For the Love of “Some Pig” with Thanks to Pink Lady and E.B. White
Meishan Preservation at Jensen Reserve made a sad but necessary decision. Pink Lady, one of our primary foundational breeders, at 8 years old, was suffering from arthritis that became increasingly untreatable. She was deserving of peace and rest. Our vet fulfilled our request to have her euthanized on Wednesday, July 13th at the farm. Many of our colleagues might view such as an unnecessary expense, but Bill and I agree that Pink Lady is absolutely deserving of the very best care, even to the end, that we can offer her. All of this is hard for me because Pink Lady is not only a successful breeder, but she is also my friend. Alongside that, her genes are important to our primary goal of preserving this 5000-year-old line of docile yet hardy livestock.
Most of us who grew up in the 1970s might remember the yearly showing of the animated Charlotte’s Web, originally published by EB White in 1952. The heroines of the story are a humane farm girl, Fern, and a spider mother, Charlotte, who share a love for a piglet, Wilbur, and work to protect his life.
Through this classic tale, White demonstrates and analyzes the peculiar work of animal husbandry. Having grown up on a farm and being the primary operator of a working pig farm, I understand full well the peculiar nature of loving animals who produce our food. The reality is that all individual lives subside, either by hand or nature, and that livestock animals are food producers for those of us humans who recognize the value of meat protein. That reality enforces respect, appreciation, and love in those of us who work toward preservation of heirloom lines and understand the deep gratitude we must feel for those very beings that contribute to our sustenance.
Who ever watched or read Charlotte’s Web without tears welling in their eyes? It is impossible for me to imagine such. What White shares with those off the farm that those of us on the farm understand quite naturally is that humans and livestock share a relationship that, when done right, necessitates loving care, builds nurturing relationships, and results in the continuity of all species involved.
Charlotte, that industrious and mindful spider, puts it best when she explains to Wilbur, the darling pig:
You have been my friend….That in itself is a tremendous thing...after all, what's a life anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die...By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.
Pink Lady certainly is “Some Pig,” just as Wilbur was. The success of Jensen Reserve is in great part due to her life, and the conservation of this amazingly docile and productive heirloom line depends on her genetic preservation. Among her many fine qualities are characteristics that put her absolutely at the top of her breed. Pink Lady is:
- the largest Meishan, period, estimated live weight of 800-900 pounds.
- 1 of only 2 pigs from our University of Illinois lines (Pink Lady and her sister Panda, who passed May 15, 2022).
- hyper-prolific with litter size recording a whopping 20 piglets in a litter
- a true gentle giant, a hallmark trait of the Registered Meishan
- an excellent worker, companion, and mother.
There aren’t words to perfectly illustrate what a friendship between an animal farmer and a breeding pig might be, but I hope each of you understands that where I am today is attributable in great part to Panda & Pink Lady’s contributions and that those contributions impact the future of heirloom lines in profound ways.
Thank you, Panda & Pink Lady, for your companionship and gentle disposition. Wherever I go, memories of you will come with me. You are at your most basic truly terrific, and I love you for that.
Below - my favorite pics of each sow. Top, Pink Lady and I at Gods Blessing Farm summer 2018. Below: Panda and I fall of 2020 on my farm.