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Impress your friends at Bacon Fest with these 5 facts about pigs

Michael Jackson and his pigs
Showing up to a party empty-handed is not cool.

That includes Saturday’s  Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival.

Northern Iowa farmer Val Plagge and I want you to bring something enticing. We’ve rounded up five pig facts you can use to impress your fellow bacon connoisseurs.

1. They don’t always “act like pigs.” It seems like you’d never need to coax a pig to eat, but that’s the case when a pig is too hot or too cold.

Hogs reach market weight (roughly 270-300 lbs.) in six months. At that time, they prefer temperatures in the low to mid 60s.

“Our modern, temperature controlled barns allow us to keep our pigs at a comfortable temperature year-round,” says Val. “Even during the winter, when we’ve had wind chills of 30 degrees below zero, we heat our barns with market weight pigs to the 60s.”

2. They’ve slimmed down. Pigs have less fat than they did decades ago, to meet consumer demand for leaner meat.

“We’re in close consultation with our veterinarians on the proper diets for our pigs (a mix of ground corn and soybeans and a protein by-product that comes from corn after it’s been used to create ethanol), so they’re able to develop the right balance of needed fat and lean muscle,” says Val.

3. They’re susceptible to the “elements.” “Years ago, my parents and my husband’s parents raised pigs outdoors,” says Val. “To tell you the truth, the greatest thing about moving the pigs indoors is that it took them out of the ‘elements’ – weather, wild predators, disease, etc. Indoors is just a safer environment.”

“We’ve noticed fewer diseases and have had to provide less treatment than before, so our pigs are definitely healthier indoors.”

4. They feel the burn. While pigs have different colored hair (white, black, brown, gray, red), they all have white skin that can sunburn if they stay out in the sun too long.

It’s important for pigs to have shade, whether it’s a hut or a modern barn.

5. They don’t sweat (much). Pigs have a few sweat glands, but not enough to keep them cool during Iowa's hot summers.

“Hogs raised outside find relief in a shaded area or in a puddle,” says Val. “Hogs in our barns have misters, fans, thermostats, and curtains that automatically open and close to help keep them at a comfortable temperature.”

Bonus Fact! Bacon isn’t all the same. English, American, and Italian bacon comes from the belly of the pig, while Irish and Canadian bacon comes from the back. Bacon can also come from a pig’s shoulder, side, or cheek.

By Zach Bader and Val Plagge.

Zach Bader is the Online Community Manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.
Val Plagge farms in north central Iowa with her husband Ian. You can check out her blog at http://cornbeanspigskids.blogspot.com/ .