My entire time in classes in France I had learned about dairy goats, cows, and sheep and I hadn’t seen a French pig until today, and the system’s appearance seems dramatically different than the U.S. The Huet Family Farm is my location for the next four weeks. Settled in the small town of Auvers-le- Hamon, France, I am living with Esteban Huet, his roommate, a kitten, Francis the donkey, a dog named Neo, a turkey, and laying hens in a small French home on one of the farm’s four locations.
With 450 sows producing 10,000 pigs a year and a quarterly goals report posted in the break room, the facility seems like any other intensive farm in the U.S., however, two of the sites on the Huet’s farm are Label Rouge, the highest quality label a farm can receive in France. This requires them to comply with regulations governing the exact space per pig, having castrated males or gilts used only, freedom for the pigs to go outside, and having straw bedding. These requirements force the finishing operations to be dramatically different than what is custom in the U.S.
The experience I will gain here is unlike anything that is possible in the U.S. with the scale of the farm and the agricultural practices they consider daily tasks. I am interested in their methods because of the rapid changes being made to Michigan’s own swine industry towards a management system similar to the Huet’s farm.