Commercial pig farms have a reputation for their smell, but Stephen Green was more troubled by the sound of all those pigs, confined in quarters so tight they could barely turn around. In this segment of Milk and Honey, we bring you the story of Green’s lifetime fascination with pigs and his farm, Pork and Greens, dedicated to keeping English Large Blacks alive, a rare breed of pig teetering on the brink of extinction according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Stephen Green: I really don’t know why I had a fascination with pigs. It’s just pigs are really smart. I’d say they’re on par with dogs.
When I went to school at the University of Georgia and I got a degree in Animal Science. And I had wanted to work with pigs. As soon as I graduated I went to work in North Carolina for a big commercial pig producer. And I actually went to work for another large company in the panhandle of Oklahoma and, you know, unless you’ve seen one that’s – it’s – they’re enormous. I mean, they’re just huge buildings just lined up one after another. The pigs, they’re confining them in either pens or individual crates with hardly no room to move and they’re all on concrete.
There’s so many of them you couldn’t – I mean, you can’t see the floor and I mean the sound is so incredible you had to wear earplugs.
The more I saw how the pigs were being raised it really bothered me. You know, when you look at these animals every day, you know, you just – I mean, you think about, you know, I mean, what’s that like to be confined in a cage that’s two foot by seven foot cage your entire life. I mean, it’s not coming from a bleeding heart liberal standpoint or something like that. I just felt like, “Man, there’s some other way to do this.”
My name’s Stephen Green and I’m the owner of a farm business we call Pork & Greens. It’s located between Bixby and Beggs in Okmulgee County.
As far as putting my foot down, but actually it’s my wife, she’s an accountant and she got a job offer in Tulsa that was really hard for her to turn down. And I told her she [should just let it] go. I’d done carpentry work and that’s actually what I did when we first moved back is I started a little framing business, framing houses. And, you know, but my – but the pig thing never left me. So, I bought some land up near a little town called Tulola and I drove up to Indiana and got an English large black gilt. Which English large black’s a rare breed, heritage pig. Pigs that are like on the endangered species for livestock, that these animals don’t get used and, you know, introduced into the market somehow. They’re eventually just going to disappear. And, you know, without having these type of pigs then trying to grow pigs to raise for people that are conscious about what they eat and, you know, I don’t think it would be possible.
In my opinion, they’re better pigs than the modern breed pigs because they thrive outdoors. You don’t have to put them in buildings and, you know, they do really well and – you know, at least in my experience with them the – there’s definitely a market for them. I mean, my business has just taken off and grown. And, you know, that’s really all we’re doing right now is the rare breed pig so, people seem to really like the pork.