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Pedigree pork

Consumers have appetite for rare breeds

Brian Chester finds a sector of UK pig production
that keeps on growing

Pedigree pig farmers are using their passion for individual breeds to connect with the public through product and by raising awareness of farming and environmental issues. The number of producers selling pork direct to the consumer now spreads country wide with a British Pig Association contact map showing suppliers across England, Wales, Scotland and into Northern Ireland.

Individual breeds also name producers offering pig meat in various forms with the Oxford Sandy and Black topping the list at 80 outlets. Large Black is next with 38 meat suppliers. Many of the other rare breeds have also established a market for their meat. On line sales, local markets and links with specialised butchers are all part of the sales strategy. Some have developed their business into a farm shop. Sales literature is mostly based on the low-key rearing process, an identifiable source and the quality of the meat. Many emphasise the outdoor nature of their production process and diets that are free from additives.

An Internet search shows the range and extent of pork products now offered. Web pages are widely used to explain and promote individual farms, the meat they produce and the environmentally friendly habitats they encourage. Separate pork suppliers are also extensively featured. Welsh based Porc Blasus is one example of an individual source of Where to buy pig meat across a wide area. https:// porcblasus.cymru/where-to-buy/

The efforts of these breeders (the BPA has a long-running Eat Them to Save Them campaign) could also play a part in helping to secure the future for breeds such as the British Saddleback, Berkshire, Tamworth and Large White now regarded as 'vulnerable' by the Rare Breed Preservation Trust. Jane Mathews, chair of the BPA's Sustainable Pork Production Committee, told the Pig Guide that renewed emphasis is being placed on promoting the Pedigree Pork scheme and the conservation benefits of eating higher welfare, sustainably produced pork.

"My feeling is that there are now more breeders supplying meat - whether this is selling to friends and family, selling locally through pop-up shops/ farm gate sales, having a farm shop, supplying a local shop/butcher/restaurant, or indeed regularly supplying weaners/pigs to other people with outlets. We are also working on models to support local supply chains," she said.

"While times are challenging, they are also exciting and there are opportunities for breeders of pedigree pigs to develop markets for their produce especially now food sustainability and food security are so important."



Jane, who breeds Oxford Sandy and Black pigs and runs an unmanned farm shop with refrigerated vending machines for various meat and other products (https://www.hopecottagefarm-shop.co.uk/), reports that another OSB breeder, Broadways Herd (Tania Whittick), is recently venturing into the world of charcuterie and has set up a facility to produce a range of products.

Unit sizes cover a wide range. Little Oak Farm is a 30-acre holding in the Exmoor National Park where Pam and Andy, with no pig keeping experience, began with Middle Whites eight years ago. A small niche market grew when a local chef put their pork on his menu; expansion came in 2018 with an on-farm butchery and business continues to grow with sales from north Scotland to Cornwall. http://www.littleoakfarm.co.uk/ Blythburgh Pigs, established by Jimmy Butler in 1978, became pioneers in free range pig farming on a larger scale. Their website reports: Research shows that very few people, butchers and chefs included, understand how much free-range pig farming differs from the more conventional pig farming systems commonly used today. At Blythburgh it's simple, our pigs are truly free range, it's our mission to give our pigs a life worth living and we think that's worth shouting about. https://www.freerangepork.co.uk/

Pig keeping and pigmeat processing courses are also run by pedigree producers and pigs are part of 'care farm' projects which offer help across a range of health conditions. One example is The Hope Farm Project based at Halberton, Devon, which holds the belief that 'working with plants and animals in the great outdoors offers massive benefits to people of all ages, both mentally and physically.' https://www.thehopefarmproject.co.uk/

The importance of native rare breeds was underlined by Christopher Price, chief executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust when, commenting on the Trust's latest Watchlist, he said: "Each of these breeds has unique characteristics, they are part of the UK's heritage but they also have an important role in food production today and the resilience of our pig industry into the future."



The Pig Guide, 4 Barleythorpe Mews, Main Road, Barleythorpe, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 7UZ
Tel: 01572 757600. ~ email: bc@pig-guide.com