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Fun Facts About Pigs
Slovenly? Fat? Stupid? Not pigs! Many misconceptions lie around Sus scrofa, this animal domesticated nearly ten thousand years ago. Before that the cavemen hunted wild hogs, the ancestor of pigs.
Here are some fun, illuminating facts about pigs (also called swine and hogs).
In 2009, Americans ate almost 50 pounds of pork per person.
There seems to be some public confusion over whether pork is red or white meat. Though pork looks white when cooked, it is actually classified as red meat. The difference between red and white meat comes from the amount of myoglobin in the muscle. Myoglobin is a protein that holds oxygen. The more myoglobin, the redder the color.
Baby boomers grew up with the fear of trichinosis, a parasite caused food-borne illness found in undercooked pork. However, since the 1950s the number of human illnesses from trichinosis has drastically been reduced due to better practices.
If you're concerned about the environmental impact of eating meat, it might interest you that the Environmental Working Group found that pork has a smaller carbon footprint than cheese, and is about on par with turkey and fish.
Pigs are Smart
Pigs are believed by some to be smarter than dogs, and their intelligence ranks among dolphins and elephants. Pigs have been taught to play video games, using their snouts! Because of their high intelligence, pigs can become bored and depressed. In the UK, pig pens must contain toys to provide the pigs with "manipulative material" to create a more stimulating environment. The toys suggested for pigs include old footballs, basketballs, or commercial pig balls. These toys must be switched out regularly (pigs after all get tired of playing with the same toy - I mean who would want to play with the same beanie baby for a whole year?). Similar pigpen requirements were passed in Denmark and Germany.
Pigs turn Waste into Food!
Pigs are great garbage disposals, if you will. A fun activity I do with kids on the farm is to feed broken eggs and food waste to the pigs. Pigs will eat almost anything, and turn it into delicious bacon and sausage.
A pigs gestation period is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. The farmers I've spoken to have said that this timeline rarely more than a day or two off. Easy to remember!
Pigs are Not Messy
"This place is so messy it looks like a pig-sty." FALSE! Pigs are actually quite neat creatures. They usually try to keep their waste to one corner of their pen, and seem to collectively agree on the toilet space.
Pig pens may look messy because of the mud puddles and overturned earth. But as we will learn, these features all serve an important purpose.
Pigs Need Mud
"You sweat like a pig." FALSE! Pigs don't have sweat glands! So to stay cool they roll around in the mud and dirt and seek out shade. The mud also acts as a sunscreen, which is important for pink pigs who sunburn easily.
Pigs are Lean
"He's fat as a pig." FALSE! Pigs are naturally lean creatures that like to run around and play. It has been claimed that a full grown pig can reach 7 minute mile speeds (though I'm not sure they could actually run the full mile).
Back in the day of family farms, it was a source of pride to make your pig as fat as possible. The pig lard was more valued at that time as food and for making soaps and other products.
Pigs Have an Amazing Sense of Smell
Pigs can smell food underground, like mushrooms, tubers, and bugs. In fact pigs are trained by mushroom gatherers to sniff out and dig up but not eat the highly prized truffle mushrooms. See the video of a truffle hunting pig demonstrating his skill at the truffle festival in France.
The 'rooting' of pigs - the overturning of the earth with their snouts - is a beneficial service to gardeners. Need to till your garden or loosen up compact soil? Let loose the pigs!