Sourcing great ingredients and getting to know the folks who grow our food is important. Last week, Nick Pihakis and Drew Robinson, Both of Jim 'n Nick's, Donald Link, Executive Chef and Owner of Herbsaint and Cochon in New Orleans, and Dan Latham, chef and seeker of sustainable meat sources, traveled to South Georgia to visit two well-known leaders in the pastured, humane and organic livestock business.
Thompson Farms located just a couple of miles from the Florida border in Dixie, Georgia, has been a family farm, raising pork since the 1930's. In the beginning, like all Southern pig farms, the pigs were raised "on the ground"--meaning they were out in a field, foraging and being supplemented with other foods like corn, grains and scraps (remember "slopping the hogs"?). When industrial farming techniques became stylish, Thompson's pigs were put on "concrete". This was a way to keep them in easy to clean pens and while it makes the farmer's life seemingly (very important word here) easier, it is not natural for the pigs. Also confinement lot farming means that the animals catch illnesses from each other, don't have as varied a diet and they end up being sick quite a lot. Animal death is increased as is use of antibiotics--this means extra expense and also more work for the farmer, not to mention animal suffering. A few years back, the Thompson's decided to put their pigs back on the ground. They now rotate the pigs from field to field and the animals are allowed to roam and act naturally. The result is actually less work according to Andrew Thompson and the result is happy animals, less disease and a beautiful farm. Thompson Farms has also almost completed their new on-farm processing facility. It's an incredible feat for a farmer to build a slaughterhouse but this also means that the farmer has even more control over the health and well being of the animals and the quality is under their watch from the beginning to the end. We wish the good folks at Thompson Farms the very best and encourage you to seek out their products. You can buy their pork from www.thompsonfarms.com and at Whole Foods Market in the Southeast region.