This Little Piggy Went to Market

This Little Piggy Went…

No other animal is as vilified or as admired as the pig. If you decide you want to insult another person, you could call them a pig. However, in the foodie community, the swine is one of the most revered of the barnyard lineages. Indeed, pigs have long been recognized for their intelligence. Winston Churchill, renowned leader of men, may have been speaking to the nobility of pigs when he said “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”


Sweet Briar Farms is known for their farm-raised pork steaks, ribs, bacon, ham, roast, and sausage made popular by their presence at Portland farmers markets and local restaurants. I am driving to meet with someone from the Cooper Family, the owners and distributors of some of my favorite pork. During the drive, I find myself questioning how it is that I have no moral qualms about eating swine. I loved the movie Babe! And I’m not generally into the whole slaughterhouse scene. Though… I have found it to be true that everything really is better with bacon.


Just past Eugene I take a small country road decorated with signs that offer honey and wine. The sight of green pastures with bowed horses grazing easily upon them bring to my mind the phrase “Hog Heaven”. I can almost hear the contented grunting of pigs. I arrive at Sweet Briar Farms to find Keith Cooper, who smiles and waves my car through the gate. We finally meet in person just outside the barn, surrounded by company vans and neatly stacked coolers ready to take the little piggies to market.



Keith Cooper is a quiet and friendly man. “How did you get started in the pig business?” I ask. “It was a 4H project” he says, referring to the lauded learning program for youth administered by the Department of Agriculture. “The kids raised pigs and then it just kind of grew from there.” Keith takes us into the first barn where the feed is kept. It is admittedly small operation. The site is clean and the pigs seem satisfied, huffing their welcome to us in pig. Keith tells me that he cleans their pens twice a day.


“If I had the choice I would never leave the farm, not even to buy groceries or go to the bank.” Keith says. We are walking to a different barn, one that houses the “sows”, or mother pigs, as well as “porkers” and “baconers”, or medium-sized and larger sized pigs. These pigs are fed five times a day on combinations of wheat and vitamins. Keith continues to tell me his story. “I was raised on a farm myself and so it seemed natural to start a business. Growing up I was the one who always stayed home. Unfortunately, that farm wasn’t the type that the indentured slave inherits. I had to get my own.”


These adult pigs are able to freely leave the barn to go into an pen outside. A roof hangs overhead to protect their easily burned skin from the sun. They clearly have a good lifestyle, with clean pens, fresh air, and plenty of room. Indeed it is the “Hog Heaven” that I had imagined… although the cats seem to be particularly happy too.


Sweet Briar Farm products are available at many Portland Saturday Markets and local restaurants.



Leave a Reply