Organic pork producers’ bond spans ocean


Phyllis Coulter, Illinois Farmer Today

AgUpdate - Jul 31, 2022


HOLSTERBRO, Denmark — Jude Becker and Bertel Hestbjerg are friends who visit each other’s farms as often as they can, sharing ideas about pig farming. The two live on different continents 4,200 miles apart.


Becker, who farms near Dyersville in eastern Iowa, and Hestbjerg, who farms in Holsterbro in western Denmark, have been sharing ideas in person and online for nearly 20 years.


Their friendship started in 2003 when Becker was part of a group of U.S. farmers, university researchers and meat scientists traveling to northern Europe to study the production of niche pork there. They stopped at Hestbjerg’s farm and witnessed his piglets raised outdoors with farrowing huts in fields with poplar trees.


“I was a young man, kind of awestruck,” Becker recalls.


At age 26, he was an “aspiring pork producer” who admired the “clear-headed approach” the Danish farmer had towards raising pigs.


Bertel and his wife Marianne operate Hestbjerg Økologi (Ecology), a 15-generation farm which is Denmark’s largest organic pig farm.


The Danes keep excellent records and are systems-based, Becker said.


“I always try to model my farm after that,” said the sixth-generation Dubuque County, Iowa, farmer. “Our family was never fond of the industrial agriculture model.”


Becker developed Becker Lane Organic Farm, finding a processor and a market for his Certified Organic pork. First he visited Chicago and Minneapolis to find markets for his specialized pork. Today his biggest markets are in California, and he exports to Japan and Hong Kong…