Perspectives Online

Pastured pork comes to campus

University Dining served pastured pork sausage patties as part of a Sunday brunch in September. On hand for the meal were (from left) Robyn Stout, Dr. Sarah Ash and Kristen Davis, a junior in Animal Science, along with Bobby and Carrie Bradds, the farmers who provided the pork, and their children, Dustin, Cassie and Jennifer.
Photo by Dave Caldwell

Knowledge can be the equivalent of a stone thrown into a pond, creating an initial splash, then ripples that extend far beyond that first impact.

That certainly seems to be the case for an honors seminar taught by Dr. Sarah Ash, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate professor of food science, in the spring of 2007. The seminar was titled “Going Local: Bringing Pasture-Raised Pork to an Institutional Setting — Challenges and Opportunities.”

On the brickyard during Ag Awareness Week, seminar student Kristina Bowles shares pastured pork sausage samples.
Photo by Dave Caldwell
Ash said the seminar was designed to raise campus awareness of alternative pork production. A farmer who raises what is often called pastured pork spoke to the class about alternative pork production, as did Dr. Morgan Morrow, a veterinarian and professor of animal science. Pastured pork refers to pigs that are allowed to roam fields rather than raised in confinement barns with concrete floors.

The students also interviewed Mark Rice, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialist in biological and agricultural engineering, whose work focuses on swine waste management. And Robyn Stout, a representative of the N.C. Choices program, worked closely with the class. N.C. Choices is a grant-funded initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a sustainable agriculture research and education center in Goldsboro. Choices is designed to connect farmers who raise pasture pork with customers and provide technical education to farmers, processors and extension agents.

The five students participating in the seminar, all undergraduates, produced a brochure on alternative pork, which they handed out on the brickyard during Ag Awareness Week in the spring. They also developed a poster, which took first place at the university’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, and put together a well-received presentation for other CALS honors class sections.

The students were Kristina Bowles, a senior in biological sciences; Kristen Davis, a junior in animal science; Stacy Mabe, a senior in animal science; Scott Matthews, a junior in biological sciences-nutrition; and Caroline Williams, a junior in social work.

Also during Ag Awareness Week, the students circulated a petition asking University Dining to serve pastured pork. They then met with Randy Lait, University Dining business officer, presented the petition and asked that University Dining serve pastured pork.

The request was granted Sept. 30 when 875 2-oz. sausage patties were part of the Sunday brunch menu at three university dining halls. The sausage was purchased from Bradds Family Farm in Climax. Ash, Stout, Kristen Davis and Bobby and Carrie Bradds from Bradds Family Farm were on hand to talk with students about alternative pork production.

“After hearing why we were out there, many of the students thanked us for giving them the opportunity to support a local farmer who raises his hogs outdoors on pasture,” said Stout.

University Dining also purchased pastured pork smoked hams that were served as part of an All Carolina Dinner served Oct. 18.

— Dave Caldwell