Another Eye-Witness Report: Uproot Meat’s Farming Practices Are Questionable

Written by Kim Buford, former Uproot employee

I have contemplated for the last couple of years whether or not to share my experience working for Uproot Meats in Ashland. A couple of weeks ago, I read the letter in the Ashland Chronicle about the dishonest business practice of Uproot Meats selling someone sick piglets, and not giving a refund or not giving new piglets from a new litter, to the customer. I knew I had to share my experience of working for a farm that, in my opinion, is not ethical or sustainable and raises animals in a questionable manner.  

            I had heard a couple of years ago that Uproot Meats was looking for help on their farm. I had talked to the owners at their booth at the Grower’s Market.  I checked out their website and Facebook page. Both said the pigs were raised on pasture and photos showed pigs in a lush green pasture. I now believe some of the pictures are from the farm they had in Bend or maybe even just stock photos. Even though it was winter, as I drove up to their place on my first day of work, I noticed that there is no pasture, just a steep, wooded mountainside. The chickens and pigs are not pasture-raised, as was stated on Uproot’s Facebook page and website, but woodlot-raised on the side of a mountain.

I was first shown where the chicks and hens were housed and how and what to feed them. It is basically a garage with a small area for the chicks  and a larger area for the hens. When I went into where the hens are, I was taken aback. It was so hot and humid it was like being in a sauna. Chickens don’t do well with hot temperatures. I was told it was a plumbing issue and it would be fixed. Some of the hens I saw were not physically healthy and I was told that those that died were fed to the pigs. There are conflicting views on feeding dead raw chickens to pigs. Some farmers will do this, while others say it is not a good practice as it can increase the chances pigs get trichinosis, spread foot and mouth disease, and have an increased appetite for flesh. I have chickens of my own, and personally I would not feed a dead chicken to pigs, if I had pigs.

After the chickens, I was shown how and what to feed the pigs. I noticed that the areas where the pigs were had no shelter. There was a tarp and some type of small shelter where the younger pigs were, but nothing big enough for all the pigs. Any article you read about raising pigs says that they must have at least a three-sided shelter with a roof to protect them from the elements. There was a pregnant sow ready to give birth any day with no shelter. I was told a couple days later the sow gave birth towards the back of one of the pig runs. They just put down a bed of straw for her — no shelter whatsoever — and that winter was rainy and very cold. I never heard or saw the piglets and assumed they did not survive. The butcher pigs seemed stressed as they had no shelter and laid on top of each other to keep warm.

Feeding the pigs was not safe, as I had to maneuver a steep slippery bank while carrying 2-5 gallon buckets of feed. As I was cursing under my breath, I was thinking how this is not an efficient way to run a farm, and definitely not a safe work environment. I was told someone with a backhoe would come to make the bank not as steep. No one came in the two weeks I was there and it is one of the many reasons why I quit. As I have said before, operating a farm on a steep hillside is not an efficient way to run a farm, and anyone with a shred of common sense knows running a pig farm above an irrigation canal is not a good idea.  Furthermore, not abiding by the rules and regulations to obtain the proper permits to establish a farm and a processing building, is not someone I would do business with. Not to mention, I think it is strangely odd to want to have a slaughterhouse in the same building as your residence. The owner talks a good game of raising animals humanely, and being ethical, but she falls short, especially when she sells sick animals to people, and is not willing to make the situation right.  That speaks volumes on the kind of person she is. On the Facebook page “Our Story,” it says that Uproot stands for love and sustainability of the earth and treading lightly on it. I’m pretty sure tearing up half a mountain by excavation is not treading lightly. We want to believe people will be truthful, transparent, and do right by their word. It is easy for someone like owner, Vegter, to tell people what they want to hear. But, we as consumers must do our own research, educate ourselves, and visit farms like Uproot Meats to see its operation. To blindly follow or believe is to be blissfully ignorant