What Is Free Range Pork Farming and Why Should You Care?

Free Range Pork Farming and Why You Should Care…

… And The Different Free Range Pig Farming Methods!

When it comes to free range pig farming, there are different farming methods that farmer’s can use when they raise pigs in this way.

However, not all methods are the same and not all methods give the same freedoms as required by the Free- Range Pork Association [FRPA].

This article briefly gives a description of the two methods that farmers can use to raise pig outside – in a free-range system.

The two methods are know as:

  • Pure free range pig farming and
  • Natural Pig Farming as per the FRPA definition.

The FRPA (Free Range Pork Association: South Africa) defines Free Range Pig Farming as follows:

Free Range Pig Farming means that pigs are kept OUTDOORS in big enough camps (areas) where they can eat, sleep and play outside for their entire lives to allow them to express their natural instinctive behaviors.

Free Range Pig Farming (Method ONE)

A free-range pig farmer will keep pigs outside, on big open land or in big camps were the pigs can run around freely outside on pasture or grasslands. The general rule is to keep less that 10 pigs per hector.

ONE single rule does not apply to all farms. Each farming system will differ depending on available natural food resources.

The important criteria for free-range pig farming are that the pigs can roam freely to display their very specific natural and instinctive behaviors. They must get a good percentage of their daily food from natural resources and they must rotated to new and fresh camps at specific intervals.

Free range also means that appropriate shelter should be provided were the pigs can find comfort when they need it in bad weather conditions such as heat or cold.

Because pig don’t sweat they create large wallows were they find water to cool off.

While it is important to allow them to express this natural behavior and to help them cool down, care should be taken they do not drink this “muddy contaminated hogwash water”.

A free-range pig farmer will never ever use antibiotics, added hormones or artificial growth supplements for his or her pigs AND he or she will keep record of each and every pig for its entire live. [See Guidelines]

Free Range pigs will still receive a balanced supplement food diet even if they walk on pasture BUT they will never be given meat or meat by-products – except for milk. All Free-Range pigs are vegetarians.

For more detailed information on Free Range Pig farming in terms of the Free Range Pork Association (FRPA) standards, you can download the Best Practice Guideline Info Pack HERE

Free Range Pork & Farming Information


Natural Pig Farming (Method TWO)

Not all farms are the same and pure Free Range Pig farming require special conditions such as large areas, the right soil, a mild climate, appropriate vegetation and enough water resources.

The Natural Pig Farming Method is a smart alternative to a pure free-range pig farming system.
There are a few differences, mostly to do with the availability of space and day-to-day management to keep in mind.

The FRPA set specific guideline for farmers interested in free-range pig farming to enable farmers with smaller available land (areas) to also raise pigs in a natural system.

If do correctly, a Natural System as per our definition is as close as one can get to a pure Free Range system, and it can be done without compromising on the welfare of the animals as defined under the FIVE FREEDOMS of livestock

In natural pig farming the animals still eat, sleep and play outside to express there normal behavior but the areas available to them is smaller.

The guideline is a 1 – 3 day rotating system of about 3 – 4 medium size pigs for every 100 square meter camp.

Although pigs in a Natural Pig Farming System are kept in a more concentrated environment (area) they still have all the freedoms express all their natural behaviors

To make sure the pigs stay clean and happy, they are rotated to new clean and fresh camps with every few days. These new camps with have fresh natural food available with all the facilities needed.

Natural Pig farmers quickly learn to “listen” to their pigs needs and understands that they need to respects their pigs need for free and clean pace.

Contrarily to popular believe, pigs are extremely clean, clever and sensitive animals.

Pigs that are raised in free range and natural system will show their unhappiness and discomfort immediately.

Many farmers agree – pigs are the only farm animals that can “speak” with their eyes and face expressions. When you work with them and “listen” closely they will tell you when it is time to rotate them to new fresh camps – even if you may think they can stay another day or two.

General Rules

Whether farmers use a pure free-range system or a natural farming system, the rules, protocols and guidelines are the same. For example:

  • Are never ever given antibiotics of any kind.
  • Are never given added hormones or artificial growth supplements.
  • Are vegetarians – they never even eat meat or meat by-products except for milk.
  • Are raised to the highest welfare practices as defined by the FIVE FREEDOMS of livestock standards.
  • Entire lives and all stages of production are recorded are traceable.
  • Carcasses need to meet all the qualified standards laid down from time to time.
  • Farmers need to proof that they abide by all protocols including the guidelines and rules provided on housing and availability of free space.

In large multi hector camps or smaller camp under a Natural Pig Farming System appropriate shelter facilities will always be available were the pigs can move freely in-and- out to protect themselves from heat or cold.

In both a pure Free-Range system or in a Natural Pig Farming System, pigs are typically kept in distinct groups based on age, sex, size, and stage of pregnancy.

They receive the majority of their nutritional food needs from prepared feed, with pasture or forage as supplementary feed.

In general, the term Free-Range implies that animals are NEVER confined to an enclosed indoor system, even during furrowing. They must and should always have shelter, but they must always have the choice to go outside to roam and express their natural behavior.

Free-Range pigs should receive a balanced food supplement with access to fresh clean water and enough space all the time.

Happy Free-Range pigs produce mouth-watering pork products including bacon’s and ham for a niche market and for the discerning consumer.

As with all systems, Free-Range pigs farms are continuously evolving to improve herd health, welfare and productivity.

For more detailed information on Free Range Pig farming in terms of the Free Range Pork Association (FRPA) standards, you can download the Best Practice Guideline Info Pack HERE

Free Range Pork & Farming Information