Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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May 6, 2013

Farmers finding new ways in food production

AVON — Farming has changed drastically since David Hardin started in the industry.

For one, raising livestock has become much more capital intensive in recent decades.  Hardin said he remembers a time when you’d simply fence off part of your pasture, put the livestock in there, and toss whatever food scraps you had left from the dinner table over the fence.

Nowadays agriculture is about raising animals healthier for a safer food supply, and doing so as efficiently as possible to better protect the environment.

Hardin, who owns and operates a farm near Danville, made a presentation on the evolving farm industry to advanced foods students this week at Avon High School. He focused on pork production, since he raises about 12,000 pigs annually.

Pork has exploded in popularity. In 1959, U.S. farmers raised just more than 12 billion pounds. In 2009, it was almost 23 billion. That’s because while once an unhealthy meat choice, new methods have improved it to the point that pork tenderloin is now as lean as skinless chicken breast and it’s certified heart-healthy by the American Heart Association.

Advanced foods teacher Jamie Gleissner has been surprised by its ascent in health measures.

“I especially thought lean ground beef would be better than pork,” she said.

There are multiple reasons.  One is that most livestock is kept in climate-controlled barns now rather than outdoors. That protects them from the elements and predators. Farmers also are using selective breeding for better genetics.

“We find the animals with the best attributes and make sure we’re breeding them for a better food product,” said Hardin, who graduated from Purdue University with a degree in animal science.

He’s also changed the diet for his livestock.

“We no longer feed the animals with what’s left over from the dinner table,” Hardin said. “We’re now working with nutritionists to determine what the animals are going to eat every day.”

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