Tuesday afternoon, August 14, ten people—including Pipestone Vet Clinic’s Carissa Odland, DVM, and Pipestone Management’s Terry Wolters—crowded around the manager of Pheasant Run sow farm near Cleveland, Minnesota to hear a description of the farrowing process. Five of the 10 were mothers that are active in their communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul who had agreed to participate in an Oink Outing. Most of these women had never set foot on a farm, but were interested to learn how pork gets from the farm to their dining room tables.
The Oink Outing event started at 10:30 a.m. in the Fire Lake Grill House in downtown Minneapolis. Chef Paul Lynch gave the group a personal tour and demonstrated some special tricks on how to prepare pork. He also informed them of recent research which had found that pork can be safely cooked at a lower temperature than had previously been thought (145o F followed by a 3-minute rest). Finally, he prepared one of his favorite recipes for the group—a honey glazed pork chop with white potatoes and apples.
Oink Outing participants visited the kitchen of the Fire Lake Grill House in downtown Minneapolis. Participants included, left to right: Andrea Berg, Suzi Magill, Joan Powell, Chef Paul Lynch, Stephanie Ash, and Sarah Garvin. At far right, Dr. Carissa Odland and Terry Wolters of Pipestone Management answered these women’s questions about how pork is produced.
After lunch, the group drove to Cleveland where they showered into the sow farm for their tour of Pheasant Run. “One of the more impactful moments for these women seemed to be when they saw the difference in size between the sows and the piglets being born,” says Dr. Odland. “They were amazed how big these pigs would someday become.”
The women asked good questions like what do you feed the sows, how much do they eat, and what you do to maintain the piglets’ health. Other questions centered on the barn’s ventilation and what happens after the pigs are weaned off the sow.
To help answer the question about where the pigs go after weaning, Pipestone Management shareholder Brian Braun met the group at Pheasant Run and took them to his nearby finishing barn. “We tried to explain the flow from sow farm to nursery to finisher and then to the table” says Dr. Odland.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to share what we do every day to make sure our animals have the best care with people who don’t have a lot of agriculture experience,” continues Dr. Odland. She says one comment in particular hit home with her when one of the participants commented, “I thought all the animals would be outside.” Rather than a criticism, the comment simply showed the metro mom’s surprise at what she saw. It gave Dr. Odland the opportunity to explain the health and safety benefits of keeping pigs inside and how it protects them from the environment.
Another mom commented in a survey completed by the Oink Outing participants that her point of view on Minnesota swine producers had changed after her tour because “the people [she] encountered were passionate about their job and highly knowledgeable about [the pigs].”
That’s the purpose of these Oink Outings being sponsored for the second year by Minnesota Pork Producers Association. They seek to communicate your story to consumers whose preferences drive decisions in the marketplace.