Iowa is number one in the nation for pork production. There are more than 6,200 hog operations, employing 40,000 Iowans, and it has an economic impact of $7.5 billion according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association
While many Iowans probably have seen a hog barn out in the country, they may not know what goes on inside.
Over in Oskaloosa at a TriOak Foods affiliated farm owned by farmer Doug DuBruin, David Geiger reports on pigs headed to market.
DuBruin introduces what will happen once they enter the hog barn, "We're going to get ready to load a couple loads of pigs that are going to go to market so you're going to see us bring them to the front of the shed and getting them out of the door and onto the semi."
It's dawn at his hog barn, and with the truck pulled up, it's time to move pigs.
These hogs being guided out to the truck will be headed off to JBS in Ottumwa, Iowa where they'll be turned into pork chops, loins or bacon among other meats.
DuBruin says, "We're taking everything that's left in the building today. So, we're first going to get them out into the alley way and then you kind of carefully take them up the alley way to the front of the building and get them onto the semi."
They do that through sorting panels, patting, hollering, whistling, and the occasional hot shot, which is a battery powered shock not intended to cause pain and similar to a shock collar for a dog. All those actions causes discomfort to make hogs move. They may not look it, but the hogs are just shy of 300 pounds and it can be dangerous if they don't move.
DuBruin says, "It's actually really important when you're in there just to try and keep things as calm as possible. So, you don't want to get the pigs worked up and it's just better if you can keep them calm also. You try to stay behind them and work them toward the front and you try and more steer them than push them."
Stressing out the pigs is bad business, it causes PSE, or pale, soft, exudative, which downgrades the quality of the meat. Stress can even kills the pigs on the truck ride.
DuBruin doesn't want that, "We're responsible for the health and wellbeing of these pigs and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that they are comfortable, even when they're going to market so they make it there the best they can."
Pig health is in action way before moving the hogs. DuBruin and workers at the barn have to shower in and out, change clothes, and they couldn't even go onto the semi where they're guiding the hogs.
DuBruin says, "Biosecurity is very important at these buildings, we don't want to bring anything in from the outside it's just simply stepping can pick up something and bring it back into the building and get the pigs sick."
DuBruin was sending off finishing hogs, in the next couple weeks he's going to disinfect the whole barn to prepare it for a new crop of young hogs.