When the pigs and the laying hens wake up every morning on the Circle Star Ranch, they can walk outside and enjoy the rising sun, the falling rain or the hanging fog.
Whatever the weather, the animals are free to roam the pastures on the 211-acre ranch just off Roberts Creek Road, a few miles south of Roseburg.
The ranch is owned and operated by Elizabeth and Mike Lofrano.
The Lofranos’ philosophy in raising pigs and hens is highlighted by allowing the animals free range and avoiding antibotics or growth hormones. Earlier this month, those and other practices earned the ranch certification as Animal Welfare Approved.
AWA is a Virginia-based organization that audits, certifies and supports farmers and ranchers who raise animals according to high welfare standards. AWA was tabbed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, an international nonprofit group, as the most highly regarded food label in North America in the realm of animal welfare.
“We completely and totally believe in what we’re doing on the ranch,” Elizabeth Lofrano said. “The food system has changed so much in the last 50 years and so dramatically in the last 25 years. The caged conditions and the antibotics and hormones that are used in big commercial operations to get the animals up to weight fast are not good for you. We began to look for alternatives for ourselves and now it’s grown into a business, providing for other people.”
Andrew Gunther, the program director for AWA, said there are 16 farms in Oregon with AWA certification. There are about 1,500 throughout the U.S.
“There’s been a trend in Oregon for farms to take care of the environment, to put money into the local economy and to take care of the animals as well,” Gunther said. “Farms and ranches are responding to consumer demand.”
The Circle Star Ranch has 16 Gloucestershire old spots sows, a British breed that has shown its sows can raise large litters on pasture. The sows are moved inside to pens to give birth, but then are able to go out and in after delivering their babies. The piglets can also go outside as soon as they feel comfortable, usually in three or four days.
At 6 months old, the pigs average 300 pounds. They then go to market and are processed by Taylor Meats in Cave Junction or Mohawk Valley Meats in Springfield, both AWA certified. The Lofranos ensure extra steps are taken in the curing of the ham and bacon so the meat is free of nitrate and nitrite, chemicals that are commonly used in preserving foods.
“It’s important for us to have a chemical-free product,” Mike Lofrano said.
The Circle Star has 150 Australorp hens, an Australian breed, with about 50 actively laying 50 to 60 eggs a day. The chickens roam the ranch and have easy access to their laying boxes.
When an AWA auditor visited the ranch, Mike Lofrano said 220 to 260 details are observed and noted per species.
He said the only detail the ranch had to correct to obtain the pig certification was to begin annually testing the health of the soil.
For chicken certification, the ranch tested the soil, began purchasing chicks that need only one day of travel to reach the ranch so the birds aren’t stressed and replaced an indoor-outdoor pad with hay in the laying boxes.
“Our philosophy of raising animals is exactly like theirs,” Mike Lofrano said of AWA. “We set out several years ago to do it this way because we thought it was best for the animals, a natural way to raise good tasting meat.”
Circle Star sells its pork and eggs at the Umpqua Valley, Coos Bay and Grants Pass farmers markets, at Umpqua Local Goods in Roseburg and at stores in Bandon, North Bend, Grants Pass and Medford. Orders can also be place online through the Circle Star website at circlestarranch.info.
The Lofranos said negotiations are ongoing with several other retail outlets.
The Lofranos are also in a partnership with beef and lamb operations and have those meat products for sale.
“Most of our current customers already knew we did it this way, but going forward this is a very big deal,” Mike Lofrano said of the AWA certification. “It’s national recognition of a local ranch, doing things a certain way that’s suppose to be best for animals.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s important for us to have a chemical-free product.
owner, Circle Star Ranch