With the current back-to-the-land movement taking place, the growing desire of consumers to purchase local, traceable products has led to an increase in the beef, pork and poultry industry in Southern Illinois. Residents want to be more in touch with nature and know where their food comes from and two local livestock farms in the area are giving the people what they are looking for.

Big Muddy Hogs

Roger Schuttek and Tina Benz, owners of Big Muddy Hogs, are two local farmers who value ethical and sustainable farming practices at their 30 acre hog farm in Hurst. The pair began with chickens and farm fresh eggs in 2012 and started raising pigs in 2013. They are dedicated to the practice of raising healthy, happy animals and believe in transparency in their business.

“The pigs are raised ethically. They aren’t mistreated or packed into barns on concrete. It’s an animal, not a commodity. They deserve to be taken care of and respected,” remarked Schuttek.

The hogs are antibiotic and hormone free and forage in the wooded areas and pastures on the property. This lifestyle ensures a healthy, natural source of pork for local consumers without the worry of what mystery ingredients may be hiding in the meat.

“Since they aren’t overcrowded, we don’t have a lot of health issues so we don’t have to use antibiotics or hormones,” said Schuttek.

Schuttek spoke proudly of the way he moves the pigs around to different areas of the farm, where they can dig and eat a variety of grasses and nuts. With a majority of the acreage being former mining land, invasive species had begun to overrun some portions of the land.

“After a while, some of the native species of grasses start coming back. The pigs help out the land, too,” said Schuttek.

While the pigs are foraging in the dirt, they aerate the soil and fertilize it so that the next time around they have a healthier selection.

The flavor and freshness of the pork and eggs is a strong selling point for residents of Southern Illinois. Big Muddy Hogs products can be purchased at Neighborhood Co-op Grocery in Carbondale but for the most part, Schuttek and Benz sell their variety of eggs, bacon, steaks, bratwursts and other pork products out of the farm store on their land, where customers are welcome to visit and see for themselves where their food is raised.

Lick Creek Pork & Beef

Another local livestock farmer, Joshua Buchheit, shares the same compassion for sustainable farming and producing the finest quality meat for local consumers. At Lick Creek Pork & Beef, Buchheit raises 100 percent grass-fed and finished beef and pasture raised, non-GMO grain finished pork. The result is a flavorful, nutritious selection of beef and pork that is quite popular across Southern Illinois.

“The reason I do what I do is for the sustainability of it. There’s a lot of other entities that aren’t sustainable. Another thing I focus on is the healthfulness of the meat,” said Buchheit.

In 1996 Buchheit’s father purchased 12 head of cattle as a means for not having to mow. The following year they purchased another eight head and from those original 20 animals they remain a closed herd.

“We don’t buy any outside animals to meet market demand. Everything we raise is from start to finish,” remarked Buchheit.

Lick Creek Pork & Beef was established in 2006 when Buchheit got his broker’s license so he could sell directly to consumers. He began raising pigs in 2014 while looking for a way to expand what his farm offers. There are seven heritage breeds in the herd and the majority of their diet is from the pasture and woodlands they are rotated on, which ensures a different flavor profile and a more healthful meat.

Buchheit’s father, who assists in raising the livestock, often uses the phrase, “you are what your eats eat,” and at Lick Creek Pork & Beef the healthfulness of the products gives consumers confidence that they are making a sound decision in their diet. Buchheit proudly pointed out the lower ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in their meat, as compared to industrially produced meat, as a selling point consumers should consider. When he isn’t busy on the farm, tending to the countless tasks of raising cattle and pigs, Buchheit can be found talking to a line of customers at one of the three farmers markets he attends each week. Lick Creek Pork & Beef also has popular menu items at Fat Patties in Carbondale and Yellow Moon Café in Cobden.

The animals raised on these and other local farms are happier, free to eat when they want and roam the land. Beyond the wide range of nutritional benefits provided by eating local meat and eggs, trading with farmers in Southern Illinois supports our local economy, too. Most importantly though, the meat, eggs and poultry are robust and full of flavor!

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