Caseophiles likely know that certain cheeses—most notably ricotta—are made from whey. But this high-protein liquid by-product of cheesemaking has other valuable uses. Some dairies give whey back to their cattle as a feed supplement, but increasingly it’s become a sought-after adjunct to pig fodder. Small-scale farms and ranches nationwide give their hogs whey as a nutrient-rich way to fatten the animals, which yields well-marbled, flavorful, tender meat. Now, one prominent Vermont cheesemaker is running with that concept and partnering up with a neighboring farm to create a viable pasture-raised pork company.
Jasper Hill Farm recently announced that it will be partnering with Pete’s Greens—an organic, four-season vegetable, hay, and pastured livestock farm in nearby Craftsbury—to launch VT99 Meats. The joint venture aims to produce “high-value pork from the waste streams of [the] two businesses.” The pigs will dine on supplemental whey and waste vegetables, in addition to their seasonal foraged diet (the pigs are currently wintering in a converted dairy barn at Pete’s Greens).
Jasper Hill Farm has been raising heritage-breed pigs—Berkshires and Tamworths—on their Greensboro farm, selling the meat to employees and to consumers through Pete’s Greens’s meat CSA. With VT99, the neighboring farms are rotating pigs across shared land, feeding them their respective high-nutrient by-products. The pigs are raised in pasture, which is an essential tenet for humane livestock management. In this manner, they’re able to engage in natural behaviors such as rooting (which helps aerate the soil), wallowing, and foraging for insects and plants (including opportunistic species that would otherwise become invasive), unlike industrial hogs, which are confined to indoor concrete pens that severely restrict movement. In addition to providing a better life for the pigs—social creatures that do better when raised in groups—the result is superb-tasting meat.
Says Emily Herschberger, Human Resources Manager at Jasper Hill Farm, “The plan is to rotationally graze the pigs on the hay fields at Pete’s Greens. We want to practice and promote environmentally sustainable farming practices, as well humane livestock management.” One of the cheesemakers at Jasper Hill is also a trained chef and charcutier, so culture will keep you posted on good (tasting) things to come.
Feature Photo Credit: Jasper Hill Farm