cheer like fresh, wholesome, and nutritious food. An order of pork will be well received by a growing family, a neighbor who recently lost a job, or a friend who needs to know that somebody cares. To help make giving a little easier this year, we are going to offer 1/4 orders of pork.
A 1/4 order of pork will weigh on average 30-35 lbs and will contain approximately:
1 - Half Ham (4-5 lbs.)
5 packs of bacon or fresh side (uncured bacon)
6 packages of sausage or fresh ground pork
1 ham hock OR pack of spare ribs (each weighs 3-4 lbs)
2 shoulder roast (2-3 lbs)
10-12 pork chops
5 packages of ham slices (if fresh ham is ordered, there will not be any ham slices, instead the ham will be 2-3 lbs. larger. This can also be specified for a smoked/cured ham)
We are offering 1/4 order of premium pork in a box for easy gift giving at a flat rate of $150. For those wanting to order a 1/2 pork or whole pork the regular rates apply.
1/2 pork $3.25/lb (around $250-$275 total)
Whole pork $3.00/lb (around $450-$525 total)
Please send a $25 deposit for a 1/4 pork, $50 deposit for 1/2 pork, or $100 deposit for a whole pork to:
Vernon, UT 84080
We will soon have PayPal set up for your convenience as well. Your pork will not be reserved until the deposit is received.
Hurry! This pork will sell out quickly. Also, if you want to order multiple 1/4 porks for kids and grandkids or what not, we will work with you on the price so that it is closer to the half pork rates. As always feel free to contact us with any questions!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
We love to hear back from our customers! Ben and Casey recently bought a live pig from us to butcher themselves. We had a fun time trying to round up the pig and then load it into the back of a pickup that had a shell on the back. Ben didn't realize that he would be entertained when he came to pick up his pig. I am sure he is still laughing when he pictures Hollie and I running around trying to round up his pig. He is quite the chef as evident by the picture he sent us. I have copied Ben's comments below.
This is Ben. I picked up the live pig from you last Friday. We made it home safely with the pig still in the bed of the truck. It seemed a little dicey at first. She poked her snout out the corner of the back window a few times and looked like she might try to escape but was very docile for most of the trip after 20 minutes or so of getting used to things.
We killed and cleaned her right away upon getting back to Moab and hung her until today when we started to butcher and divvy up the meat. For dinner tonight we had a cut of loin rubbed with thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and olive oil. It was amazing! Best pork I've ever had, and we haven't even gotten into the fattier, more flavorful cuts yet. I attached a picture of the loin pre-broiling. I thought maybe you'd like to see some of the fruits (or... meats) of your labor.
Thanks for humanely raising such great pork. The world, and Utah in particular, needs more agriculture like that.
Thanks Ben for the kind words. Raising pigs the way we do is a lot of hard work but we love it. Half the fun is hearing from customers like Ben. We also appreciate the numerous referrals we have received. This is another way that our customers let us know that they love our pork.
We are now taking orders for a December delivery. We are excited to be finishing this group of pigs on locally grown apples. (In addition to pasture, alfalfa, and grain.) To be placed on our December delivery see the instructions here.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Hello Christiansen's Hog Heaven Customers!
The wait is almost over! The pigs are looking really good. This email is to confirm your pork order with us. Tomorrow (Tuesday September 15) we are taking the pigs in for butchering and processing. We have you down on our waiting list for an order of our pork. If you ordered a half pork the deposit amount is $50, if you ordered a whole pork the deposit amount is $100. (If you can't remember what your ordered, simply reply and I will look it up.) Please send us your deposit to the following:
47 S. Main Street
PO Box 32
Vernon, UT 84080
The balance will be due upon delivery/pickup and will be calculated based on the weights we get back from the butcher. The pork will be ready in 1-2 weeks. We will keep you posted as soon as we hear word from the butcher. We will also set up times and meeting locations for each county.
By the way, we are finally getting caught up on our orders and are hoping to only be a month or so out in the future. If you have any referrals you would like to send our way, we would really appreciate it. We are dedicated to supporting the local economy by raising All Natural, Humanely Treated, Pasture Raised Berkshire Pork using sustainable farming practices and buying local. This produces healthy, clean, and honest food. We sincerely appreciate your business! As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
For those of you who have been given a longer time frame, we are trying to shorten that time up and will let you know if we can get your pork to you sooner than the 3-6 months we have been quoting. We thank you all for your interest and support of our farm.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I recently purchased the movie “Fresh”. It is a documentary type film that tactfully raises awareness about the negative aspects of our country’s current food system and industrialized agriculture including concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Unlike other “bean-spilling-movies” I have seen, Fresh clearly highlights the problems but doesn’t really linger over them. It offers solutions and provides facts that support clean, healthy, local, sustainable food. Click here for a link to a preview of the film.
A few of the points raised include the polarized problem that the grain farmers and feedlots experience. In the Midwest, farmers grow the same crop year after year. Because they are constantly taking from the ground, the soil becomes depleted of nutrients. And since the same crop is grown year after year, pests get out of control. To combat these problems, farmers use fertilizers and pesticides to boost production. Unfortunately the chemicals and fertilizers kill the pests and provide one form of nutrition but also kill the beneficial, microbial organisms, worms etc…which provide another form of nutrition. This means the next year more chemical is required to get the same result since there is less contribution from the beneficial organisms. In addition, some pests exhibit tolerance to the chemicals used. As these pests multiply they pass this trait on (natural selection). resulting in a need to apply more pesticide. This increases the cost for farmers which in turn increases their dependence on government subsidies. It chemically sterilizes the soil of beneficial organisms, and is known to pollute water sources. On top of that, we end up eating the chemical drenched food which chemicals required gas masks and hazard suits to be applied!
The grain is then harvested and shipped halfway across the country to a CAFO where it is fed to cows. Because the cows are confined, stressed, living in their manure, being fed processed leftovers from the slaughtering process (IE cow parts), chicken manure, and now chemical coated grain, they require a huge amount of antibiotics to keep them alive. These antibiotics cost the feedlot money which is paid by the consumer. The cows also build immunity to the antibiotics such that it takes more antibiotics and new types of antibiotics to keep the cows alive. Some of the antibiotics pass through their system and end up in the massive amounts of manure that is produced. This huge amount of manure produced in such a small area becomes a toxic waste that contaminates the ground water, rivers, and lakes. Plus it can stink up the place for miles. Once again it costs the feedlots money to get rid of all that manure. Since the big feedlots are located in just a few states, the beef needs to shipped all over the country. The grain farms have to buy synthetic fertilizers and the feedlots have to get rid of nature’s fertilizer. I would ask what’s wrong with this picture but instead will ask how many things are wrong with this picture? The solution is simple, we mimic nature.
This is where the movie gets really good and is actually a very uplifting and inspiring film. It proposes that farmers grow pasture to feed their cows with. It highlights the benefits of rotating the cows through small paddocks so that the soil gets fertilized naturally and eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers. Since there are fewer input costs, farmers can be more profitable and not dependent upon government subsidies. Since the animals are not stressed and are eating fresh greens, they stay healthy and don’t need all the pharmaceuticals. If farmers can sell their food locally, they don’t have to pay for huge transportation costs. Their customers can enjoy clean, fresh, wholesome, humanely raised, and sustainable food. As a bonus, the waters stay clean and farm ground will be fertile and sustainable for generations to come.
When I started going to school to get my degree in Agricultural Science, I began to learn about the amount of nutrients it takes to grow a plant. Since I was being taught traditional, industrialized farming techniques, we learned everything in terms of how much synthetic fertilizer and pesticide it took to produce crops. I loved learning about growing food. At the time I didn’t realize how unsustainable some of these methods were.
While in school, our family took a trip to Yellowstone. I saw where the “devastating” fires had been. I laughed when I recalled how all of the news stations and “experts” were reporting that Yellowstone would never be the same again. I was amazed at how fast the forests had come back. It looked as if someone had “hydroseeded” a lawn with tree seeds. My eyes literally beheld a huge lawn of pine trees so dense that it would be difficult if not impossible to move through them. At the time I naively pondered, how the trees could grow so fast without fertilizers. Of course now I recognize that thousands of critters inhabit each acre and all contribute to the growth cycle. The large animals deposit manure, and the worms and microbial organisms help break the dead plants and trees down into rich compost. Mother nature keeps herself balanced by using multiple species of plants and animals. This helps prevent infestations of harmful pests. I have learned a wealth of knowledge from my degree. The principles of fertilizer and pest prevention are true. We just don’t need to artificially produce them. In fact, by observing nature, you will find that our Creator is the ultimate farmer. By following the principles observed in nature we too can grow nutritious, clean, sustainable, and yummy food.
We would like to see more farms in Utah raising food that is healthy to the land it is grown on and healthy to the consumer. Let your friends, family, neighbors etc. know that you buy local, healthy food. Recommend the farms that you are buying from. This will help encourage growth among local farms while boosting the local economy. It is not government or corporations who have allowed our food system to get to its current state. It is the consumer. If we don’t object to the unsustainable, irresponsible, unhealthy, unfresh way our food is grown nothing will change. Writing your congressman does very little in my experience. We live in a world controlled by money. Voting with your wallet/purse speaks volumes.
Monday, July 13, 2009
One obstacle we have come across is trying to find a facility to process the chickens. After an exhaustive search, we have concluded that no facility exists that can custom slaughter and is USDA certified. Therefore, if we pursue this, we are bravely going to set up our own little facility. We are in the process of acquiring the USDA certification as well as a license from the Utah Department of Agriculture. Once we have gone through all of the paperwork and saved enough money, we will purchase all of the processing equipment. We recently found a supplier for our chicks. They don’t use any antibiotics and don’t offer beak cutting etc… This attitude reflects our own. In order to not use antibiotics, this chick supplier must run a very clean operation. This is exactly the type of business we want to support. Their chickens are not the Cornish X’s hybrids that dominate the chicken market. Those chickens grow unnaturally fast and have serious health problems due to their skeletal system and organs not being able to keep up with their growth. This results in a very high mortality rate and a lot of suffering. The same is true for laying chickens that are now being bred with the goal of producing an egg per day or more. Their bodies just can’t keep up with that kind of production. Unless you have grown your own chickens, chances are you have never eaten chicken that wasn’t a Cornish X.
The more we learn about the chicken industry (both meat and egg production), the more convinced we are that chickens are the most abused production animal in our country. We would like for others who feel the same way to have an alternative source of chicken and eggs. Our dilemma is whether or not we are able and willing to take on chicken production. The most efficient way to raise chickens is to have a delivery of chicks delivered once a week. This means that after 11-12 weeks, we will be processing and delivering once a week as well. We may look at ways to ease into it like taking a delivery of chicks once a month or taking a delivery of chicks once a week for a few weeks rather than all year. We want to be able to have the time and resources to produce the highest quality products we can without compromise. However, where I still have a full time job and family to raise, we are left in a balancing act.
Current production methods disgust and offend us which is why we started raising our own pork and chicken. While looking into the different licenses required for chicken processing in Utah, we came across a license that blew us away. License #1601 Feed Garbage To Swine. Why anybody would want to eat pork raised on garbage is beyond me. Chances are the consumers don’t even know! The reason a license is needed is that if garbage isn’t processed properly before feeding it to pigs, it can quickly spread disease like Foot and Mouth. While I applaud resourcefulness, I do not want to consume meat associated with garbage and its potential diseases. Where Utah is not even that big of an "agricultural" state when compared to other states like those in the Midwest, I can't help but wonder what other types of licenses like this one are required. Since the vast majority of meat consumed in Utah is not raised in Utah, this is an issue that is very concerning. Rest assured that we are dedicated to providing our customers with pork raised on luscious grasses and legumes and fresh, wholesome grains. Absolutely no garbage or other shortcuts are allowed on our farm.
I recently read a post on Stoney Brook Farm’s blog. The post addressed the recent E. Coli outbreak in cookie dough. The strain of E. Coli that was in the cookie dough is found in the intestines of cows and their feces. The questions Bob the farmer raised are, “How does E. Coli 0157, which lives in the intestines of heavily grain fed cows, end up not only in a cookie factory, but inside the cookie dough? How messed up must the system be for such a thing to happen?” Very valid questions, Bob. My guess is having government agencies who issue “Feed Garbage to Swine” licenses might have something to do with it. It is time to become more aware of our food. Not to be overly dramatic, but the lives and health of our families depend on it.
There is a new movie out called “Food Inc.”. It is a documentary that shows the process that our food goes through. If you click on the link you can see a preview. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be playing in theaters here in Utah. But look for it on DVD in a few months. From what I have seen and heard about it, it is very eye opening. I would love to hear your comments!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We don’t like being nickeled and dimed when we make a purchase so we don’t nickel and dime our customers. Therefore, our prices include: cut and wrap, smoking/curing of hams and bacon (if desired), and delivery to a central location.
If you don't want to eat cured meats, please make sure you request that your ham and bacon be fresh. Also ask for fresh ground pork instead of the sausage.
Prices are calculated by the hanging weight and are as follows:
Quarter Pork - $3.75/lb (Anywhere from 35-50 lbs hanging weight for a price range of about $130-$180)
Half Pork - $3.50/lb (Anywhere from 70-100 lbs hanging weight for a price range of about $245-$350)
Whole Pork - $3.25/lb (Anywhere from 140-200 lbs hanging weight for a price range of about $455-$650)
We normally shoot for a hanging weight of 160 lbs (whole hog). However since we don't process every week we have to take pigs to the butcher that are close to the "ideal" size. Pigs naturally grow at different rates. In today's world of production uniformity this is isn't something we are accustomed to.
Call me a poor businessman, but when we calculate our prices, we don’t try and see how much we can get away with. Rather, we look at our costs, add a little for our efforts and make sure that we can grow and sustain a viable farm. We want our pork to be affordable to as many families as possible!
I was recently contacted by a restaurant in Park City who wanted to offer our pork on their menu. They have several other restaurants in the country and have humanely treated, pasture raised Berkshire on their menu as well. As we talked price, I quoted them $3.25/lb for whole pork. They responded that my price was cheaper than what they normally pay in other states and they buy in large quantities! In the end we decided that for now I wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand and will reevaluate in the future as we grow.
Below you will find the totals that we measured from half a pork. Obviously this will vary a little from pig to pig.
Half a pork 80 lbs Hanging Weight
Ham slices 10 packs 10.5 oz = 7 lbs
Bulk Breakfast Sausage 13 packs avg. 1.15 lb = 15 lbs
Bacon 10 packs avg. 10 oz = 6.2 lbs
Ham hocks 1 pack 1.7 lbs
Hams 2 packs 4lbs and 5 lbs = 9 lbs
Spare ribs 1 pack 2.7 lbs
Roasts 3 packs 3.7 lbs 3.4 lbs. 3.4 lbs = 10.5 lbs
Chops 1” 11 packs = 22 chops 8-10 oz/pack = 13.2 lbs
If you have a traditional fridge/freezer where the freezer is on top, a half pork can fit in the freezer if there is nothing else in it. If you have a side by side, you can fit half a pork with room to spare. As far as consumption rate goes, you can get an idea of how many meals you can cook by looking at the quantity of packages above. Our family of two adults, two children and a baby can eat a whole pork in 6 months. We don’t feel that we overly consume pork as we eat chicken, fish, beef, deer, and elk as well. However, we love our pork and love to share our meals with friends and family. I hope this information is helpful for those of you who have never purchased a pork before.
To order, visit our website here or simply give us a call or send us an email. Please include your name, phone number, address, email address, and the quantity of pork you would like. We also require a $25 deposit for a quarter pork, $50 deposit for a half pork, and $100 deposit for a whole pork. If you don’t send a deposit, we cannot hold your pork. If you mail in your deposit, we will notify you with a confirmation once we have received your deposit. If we don’t see a deposit, we will try and contact you to make sure that it wasn’t lost in the mail etc… The balance will be due upon delivery of the pork. We usually pick the pork up from the butcher and deliver it directly. We don’t have the hanging weights until we pick up the pork. All the pork is separated in bags and marked by a number. This number corresponds to the hanging weight and is how we can calculate the total price of the pork we deliver to you. Please send your deposit to:
PO Box 32
Vernon, UT 84080
Once again, please feel free to contact us with any questions. We will be happy to help anyway we can.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Sausage Corn Chowder
Brown and sautee
1 lb sausage
¾ cup chopped onions
2 cups water
2 cups potatoes chopped
1 can creamed corn
1 can regular corn
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
Add sausage and onion to soup mix.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Hey everybody, I just wanted to announce the arrival of our newest little pig farmer. Shia Hope Christiansen was born this afternoon around 3pm. At 6 lbs 6 oz and 19" she is a bit of a runt but absolutely beautiful. Hollie did really well and should be able to come home tomorrow. She has lots of dark hair just like Hollie did when she was born. Hans and Dane were so sweet and were cute to listen to as they held her. Hans and Dane couldn't figure out how the baby came out. Hollie and I just looked at each other when they asked about it. I am not sure if we are ready to start explaining that stuff yet! LOL They have seen our sows give birth so if it comes up again I guess we can refer them to that. : ) I will post pictures tomorrow when I get home. Thank you all for your concern and well wishes!