In this file:


·         Going Niche with Niman Ranch Pork

·         Expanding organic and niche pork production in the United States

·         PIG Releases Biosecurity Videos for Alternative Pork Production



Going Niche with Niman Ranch Pork

Instead of Competing with the Powerhouses, Stay Small and Smart


By Betsy Freese, Successful Farming - 2/11/2020


Plan B for Ron Mardesen came hard and fast in the winter of 1998, when hog market prices plummeted to under 10˘ a pound. Earlier that year, the Elliott, Iowa, pork producer had read about Niman Ranch in an article in Successful Farming magazine.


The Niman philosophy of raising pigs on pasture “the way God intended,” as Mardesen describes it, appealed to him. His own farm, A-Frame Acres, was already a good fit for that niche market. But after making some inquiries, Mardesen decided against joining the company.


A few months later, Mardesen had to pursue alternatives if he was going to continue to raise pigs. “It was an absolutely horrible time,” he says.


He signed up with Niman and sold his first pigs in the program in 2002. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Niman, and I haven’t looked back,” he says.


Today, Mardesen has 80 sows producing pigs for Niman Ranch. The company is humane certified, which means the pigs have to be raised to stringent, humane health care standards. Pigs are raised either in a pasture or in deeply bedded pens. There are no crates, no antibiotics unless a pig is sick, no tail docking, and 28-day weaning.


“Niman has given me the opportunity to look ahead,” says Mardesen. “Niman sells the meat for me so I can concentrate on being a better producer, knowing that I have the stability and the opportunity to move my product.”


Niman boasts that it sells the finest-tasting meat in the world, so it has to back that up, he explains. Every Niman farmer has meat evaluated on a yearly basis for color, intermuscular fat, and more. “We are all compared against each other. If you wind up in the bottom 10%, Niman comes out and helps you,” he says. “We are always improving.”


Production numbers for the farm can’t compete with confinement operations, and he’s OK with that...





Expanding organic and niche pork production in the United States

The Iowa Organic Association (IOA) will host the Second Annual Midwest Organic Pork Conference (MOPC) in Dubuque, Iowa on 13-14 March, 2020.


The Pig Site

11 February 2020


Building on the success of its inaugural year in 2019, this conference is the only one in the United States dedicated to presenting the best resources and information available to help expand opportunities for organic and niche pork production and distribution. More information is available at


Conference topics include Herd Health with a focus on biosecurity, organic processing, feed and nutrition, soil health, transitioning to organic, genetics and breeding, marketing and economics.


“The MOPC provides a venue to bring together a diverse group of expert organic and niche hog farmers, organic researchers, industry experts and others who share available research, best production practices and technical assistance for organic hog production with apprentice, transitioning and organic farmers from across the Midwest,” says Rosalyn Lehman, Iowa Organic Association executive director. “This conference will further motivate interest in developing new research networks to support an expanding organic hog industry.”


This unique conference begins on Friday 13 March with two workshops; one on establishing a profitable production flow and the other on becoming an organic processor.


“Our Organic processing workshop will help us address an unmet need,” said Lehman. “We hear from our producers all the time on the need for more processors in general and definitely for more to meet the growing demand from organic producers. This workshop will not only discuss how to become organic certified as a processor but also provide valuable tips to producers on how to work with their processors.”


Multiple breakout and keynote sessions will be available on Friday afternoon and Saturday covering such topics as parasite pasture management, biosecurity, natural treatments, the latest research on feeding small grains, farrow-to-finish systems, organic certification, marketing and more.


Why the need? ...


more, including links



PIG Releases Biosecurity Videos for Alternative Pork Production


Jennifer Shike, FarmJournal's Pork

February 11, 2020


Alternative pork production presents unique challenges for biosecurity. Niche, pasture pork, hoop barns, traditional pork or heritage breeds, are just a few examples of the alternative production methods highlighted in three new videos recently added to the Pork Information Gateway (PIG).


These videos, designed to aid producers who focus on raising pigs using alternative methods of production, focus on biosecurity and sourcing feed.


“The Pork Information Gateway offers extensive resources for producers, educators, Extension staff and even students,” said Beverly Durgan, director of Extension at the University of Minnesota and U.S. Pork Center of Excellence (USPCE) board of director chairman in a release. “The new videos are the perfect addition to the online library, especially at a time when producers are strengthening their biosecurity and sourcing their feed more strictly.”


The new videos are: