A Better Way: Brenneman Pork

What is Brenneman Pork Inc.’s key to sustainability? Constantly improving our farming practices every single day.

Many nine-year-olds choose pigs as a first 4-H project. Not many turn that project into a business that employs most of the family. But Brenneman Pork Inc., Washington County, Iowa, is the result of one young boy’s interest in pigs — and his interest in doing things better.

A third generation pig farmer, Rob Brenneman was intrigued by the animals early on. His project grew and grew, and along the way he learned what worked and what didn’t.

Rob Brenneman, his children, and grandchildren on the farm

According to Rob pig farming was a lot harder back then, and he kept thinking there had to be a better way to raise pigs.

Rob started by moving his sows inside to get them out of the elements in an easier-to-clean space. He found ways to prevent fighting and keep stress levels low. Climate-controlled barns kept the mother pigs and piglets cool enough in the summer and warm enough in the brutal Midwest winters.

He has made pig farming a lot easier now — well, physically anyway. “Mentally, it’s still tough,” he said. But Rob is not one to grow complacent.

“My goal is to get up every day and say, ‘How can I do it better today than I did yesterday?’” Rob said. He admits that it can make his employees a little crazy.

“I’m sure it’d be nice for them to do things the same way two days in a row,” Rob said, “but my brain just doesn’t shut off at night. It just keeps rolling, and I’m thinking, ‘How can we do it better?’”

While it may not make it easier in the short-term, his goal is to make it easier long-term. For him, for his employees and for the pigs. Because that’s how Brenneman Pork Inc. will stay around for the long haul. Sustainability is high on Rob’s list of priorities, as is a continuing tradition of agriculture, while he strives for to improve pig farming for future generations of pigs and people.

Rob Brenneman and his son

“If this tradition doesn’t get carried on, I’ve lost my reason why I’m here,” Rob said. “That’s what I feel I’m here for. I’m not here just about making money. I’m not here just to satisfy my own needs, because I could have stopped a long time ago. I’m here because I believe in the community, and I believe in the young people, and I believe in agriculture because agriculture is what makes a difference.”