Building a vertically-integrated, niche hog farm
Beginning in 2006, Troldgaarden farm in Denmark has been transformed into a vertically-integrated organic meat business serving the local community and restaurants across the country.
Four brothers in the Hansen family run the farm, which was formerly used for Christmas tree production.
Now, the Hansens raise a rare heritage breed of hogs, the Danish Black and White Landrace, and are the biggest producers of these hogs in the country.
Phillip Dam Hansen
"I won't just make a niche product; I have to have a holistic farm," says Phillip Dam Hansen, one of the brothers.
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The holistic production at Troldgaarden starts with feed. The Hansens grow fields of mixed crops like vetch, wheat, oats, peas, and more to harvest and supply to the hogs. To supplement that, they incorporate protein provided by a local brewery and leftover organic eggs from a neighboring producer.
This breed is slow-growing and takes one year to reach full-size and develop a balance between fat and muscle. This is what contributes to the unique taste and quality of products produced.
The hogs are free-range, an approach that is part of the welfare the Hansens prioritize and market to consumers. Currently, they keep around 50 sows with 8-10 piglets in individual paddocks. Across the farm, other ages of hogs roam fields that are rotated from pasture to cover crops.
Cover crops grown for feed.
Fulfilling the vertical integration is the farm's slaughterhouse and processing facilities. Ten hogs are slaughtered per week onsite and the meat processed onsite as well.
"It's possible to be profitable because we have the entire value chain set up here," Hansen says.
Only about 5% of their product is sold in their own farm shop; the rest is distributed to cafes and restaurants. Even though the sausages, roasts, and charcuterie are sent across the country, about 90% of the Hansens' customers have visited the farm to experience the farm to fork process and better connect with the values the family has integrated into every step.
In the future, Troldgaarden will grow. The Hansens are already planning to build a new slaughterhouse and space for education to continue advocating for transparency in the industry.