Article - To Market, To Market to Buy a Fat Pig


To Market, To Market to Buy a Fat Pig

By Gail Frank, DrPH, MPH, RD, CHES




And so the bedtime story leads us into a dreamy, fun adventure before we are ‘home again, home again jiggly jig’, never thinking about the importance of pigs.   The fun side overshadows reality.   We love the cuteness of pigs and are surprised to learn that care for them on pig farms resembles the care we give our human newborns. 

Pig farmers assure that momma pigs are eating healthy adjusting daily rations for protein, vitamins and minerals, drinking plenty of water (each has her own water and food spigot) and getting plenty of naps and nighttime sleep.   She has her very own ‘birthing’ pen (we call it ‘Baby Friendly Hospitals’ in Orange County’ for humans). 

The pen protects the pig from pushy, pregnant ‘soon to be’ moms and allows her to rest whenever she wants.  Humans wear headsets during a guided tour of a pig farm just like you do in a museum to keep things quiet.  Pigs oink when they need to, but otherwise, they live a quiet existence.  With a headset you listen to explanations from trained staff about what you are seeing (we call these expert staff ‘docents’ in museums).  And, interesting to point out, all visitors must shower from head to toe and put on clean ‘nursing scrubs’.  

All these actions are taken to keep the sow healthy and disease free during each of her 5 pregnancies.  With the tour, live births occur and the magic of little pups making their way to breastfeed mom brings many a smile to your face…the amazement and beauty of life right in front of you!

The natural cycle of a pig’s life going from delivery of her 12-16 pups per litter to her final contribution to mankind are worthy of a golden certificate for ‘Job Well Done.’   The first half of her life keeps the generation of pigs going, but the second half of her life keeps humans going.

Pigs contributes to several popular cuts of quality, nutrient-dense protein on our tables and will be the centerpiece of many a football tailgate.  Let’s not forget the all-time favorite sandwich around the world, the Ham and Cheese!  This is likely the easiest and most popular meat sandwich in many school lunch sacks year-round!   

The reality of these contributions didn’t set in for Brooklyn Frank of Garden Grove because at 2 years old going to the Orange County Fair and finding her pig friend was just plain fun.  As she proudly posed, she wanted to take her new playmate home, but mom and dad said no.  The same happening occurred for Brooklyn’s grandma, Gigi, almost 2,000 miles away as she cuddled a live one-week old piglet near Des Moines, Iowa.  She wanted to take it home to Los Al, but had to say no.  Little did they know how vital embracing a pig is to the quality of the pig’s life as well as to the quality of the one we lead. 

No other animal provides society with a wider range of products than the hog.  Pigs give us more than bacon, chops, ham, roast and ribs!  After their primary goal of reproducing more cute piglets, they have a vital role contributing to everyday items from drum heads and pigskin footballs…”Go Griffins!” to violin strings for orchestras and young artists, porcine burn dressings to sooth the pain, skins for leather goods like all those gorgeous shoes and purses, and glycerin for antifreeze (let’s hope we have lots of snow this winter!). 

Don’t forget what’s under our feet…yes, the linoleum on our floors as well as the gelatin for our marshmallows roast on Labor Day are made from pork by-products!  If you have Type 1 diabetes, be thankful for the insulin which keeps you alive ……….. and other pork byproducts which are ingredients for a variety of medicines not to mention hearts used in xenotransplantation.  Stearin from pigs is needed for chewing gum and candies.  For the established and budding young artists in the community, where do you think we find the hair for your brushes and ladies, that boar bristle brush that you use because it is so gentle on your hair…well, yes, boar…like in pig bristles! Ever think that all the cheeses you love wouldn’t harden without rennet from pigs? And finally, don’t forget the family’s precious bone china passed from generation to generation!  Yes…. Guess where does the bone comes from?

There you have it!  Caring for each generation of pigs on U.S. farms stretching from Iowa to California, from Mississippi to Massachusetts, is caring and adding quality to each generation of people.

Gail learned about the birthing and weaning process of pigs.


Brooklyn Frank, 2 year old resident of Garden Grove, found herself a friendly pig at the OC Fair.


National Pork Board sponsored this educational trip.


Gail is a Professor of Nutrition and Director of an Accredited Internship at California State University Long Beach graduating 343 RDNs into the profession since 1989. She was Co-Principal Investigator for the ‘Women’s Health Initiative’ at the University of California, Irvine, from 1994 to 2005. In 2000,she founded “Students Active in Community Health’ at CSULB to focus on health of the 5th most diverse community in the U.S. From 2012-2017 Gail was Co-Project Director of a USDA-funded community grant developing a nutrition and health promotion program for Latinos in Long Beach. Before moving to California, Gail was President of the New Orleans Dietetic Association and co-founded the Greater New Orleans Nutrition Specialists when an Assistant Professor at LSU Medical Center. She designed and implemented the dietary studies of the Bogalusa Heart Study from 1972 until 1987.  From 2003 to 2019, Gail served on the Academy Wt. Mgt. Certificate Program Faculty for ‘Child and Adolescents Weight Management’ training speaking on ‘Motivational Interviewing’ and ‘Cultural Competence.’ She is a Certified Health Education Specialist, past Treasurer of the Women’s Health DPG and past Chair of the Nutrition Research DPG. She was a Spokesperson for the Academy for 19 years serving in New Orleans and Los Angeles.  Gail received the Trinco Service Award from the Latino and Hispanic MIG and an Academy Medallion Award in October, 2019.