Our first pigs

Early in 2018 we sourced three Tamworth weaners from a local specialist rare-breed farm and, after the worst of the snow had passed, we let Acorn, Bramble and Catkin have the run of a half acre paddock full of opportunities to root in the ground, wallow in the mud and sleep away the afternoon in the shade. In other words, just doing what pigs do.

Tamworth pigs are listed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust watchlist as “vulnerable” meaning there are under 300 registered breeding females left in the UK. They are considered to be Britain’s oldest pure breed and are well suited to outdoor living, being particularly hardy.

Keeping rare breeds going requires a market and an outlet for animals that are not selected as future breeding stock. From day one our pigs have been destined to provide food for us and others so although it was a slightly sad day we knew that they had been well cared for.

In contrast to commercial pork production our girls weren’t weaned until 8 weeks old (versus 3 weeks) and we ran them on until over 7 months old (versus 4 months). They were not intensively fed but instead left to grow at a slower, more natural rate producing a more flavoursome meat, which has a deeper colour – not the paleness we generally associate with pork. Nor did they receive any growth promotors or unnecessary treatments.

During their time with us and apart from an initial few weeks in the barn during the worst of the snow they lived outside the whole time with freedom to roam whenever they pleased.

They only ever made two road journeys, both under an hour long, and were expertly butchered by an award-winning local business.

A second batch

We had sourced our first pigs earlier than originally planned and they had reached slaughter weight sooner than anticipated. The paddock felt empty without them there and when we heard that the breeder had a few weaners from another litter available it seemed that they were destined to join us on the farm.

So Damson, Elderflower and Foxglove were soon barking, grunting and squealing at us from the other side of the fence. Ultimately they too went for slaughter and applying our learning from the first group to the feeding regime improved the pork which didn't have quite as thick a layer of fat covering it.

A piece of loin that we have kept in reserve to turn into back bacon.

A slab of belly beginning its journey into streaky bacon.

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