The word verboten means “forbidden”—which means more pork for those of us who adore it.

I’ve heard dedicated vegans confess to eating bacon a few times a year because who could resist that distinct, succulent smell. Or carnitas. Or BBQ ribs with a side of pork and beans. Or a pile of prosciutto with fresh sliced melon.

There’s good reason why there are so many devotees to the unholiest of meats. Like other livestock, when a pig is raised in a manner that respects both the animal and the environment, the only appropriate next step is to be grateful and enjoy it.

Cook Pigs Ranch/Photo @annewatsonphoto


Evidence shows that pork and other meats have enriched nutritional value when pasture-raised. The higher levels of healthy fatty acids like omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) are great for your skin—plus, CLA promotes muscle building and weight loss. Pasture-raised pork also boasts a lower calorie content compared to conventionally raised pigs.


Conventional pork generally refers to pigs raised in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). Being raised in a CAFO means that pigs spend their lives indoors in confined facilities, and eat heavy loads of feed corn and soy with a side of antibiotics and hormones. While the USDA report of declining sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals in 2016 is a shift in the right direction, it’s not enough to quell concerns from scientists around the world and even the Center for Disease Control that the overuse of antibiotics in food animals could lead to the creation of resistant superbugs that threaten public health.

Pasture-raised implies that the animal is raised outdoors and has free range, with little to no supplemented feed, and is free of antibiotics and hormones. Krystina Cook of Cook Pigs (the woman behind the heritage pork prepared by chef Brian Redzikowski of Kettner Exchange who took home the regional Cochon 555 trophy back in March) says that “because the animals are working their [natural] feed into their muscles, the meat has better marbling and a richer, deeper flavor.”



Da-Le Ranch and Sage Mountain Farm are some of the more accessible pastured pork producers for Southern California consumers, with a variety of meats available for sale at farmers’ markets and for order online.

Cook Pigs has moved their herd from Alpine to Petaluma for greener pastures, but still sells whole heritage pigs to local butcher shop Heart & Trotter, and direct to local restaurants like Kettner Exchange, Juniper and Ivy, Born and Raised, Mister A’s, and Cowboy Star.

Stehly Farms is also favored for their pigs by several San Diego chefs, as is Taj Farms. And, for thick slices of antibiotic- and hormone-free bacon, go see the butcher at Valley Farm Market in Spring Valley.

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