Checking Out the Pigs on Chris Chinn’s Farm

piglets nursing on their mom

I recently got to take my first trip to a pig farm and I’ve been looking at the photos and video and trying to decide what my followup post to the one on whether pig farms are stinky. I decided that maybe the barns and thinking about pork were good places to start. And to the eye, the first group of barns I went to, the ones that Chris (my host/friend Chris Chinn aka @ChrisChinn who blogs at kept calling farrowing barns — that’s where the baby pigs (ie piglets) are born and kept with the mommas (aka sows) when young.

The Chinn family chooses to use individual pens for the pigs and the ones in the farrowing barn include areas where the piglets can get out from under the mommas’ feet too! Some farmers choose to raise pigs outside or use barns different ways.

So what do farrowing barns for pigs look like? Well, at the Chinn’s farm, they were dark. The photo below shows the inside of one of the farrowing barns on the left and a sow barn on the right. You can see that the heat lamp the piglets are under in the farrowing barn were really the only lights in there while I was there. I didn’t think much about it til we got to some other barns and they had lots of natural light.

inside hog barns

Photos comparing the inside of farrowing barns to sow barns

When I asked, Chris pointed out that since the sows and piglets were nursing, having the lights down helps keep the focus there. And I swear, it came to me that the mother’s room at a lot of places is also dark since that helps provide a calming environment. The light went off…. Chris and her family really think through these decisions and consider what’s best for the pigs they raise!

I have to tell you, that eating pork has been a little different since I visited Chris and her family. I’m not shying away from it if that’s what you wondered, in fact, I feel more informed and aware. Probably bought a bit more pork too now that I think about it — cooked myself a great porkchop! Having had a chance to see the farm, ask some questions and get some answers, I feel like I can make better decisions.

Another blog post about going to the Chinn’s — My First Visit to a Pig Farm – Did it Smell Bad?

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About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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14 Responses to Checking Out the Pigs on Chris Chinn’s Farm

  1. Julie eyrich May 17, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    You are a very discconected person to if you think gestation crates are not cruel. Even the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) admits there is no question that stalls restrict normal behavioral expression, including the ability for the sow to turn around.
    If our beloved pets were confined to gestation crates there would be a lot of farmers sitting in jail charged with animal cruelty. Please explain how a pig suffers differently than from our pets?

    • Janice Person May 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Julie, I’d be glad to read what the experts say. Do you have a link to their position? I would like to be sure I read it for myself. I’m not suggesting I’m an expert in the least, but I am really impressed that Domino’s is trying to get good information from experts before making a decision.

  2. Scott Stillwell May 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    Follow the link. The AVMA very clearly states that there are advantages and disadvantages to all the different housing systems. While they do state that stalls restrict behavioral expression — so does a desk in any 4th grade classroom as evey 10 year old I know would rather be runnning, jumping, screaming and throwing things — some of those behaviors are not desirable in the specific environment: “Gestation stall systems may minimize aggression and injury, reduce competition, and allow individual feeding and nutritional management, assisting in control of body condition.” That is directly from the AVMA website.

    Fair and balanced — unlike Julie eyrich. Sweetheart, deception will never win the argument. Let the truth be known and let informed people make informed decisions.

    • Janice Person May 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

      Thanks Scott for the link. It looks like the veterinary association has several key factors it has identified as optimum housing and as of yet, there is no perfect system but the ones we have have benefits & weaknesses. Sounds like the rest of the world. Glad Domino’s wants to understand all of that before acting.

  3. Val Plagge May 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Way to go Domino’s for going with science. If we had a Domino’s Pizza in the area I’d be eating it this weekend!

  4. Shelby Bodine May 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Love the post! I am writing my take on them too and should be done with it by tonight. It is pretty lengthly but bring a lot of information to the table. And Scott does an excellent job of bringing the American Veterinary Medical Association’s take on housing. In an interview with Tim Sanfranski- a swine expert at the University of Minnesota- he quotes the AVMA from a 2005, I know it is older and a lot has changed but their opinion hasn’t as far as I know, that states, “No existing housing system is better than another.” Julie isn’t the only person who wants to figure out the best way that we can humanely house swine, I know I want that as well. However, I will forever be PRO-agriculture and can see the negative sides of not having these systems integrated in the swine industry. At least not until there is a compromise that doesn’t compromise the health of the animals. I am a student at Colorado State University in their animal science program and I actually just finished Dr. Temple Grandin’s class this past Spring of 2012 semester. In the extensive research I have done over the course of the past two days, I have come across multiple “quotes” that from her that really confused me. I ended up pulling up her lectures as well as my notes from class and found that the groups that are using her “quotes” are changing the entire meaning. So with that being said, as soon as I am done with my post I will leave another comment with the link! Janice you rock and thanks for doing what you do! It is hard to continuously battle against the agriculture war when many of us feel defeated daily so thank you again for keeping on!

  5. Jonathan Gilbert May 22, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Prof McGlone of Texas Tech, considered the eminent swine exper in the USAt, in his study of gestation crates -vs- penned housing, from a welfare and output perspective determined the pluses and minuses balanced out. Temple Grandin has stated ” gestation crates have got to go” The American consumer has clearly stated they want the animals raised for consumption to be treated humanely and with respect. Seems loke a no brainer to me. Intensive confinement has got to go!

    • Janice Person May 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Jonathan, I think you understand that all of us want livestock treated with respect and with their welfare as a focus. That’s a no brainer. The difference is what people think that looks like. I hope you can accept there are differences of opinion on that and we can all move on.


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