The demand for humanely raised pork is growing in the U.S., thanks to concern from consumers about animal welfare. Modern consumers are more willing to pay higher prices for meat certified to have come humanely raised pigs, the New York Times reports.
Consumers are eager to buy pigs that live on pastures, rather than those raised in gestation crates, or small stalls that confine movement. And businesses are responding favorably to consumer demand.
Big food businesses from McDonald's to Oscar Mayer and Safeway have promised to stop selling pork from pigs raised in crates over the next decade. Smithfield Farms, one of the country's largest pork processors, announced this month that it was encouraging all contractors raising hogs on its behalf to move to the use of group pens, which have to be big enough for several pigs to live in comfortably, with space to walk around and bed down.
Other restaurant chains, like Chipotle, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have been designing menus with humane meat as a selling point to their customers for years.
The pigs aren't the only ones that benefit -- the cases of trichinosis, a disease that is often attributed to pork and boar consumption, in the United States has declined as the number of pastured pigs has increased.
There are about 500,000 to 750,000 pastured pigs in the U.S., compared to 67.8 million commercial pigs, according to research done at Iowa State University.