Michael and Christian Swanson raise Certified Humane® pigs at Broad Brook Acres in Preston, Connecticut.
Christian’s been in agriculture for most of her adult life. She attended the University of Connecticut for Animal Science with a focus on livestock management and has managed beef cattle and alpaca herds. She put agricultural work on hold for a few years to work as animal control officer. But her love for farming was rekindled when she met her husband Michael, who attended culinary school before serving nine years in the US Marine Corps and Reserves.
As a couple, Michael and Christian started raising pigs together on a friend’s pasture. They purchased their farm in 2014, to raise registered Berkshire pigs and crossbred hogs on pasture and woodland lots. The couple breeds Berkshire pigs, which love the cold weather, and purchase crossbred pigs from a reputable producer in the area. They are one of only two registered Berkshire breeders in Connecticut.
“The pigs were a good choice for our property since their rotational grazing habits have helped clear the wooded areas and improve the pasture land,” says Christian.
Broad Brook Acres Berkshire piglets are born in outdoor farrowing sheds where they live with their mother until they are around six-weeks-old. Once weaned, the piglets are moved to a grow-out pen until they are ready to transition to one of the farm’s pasture lands. All of the pigs are kept in rotational groups based on size and age until they are ready for processing, at roughly five to seven months.
“My husband and I began raising pigs because we both strongly disagree with the way pork is raised on commercial farms in this country,” says Christian. “Not only does the meat lack flavor, but the animals live a sad life on concrete where they cannot exhibit their natural behaviors for a happy, healthy life.”
The couple learned about Certified Humane from the Ledyard Vocational Agriculture School, which also raises Certified Humane pigs, sheep, and laying hens. Their pigs have access to the outdoors 24-7. They also spend time observing their animals, paying attention to their needs and making sure they are getting everything they need to stay healthy and happy.
“As producers, animal welfare is important to us,” says Christian. “We enjoy watching our pigs rooting around in the dirt and knowing that their needs have been met in the most natural way. We spend time with our pigs, rubbing bellies, scratching behind ears and giving treats to ensure they are happy.”
Christian says animal welfare is extremely important to their customers, too. While area residents love to visit the farm to see how the pigs are raised, not everyone can visit a farm – that’s where the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label tells their farm story. “Certified Humane® sets the standards,” says Christian. “Our animals live the best life we can give them and being in the Certified Humane® program shows our customers that we take those standards very seriously.”