Because that’s one of the top search terms that brings people to my blog. I was surprised — I kind of assumed some of my more controversial posts would be what drew people in. I mean, they do. But apparently as far as long-term searchability goes, people are always talking about things like mental health and the self esteem of young women in today’s society. Controversial subjects get talked about a lot.
Apparently, Duroc pigs are not so common — or rather, they’re not so common to write about, but are very common to Google.
Now, I like Duroc pigs. Have I ever knowingly eaten one? Have I ever set out on a quest for pork and said, “Only Duroc will do!” Nope. I like Durocs because they’re pretty. Yes, it’s just as superficial as that. I like their forward-flopping ears, and their unusual red coloration. It’s such a nice pop of color against the muted pinks and blues and occasional blacks that you see in most cases. (The extent of my swine experience generally comes from what I’ve learned from others, and the fact that the hog barn was attached to the rabbit barn at the county fair where I grew up. Since I showed and raised rabbits, I got to know the swine-raising kids pretty well…and some of their animals.)
If I had to pick two runners-up for favorite breeds of pig, I’d say Poland China and Hereford. I like the markings. I’m a sucker for good aesthetics. That’s probably why I’m never going to be trusted to run a farm singlehandedly. I like pretty things, and agriculture that fulfills all of our needs ain’t always pretty.
Wheat fields are breath-taking to me. Really. I’ve been surrounded by them most of my life and I could still stare out over a wheat field and find something captivating about it. Corn fields are beautiful to me. Bean fields are okay, but they don’t have the same impact on my as wheat and, to a lesser extent, corn. Don’t even get me started on the beauty of sunflowers in bloom, or groves full of nut and fruit trees.
And have you ever seen a well-bred dairy cow? I once laughed, before spending time getting to know the dairy industry, because of the words people used to describe dairy cows. “She’s feminine.” “She’s leggy.” “She’s elegant.” Now, I know. Even growing up around agriculture, even having hands-on experience with our own cattle, I hardly thought cows were “feminine” or “elegant.” Especially not the beef cattle I grew up around. They were…beefy. And tasty. Now, as an adult, I have a whole new perspective on how gorgeous livestock really can be.
Obviously, there’s a lot of beauty to be found in agriculture. In the land, the crops, the animals. In the people. Yeah, the people. Those hard-working, persistent, tough-as-nails people. The people I’m so proud to be able to work with each day, in one way or another.
I think Duroc pigs are attractive. A lot of people agree with me. So, why aren’t they more common? Why don’t all farmers who own pigs, just own “pretty” pigs like Durocs?
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I remember having a debate with a hog-savvy friends about why Blue Butt Pigs (a Yorkshire/Hampshire cross, which generally results in a white (a.k.a. pink) pig with a blueish-colored spot over its back) were the most beautiful pigs she could think of. Now, I was thinking, aesthetic. To her, though, from her lifetime of hog experience, a York/Hamp cross was what equated to “beautiful” livestock — in that, the livestock served a function, and served it well. In this case, Blue Butt Pigs (or rather, the mixing of Yorkshire and Hampshire pigs) created piglets that were easy for mothers to raise and easy for farmers to feed and nurture. To another farmer, that beauty might come in the form of some other pure-bred pig, or a different mix of breeds. Durocs may not fulfill all the needs that farmer or his customer base may have. To other farmers, their niche market might call for something a little more pastoral, like a heritage breed such as Red Waddle pigs. (If you want to know more about these bad boys, my friend Megan is pasture-raising some and blogs about them all the time!) Beauty comes in many different forms.
See, even though I say agriculture isn’t always “beautiful” — that’s a lie. It has its less-aesthetically-pleasing moments. It’s really hard to feel beautiful, as a girl, when you’re coated with manure from cleaning out pens. It’s really hard to find the beauty in euthanizing an animal that should have had a good life. But, the big picture tells a different story. The big picture shows us a finely-woven tapestry that includes an amazing combination of many colorful threads. Whether it’s Duroc pigs or Blue Butts or Yorkshires or Hampshires or Red Waddle pigs, they all help contribute to a massively-productive, typically safe and efficient and healthy pork industry. Beauty comes in many different shapes, and sometimes beauty comes in the form of efficiency, diversity, and wonderful flexibility. And that goes for all of agriculture.
And the next time I end up covered in livestock urine while wearing high heels, I’ll be sure to remind myself of that.