Each year we raise a limited number of British rare breed pigs for pork. This year we are playing host to a small group of Gloucester Old Spots. In previous years we have had Large Black and British Saddlebacks roaming around.
Britain has a fantastic heritage of different pig breeds. All have distinct characteristics and qualities. Sadly, these local breeds have been, to a very large extent, replaced in recent decades by generic, fast growing, "easy care" pigs designed to suit intensive farming methods. This is the direct result of commercial (supermarket) pressure - large retailers want cheap meat that tastes the same whether you buy it in Aberdeen or Exeter.
Labelling is often misleading - "outdoor bred pork", for example, means that the pig only spends its first four weeks outdoors and the rest of its life being fattened in an indoor "unit" - and much supermarket pork is imported from Denmark or Holland (where welfare standards are significantly lower than the UK) and then labelled as "British" once cut and packed.
Needless to say, we completely disagree with these practices...
We don’t breed pigs on the smallholding but buy them as "weaners" from local farms and smallholders specialising in rare breeds and adopting the highest standards in animal welfare. We first meet them as piglets (when they're just a few weeks old) but only bring them here when they are fully weaned and independent from their mother at about nine weeks old.
We provide them with a large grassy paddock, a deep, muddy wallow, a comfortable, straw filled ark and a sun shade for hot summer days (on very sunny days they have sunscreen rubbed into their ears). They have branches, logs (“hog-logs”) and tyres scattered around their paddock. These encourage play and natural behaviours that keep them entertained, happy and fit.
They are fed three times a day (around their “hog-logs” to encourage natural foraging) and race around their paddock. They get lots of human attention and their diet is supplemented by windfall apples, plums and offcuts from the vegetable plot. It's a myth that Rare Breed pigs get "too fat". Like the rest of us, they just need a healthy diet and exercise!
The result of all this is pork that is rich, tender and succulent with just enough fat to enhance flavour and make the most sensational crackling.
We sell a limited amount of our pork each autumn. You can see the details here...