Earlier this week Mother Butler (Pauline) and Father Butler (Jimmy) made their way to the East Anglian Daily Times Suffolk Food & Drink Awards 2012. We were delighted to be nominated for two awards Best Suffolk Product and Pride of Suffolk. Stuart and I were on the farm up to our knees in mud when the text came through; we had won Best Suffolk Product against some seriously stiff competition and were highly commended in the Pride of Suffolk, only losing out to Polly Robinson herself from Food Safari.
A few weeks earlier we had received a phone call from Tastes of Anglia (the judges) to say we had been nominated for the two awards and we should send them a sample of our product. Easier said than done, we weren’t about to send them a whole pig. Unlike many food brands our pork doesn’t come in a nice pack for the supermarket shelf or ready to eat, we rely on a butcher and a chef to get involved in our supply chain.
So we put a call into John Palmer from C.A.Palmer & Son in Halesworth who sources all of his pigmeat from Blythburgh and is our local butcher of choice. A Blythburgh free range pork loin, boned, rolled and stuffed with John’s special stuffing was ordered. Mother Butler cooked said joint and it was delivered to the judges still warm with a perfect layer of crunchy crackling on top. After that it was down to the pork, pure and simple.
Just a few months ago we were over the moon to receive a Good Pig Award from Compassion in World Farming. The Good Pig Award is the only award in Britain which recognizes the significant animal welfare benefits of extensive pig rearing systems such as free range pig production and to be amongst the first to win this prestigious award was a real honour considering all the great farmers we have in this country.
At Blythburgh we fiercely promote the view that great animal welfare goes hand in hand with excellent eating quality; to receive these two awards within such close proximity of each other just helps to underpin this belief.
Our definition of real free range pork (pdf)
Less than 3% of pork reared in the UK is actually free range...
So many consumers are quite rightly confused about methods of rearing pigs and which systems really offer animal welfare compared to those that are marketing ploys used by large retailers to dupe shoppers. I’m going to focus on some of the top end terminology to help you all make informed decisions.
First we need to understand pig farms are made up of breeding herds and finishing herds. Breeding herds are populated by the mothers (sows) and this is where the piglets, which go on to produce the pork we eat, are born. These piglets are weaned off their sows typically at four weeks of age and they are moved from the breeding herd to the finishing herd. The finishing herd is where the piglets, which go on to produce the pork we eat, are reared; they spend the bulk of their lives here until they are ready to head off to the abattoir.
The reason I’ve gone into such depth about the two different parts of a pig farm is most of the high welfare terminology only applies to one part of the process, not the whole of the pig’s life, and often it is the breeding herd that gets the benefit. While any improvements in animal welfare are to be saluted, if these higher welfare improvements are to have any impact on the eating quality of the pork they must be present in the finishing herd.
Outdoor bred and outdoor reared are two systems that are commonly talked about by large retailers and these systems are often misinterpreted as free range. Outdoor bred means the breeding herd is free range but when the piglets are weaned at four weeks they are moved to an indoor finishing herd to be intensively reared. This is great for the sows but the pork you eat will be no different to standard intensively reared pork. Outdoor reared is even more confusing, the breeding herd is free range as with outdoor bred but the piglets when weaned are moved into huts and tents that are situated in fields. This means they can be called outdoor reared but they don’t talk about the fact the pigs do not have free access to large paddocks or that they are actually confined in these huts and tents in similar conditions to intensively reared pigs. I often refer to outdoor reared as ‘intensively reared outdoors.’
Free range really does do what it says on the tin all the pigs in both the breeding herd and the finishing herd have the freedom to roam outside in paddocks for the whole of their lives. Most importantly the pigs that go on to produce the pork we eat have a longer more stress free life which really does improve eating quality.
The long-anticipated new website is here and thank you for taking the time to read the first post of our free range blog. Since the launch of our new logo last year to celebrate our 10th Anniversary we have been doggedly incorporating it in all our business and marketing material, and now the final push, social media.
Our film has been on You tube since February and has nearly hit 300 viewings. If you are on Facebook and you like what we do, please search for Blythburgh Free Range Pork and like our page. Also follow @BlythburghPork on Twitter for day to day tweets to be completely in the loop about all things Blythburgh Pork.
We are using social media to spread the Blythburgh word. Sadly there is not a legal definition for what constitutes free range pig farming but on this website we show you what we think it means. Our logo says it all, if you want the best pork look for the word Blythburgh and when you see Blythburgh pork you know it's REAL FREE RANGE PORK.