October 31, 2015


Young piglets named "Quiche" and "Lorraine" brought in out of the cold to save their live's.

We are often developing relevant metrics by which to assess our capacity to feed ourselves from what the land produces. One of the frameworks by which we move toward sustainably feeding Windward is the "Million Calorie Diet" originally conceived and elaborated upon by Walt back in 2012. The Million Calorie Diet utilizes the energy density of the various foods we can produce on the land in order to judge how we are doing.

In summary, a working person will consume around 2700 Calories a day. That totals just under 1,000,000 Calories in a year. For the sake of conversation later on, I will refer to this unit of 1 million Calories per person per year as "People-Calorie-Years" of PCY's for short.

As we have talked about before, in our marginal dryland and cold-temperate climate, annual plant-based agricultural systems are difficult to manage, infrastructure intensive, and fundamentally lack the resiliency needed to achieve a realistic degree of sustainability.

That means that many staple calorie-dense annual crops (such as corn, rice, and wheat) are infeasible to grow on a scale large enough to feed a land based community like Windward.

Because of this we are pursuing a highly integrated network of agro-forestry based systems composed primarily of long-lived perennial plant communities coupled with holistically planned grazing of a diverse body of livestock.

The animals play a vital role in helping us humans produce the Calorie dense food we need to keep up life and work on the land. They convert the land-based foods we can't eat, such as grass and tree leaves, into meat, milk, eggs, and fat, which we can.

A group of piglets, busily collecting acorns and converting them into fat.

About 5 years ago we brought pigs (in particular American Guinea Hogs) into the fold, in order to round out the palette of the community's animal systems. Guinea Hogs are referred to as a "lard" breed of pig. Instead of producing lean pork meat like you commonly see in the grocery store, Guinea Hogs produce a larger percentage of lard in relation to their total mass.

Over the years, lard from our American Guinea Hogs has become an important part of our diet. It is the high-temperature cooking fat which we have figured out how to produce from the land. As Walt put it in the original Million Calorie Local Diet article:

"We've established that our land base can grow adequate amounts of green vegetables and tasty fruits, but kale and apples have no fat content. Wild meats such as deer or rabbit are also very lean - they can provide protein, but very little in the way of fat.

Traditional fat sources such as olive or coconut oil won't grow here, so we have little choice other than to look to rumenants to supply our fat needs, dietary and otherwise."

With all that said, I'd like to add some research and analysis about pigs to the million calorie discussion.

How much Lard from a Pig?

We recently slaughtered a two year old sow affectionately called Big Mama. We estimate she weighed in at about 275 lbs live weight, a pretty typical size for a full sized American Guinea Hog.

For the sake of calculation, I will equate the lard yield from Big Mama as 1 "Hog Unit of Lard", or "HUL" for short.

We will be working our way toward an estimate of how many Hog Units of Lard a community of 20 people would need in order to provide for the caloric and cooking needs in relation to the Million Calorie Diet.

A Breakdown of the Harvest:

Just about 1 "hog unit of lard" canned and ready to be put away for long term storage.

Below are the weights of the various portions of the harvest from Big Mama:

Stew Meat: 38 lbs
Grindings: 51.5 lbs
Rendered Lard: 40 lbs (5.5 Gallons @ ~7.23 lbs/gallon)

"Stew Meat" = Muscle tissue cut into half inch cubes, packaged in 2 lbs packages for use in community meals.
"Grindings" = A mix of muscle tissue, sinew and fat we grind up for use in dry cure and fresh sausage.
"Rendered Lard" = Processed fat in a form suitable for long term storage.

To break the harvest number down in reference to Calories:

1 gram of lard = 9 Calories / gram
453 g / lbs = 453 g * 9 Calories = 4077 Calories / lbs
40 lbs of Lard (1 HUL) * 4077 Calories = 163,080 Calories / HUL

The caloric value of 1 HU of lard is about 160,000 Calories.

To put that in terms of our million calorie diet "People-Calorie-Year" units:

1 HU = 160,000 Calories
1,000,000 Calories / 160,000 Calories = 6.13 or about 1/6th.
1 HU = 1/6 of People-Calorie-Years (PCY)

How much fat ought a person to eat?

To get a handle on how these numbers relate to our average dietary experiences, we should understand how much lard a person might eat as a fraction of their total caloric needs.

For the sake of conversation we can use the USDA's dietary guidelines which recommend that 30% of the Calories in a person diet (on the order of 80-100 grams a day in a 2,700 Calorie / day diet) should come from fat.

100 Grams of fat is about 900 Calories, or 1/3 of the Calories needed for someone burning 2700 Calories a day.

Not all of the fat being consumed in a Windward person's diet will be coming from the rendered lard. There are other sources of fat in our diet such as milk and cheese from the goats, eggs from the chickens, fat on the carcass of rabbits, and the lard and suet set aside for inclusion in grinding and sausages.

These sources of fat contribute significantly the caloric intake of the community, but are not as easily accounted for as the lard.

For the sake of conversation (I know that I've said this before) let's assume that half of a person's dietary fat comes from rendered lard. This would likely be used for frying and cooking in various forms, as well as the primary fat added to breads, pastries and other baked goods.

Given the numbers outlined above, we can assume that 1/6 of the total Calories (AKA 1/2 of 1/3) consumed will be from rendered lard.

Remember that the production of rendered lard from 1 HUL was around 1/6 of a persons total caloric needs for a Million Calorie Diet.

How many Hogs per person?

A full grown mama sow feeding her newborn piglets.

What all the above analysis points to is that one person would consume around 1 Hog Unit of Lard (equivalent to a full sized sow like Big Mama) per year.

That means that a community of 20 people would be looking at producing around 20 HUL's a year.

This give us a good estimate of the total production of lard that Windward should be looking for. The next step in this journey is to figure out if and how our land can produce and sustain a herd of pigs large enough to provide for this level of lard production.