Ta Chyuan Treasure Pig Industry Co., Ltd.
Raising Pigs with a Good Conscience
Ta Chyuan Treasure Pig Industry is showing that pork from humanely raised pigs can be a commercial hit while offering a “safe” choice in a market that has been plagued by food safety scandals.
Raising Pigs with a Good ConscienceBy Rebecca Lin
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 625 )
At Ta Chyuan member farms, hogs live a comfortable species-appropriate life. They freely feed and sleep when and as much as they want. They have space to walk around as the relaxing sound of classical music and easy listening pieces wafts through the air.
“When pigs listen to music, they relax and are less likely to tense up, so their meat will be tastier,” explains Lin Shu-lin, a fourth-generation hog breeder and the chairman of Ta Chyuan Treasure Pig. “When pigs are too often kept in an uptight state, their meat will be tougher and not as delicious,” Lin remarks, departing from traditional attitudes towards the raising of pigs.
Complete Production Control
The marketing of “happy pigs” from Yunlin emphasizes the animal’s comfortable upbringing in a music-filled environment. But aside from humane husbandry and good meat quality, food safety is another issue that is always on Lin’s mind. For each hog, Ta Chyuan controls the entire production chain, from feed and growth to cutting, processing and marketing, to ensure that consumption of each piece of pork is safe.
Ta Chyuan pork is supplied to several restaurant chains that emphasize food traceability, including Suabu Family (a hot pot restaurant), A-Kuan Hot Pot Restaurant, Korean-style Dubu House, and Ippudo Ramen Express. Even China Airlines uses this pork.
“There is the question of responsibility when things are eaten. If I use drugs in raising pigs and people end up consuming drug residues, then I should also bear responsibility for it,” Lin frequently remarks.
“We want to do our job in a way that we can sleep at night with a good conscience.”
Since Ta Chyuan has been in the hog farming business for a long time, the company is well aware that if there is anything wrong with the pork, the problems most likely lie with the feedstuffs and the farm, which are the front-end of the production chain. After Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization in 2002, pork imports increased, filling the market. “[We realized that] if we don’t control products well at the source, we could easily encounter a situation where low-quality pork would be passed off as high-quality pork in the market,” notes Hsu Ming-lun, Ta Chyuan’s General Manager. So when the government began to promote the Taiwan Traceable Agricultural Product (TAP) scheme, Ta Chyuan applied immediately.
In order to get the TAP label for livestock products, every stage of production, from the feeding and raising of the pigs to the slaughtering and processing to marketing, must be recorded in detail to make it easier for consumers to check. Ta Chyuan keeps medical records for every single hog from its birth, listing all drugs that have been administered, such as vaccinations against swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease or any use of preventive antibiotics. When the piglets are 26 to 28 days old, they are transferred to housing for small pigs. In addition to formula, they are fed supplementary foods enriched with garlic extract and lactobacillus supplement to boost their immune system.
All pig feed is produced at the Ta Chyuan Feed Mill from imported raw materials to ensure control over the feed formula and prevent potential risks from unknown ingredients in ready-made pig feed.
When the small pigs have grown to a medium size, they move again to another pig house and are not administered any more drugs. “The medium-sized pigs are fed non-medicated feed, 95% of which is corn and soy beans and has, at the most, only garlic extract and lactobacillus supplement added,” remarks Hsu. When a pig gets sick, it does not get an injection but is quarantined to prevent the disease from spreading and to protect it from other pigs, who could attack it due to its high fever.
The Yunlin County Government regularly takes samples of pig feed, hair and blood to screen for veterinary drug residues. Moreover, Ta Chyuan conducts daily screening for veterinary drug residues as part of their quality control and sends samples to an independent laboratory for testing once a month.
Hsu leafs through a thick pile of the latest SGS test reports. “Total volatile basic nitrogen content is an indicator for freshness, while heavy metal content tests are for arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and copper. And then there are tests for 20 kinds of leptin and 48 different antibiotics,” he points out. The company spends more than NT$100,000 per year on testing.
Never Cheat the Consumer
Lin often boasts that the pigs on Ta Chyuan farms do not test positive for veterinary drug residues. “We guarantee that we raise the piglets from birth ourselves. We’d rather not sell them than cheat the consumer,” Lin says.
To build the brand, Ta Chyuan invested more than NT$100 million in the establishment of a meat-processing plant.
“If you want to be in the game, you have to play it for real,” Lin says.
So Ta Chyuan went on to obtain Certified Agricultural Standards (CAS) certification, which requires adherence to strict standards throughout the entire production process. The meat products need to be cut, processed, packaged and stored quickly at low temperatures.
In 2006, when Hsu joined the company, only about 60 pigs were slaughtered per month. But after a series of food safety scandals, consumers became more concerned about the source of their meat. Gradually the Treasure Pig brand gained ground, and today meat from more than 1,000 pigs is processed per month.
“There are two major advantages for the food & beverage industry when they use our pork,” Lin points out. “One is that they don’t need to worry about food safety because I treasure my reputation even more than they do their own. Second, we already have a brand reputation, so if both sides join hands, this creates a multiplier effect.”
Lin clearly has high ambitions and a far-reaching vision for the future of his nearly 60-year-old family farm.
Translated from the Chinese article by Susanne Ganz