Pork For Dogs: When It’s Good And When It’s Bad

Should you feed pork to your dog?

Have you wondered about whether or not to feed pork to your dog? Many dog owners are on the fence about it.

Many times I’ve questioned this and my vet cautions against it.

But there’s a vast difference in quality … depending on how the pig was raised.

Bacon flavored treats and other processed pig products cause vet visits. These are usually due to gastric upset. Later I’ll talk about the foods that are causing these problems.

But first … I want to explain the world of difference between raw pastured pork … and processed, conventionally raised pigs.

Heritage Breeds

For many years, we’ve sourced our own pork from farmers whose hogs are pastured.
And now we’ve added pigs to our own farm.

We chose to add a heritage breed of pigs. Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds. They thrive on pasture. They have excellent mothering ability and are well-known for their flavor.

The breed we chose was Mangalitsa. This breed originated in mid-19th century Hungary. Like many heritage breeds, they’re extremely hardy.

Some other heritage breeds include …

  • Red Wattles
  • Tamworth
  • Large Black
  • Gloucestershire Old Spot

How Pastured Pigs Live

Pastured hogs forage for plants, roots, bugs and nuts. And they love any food you give them, like garden vegetables, melons, and raw cultured milk.

Pigs raised on pasture benefit by being happier and healthier. They get vitamin D from sunshine.

Other vitamins, minerals, and probiotics come from the soil. The farmer and the land benefit from having the pigs till up the soil. The pigs deposit manure as fertilizer, which helps prevent soil compaction. And we avoid fossil fuels by not using a tractor.

Pigs also like to eat many weeds (especially pigweed!) so we bring them armfuls when we weed the garden. Their pasture definitely has some good ones as well … like burdock, nettle and lambs quarters.

(We humans enjoy some of the “weeds” on our property too – but that’s another topic!)

Factory Farmed Pigs

By contrast … pigs in confinement are stressed and more prone to disease and aggression.

According to the Rodale Institute …

“97% of commercial hogs are raised in small, indoor, concrete-floored pens.”

Many are CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, aka factory farms). And the US is second only to China as producers of this kind of conventional pork.

Factory farmed hogs eat huge amounts of genetically modified corn and soybean meal … laden with chemical fertilizer and herbicide.

They’re given antibiotics and chemical dewormers. These drugs are also harmful to microbial soil fauna, earthworms and dung beetles. And they’re used with alarming frequency to treat livestock ailments. The animals have deficient immune systems caused by crowded conditions and poor diet.

Factory farmed pigs experience mental frustration as well as physical disadvantages.

Nutritional Advantages Of Pork

Pasture-raised pork has significant nutritional advantages over factory farmed pork.

The CIWF (Compassion In World Farming) Foundation reports on studies in animal husbandry. CIWF started because the founder was horrified by modern, intensive factory farming standards.

More Omega-3

A summary of studies shows Omega-3 in pork meat is …

  • 18-43% higher in free range pigs
  • 291% higher in organic pig meat

… than pigs from intensive confinement operations.

Better Omega-6:3 Ratio

Pig meat from all systems has a high Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio. But confined pig meat was worse.

  • The ratio in factory farmed meat was 12.4 to 31.2:1
  • Free-range came in around 11.8 to 18.1:1

Higher Vitamin E

Vitamin E levels were also higher in free-range pork.

RELATED: The Key Dietary Fats Every Raw Fed Dog Needs

Feeding Pork To Your Dog

So … if you want to feed pork, be sure it’s pasture-raised for the best nutrition and ecological impact. And you may want to add some extra Omega-3 to your dog’s pork meals to help balance out the fats.

Here are some more advantages of pork …

  • Pork meat is very digestible
  • It has a favorable amino acid profile
  • Energetically, it’s a cooling meat (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine)
  • Pork fat has a balanced ratio of saturated and monounsaturated fats
  • It’s high in linoleic acid
  • And a great source of medium chain fatty acids
  • Pork liver and heart are lean proteins that provide many vitamins and minerals

Factory farmed hogs are high in polyunsaturated fat. This is because their diets consist of genetically modified (GMO) corn and soybean meal.

Compare this to the pastured pig diet of roots, leaves and grasses that’s higher in Omega-3 and vitamins.

Sourcing Pork Meat

One important rule to remember: Know your farmer.

So many terms have been co-opted by agribusiness, so you can’t trust descriptions.

  • Natural means almost nothing
  • Free-range sometimes only means the animal is not caged or penned. “Free” might mean free inside a barn
  • Grass-fed as a term has been stretched by some farmers.
  • And don’t get me started on the term organic!

Again, know your farmer. Because they don’t technically have to be certified to be the real deal. (And agribusiness has also hijacked the term certified!)

Raw Vs Cooked Pork

You know the virtues of a raw diet.

Raw meat and organs are more nutritive and easier to digest than their cooked versions.

Cooking changes the composition of meat and fat … specifically the amino acid and protein structures. It also destroys important enzymes. Fats become oxidized and potentially carcinogenic at high temperatures.

And when you combine this toxic cooked pork lard with high carbohydrates in kibble … the potential for pancreatitis greatly increases.

What About Pork Treats?

The ingredients list of typical pork or bacon dog treats is horrendous.

A few offenders are:

  • wheat, soy and corn products (GMO of course)
  • chemical preservatives
  • artificial colors and flavors

And the meat in these may not be species-identified. It was likely swept off the packing company floor.

The meat may be 4-D … Dying, Diseased, Disabled and Dead. So it’s “unsuitable for human consumption.” These 4-D animals have been shown to contain harmful pathogens … or even euthanasia drugs. So they’re unsuitable for your dog’s consumption too!

Vendors of pig’s ears may try to convince dog owners their product is single ingredient. But most of them are roasted, boiled or smoked to prevent salmonellosis. They can be a bacterial hazard or cause digestive upset or an intestinal blockage.

I’ve seen people use sausages made for humans as dog treats. These products are not any better. They’re likely smoked or salted and may contain ingredients like …

  • MSG
  • Corn syrup
  • Artificial flavors and preservatives
  • Boatloads of salt

These are the products that are make your vet scared of pork. They’re the ones responsible for most pork-related vet visits!

Freeze First!

One common concern about pork is the risk of trichinosis.

Trichinosis is a parasite. It can cause infection in animals and people. But there have only been 11 to 20 cases per year in the US since 2002. according to the CDC. The reason the cases have declined is because hogs aren’t fed raw meat garbage any more.

Freezing and cooking meat has also helped. Since we’re focusing on raw-feeding, I’ll gloss over the cooking part … and discuss the freezing method!

Cuts less than six inches thick need to be frozen for 20 days at 5 degrees Fahrenheit … or 3 days at -4 degrees F.

Other swine parasites include …

  • Roundworms
  • Whipworms
  • Nodular worms
  • Lungworms
  • Kidneyworms

Don’t worry about your dog getting these parasites from pork. If it was frozen as above, it’s very unlikely.

But if you’re concerned, give your dogs some foods to prevent parasites, like …

  • Garlic
  • Oregon grape
  • Pumpkin seeds

Another way to eliminate and prevent parasites is to add food grade diatomaceous earth to your dog’s food. Here are the amounts …

  • Small dogs 1/2 tsp per day
  • Medium dogs 1 tsp per day
  • Large dogs 1 Tbsp per day
  • Giant breeds 2 Tbsp per day

(On our farm we choose holistic parasite prevention for our ducks, goats, chickens and pigs too!)

Pig Parts To Feed To Your Dog

As with other animals for raw feeding, you can use any and all organs:

  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Brain
  • Reproductive parts

Include (as muscle meat and raw meaty bones) …

  • Meat cuts
  • Heart
  • Tongue
  • Trachea
  • Tail
  • Neck bones
  • Rib bones

Pig’s trotters (feet) are fine to feed. Just keep in mind the size of bone your dog can handle.

Meat Packing Plant Closures

In the news lately … meat packing plants have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s affected factory farms across the country.

I happened to see a news story in my state. I feel compassion for the family … since they could lose their farm without a market for their 1200 finished hogs. But these types of farms are part of the big problem. They are the CAFOs I mentioned earlier.

The conditions are appalling.

Thousands of pigs in a barn, on floors … and in tiny crates to keep them from moving around. Their snouts aren’t rooting in the soil; they can’t wallow in the mud as pigs love to do. They can only eat what’s put in front of them … instead of their vast diet of vegetation, fruits, nuts, bugs, and roots.

The farmer has a contract with a big food processing and distribution company. So the end consumer has no idea where her food is coming from. (And she wouldn’t want to know!)

Some of these animals are now being sold through social media. They’re going for much lower prices than we recently paid for our heritage pigs. We know the difference in quality.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I don’t intend to suggest you feed pork to your dog all the time. But perhaps now you’ll feel more comfortable doing it sometimes.

Include some pastured raised pork in your dog’s regular balanced raw diet rotation. Add meats from other happy animals who frolicked in the sunshine in a fenced pasture!

We enjoy our farm animals while they grow here on Earth. They have names! We know they’re predestined for our plates … and for our dogs to eat. But they don’t know their future.

We honor their existence by raising them the best we can … and not letting any part of them go to waste.

The dogs are always excited to hear the butcher paper crinkling. And all our animals depend on us to feed them a healthy, varied diet.

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