By Sushila Moles at The New Meat Project
At The New Meat Project we work with a small handful of like-minded farmers in the Malvern Hills who rear pigs for pork to an exceptionally high standard. The piglets are born outside and are on their mother’s milk from the very beginning. They spend their lives outside, in family groups, rooting around woods and scrubland, rolling in mud and leaves, foraging for fallen acorns, grubs and wild fruit. In addition to their foraged natural diet they eat by-product cereals, beans and fruit from local farms. Our pork is described as free-range, which along with organic is the highest accolade in terms of pig welfare. This natural lifestyle is not only better for the pigs but also results in fabulously flavoured pork that is highly nutritious and healthy.
It is estimated only 3-4% of British meat pigs live entirely outdoors like ours do. The reason for this is that we, the British public, have got used to cheap meat. Back in the 90s, consumer outrage at the welfare standards of intensively reared pigs resulted in the government banning sow stalls (sows are crammed into metal crates for the duration of their short and mostly pregnant lives) with the message that the British public would pay more for better pork. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and instead cheap pork was imported.
Today, the UK imports around 60% of all the pork it consumes, much of this from Denmark and Germany. Denmark has the most industrial pig system in the world with many cruel practices suffered by both the animals and the factory workers. The Danish produce a huge amount of pork leaving local waterways polluted and increasing the chance of communicable disease. This is a subject we should be seeing more research in given the covid pandemic.
Although the majority of pork eaten in the UK comes from intensively-reared pigs, there are a range of standards: free-range, outdoor-reared, outdoor-bred or standard (often called ‘fresh’) aka intensive. This range of messaging is confusing to the consumer. Don’t be fooled into thinking that outdoor means that the pig has been running around outside. The standards decrease considerably after free-range. ‘Outdoor-bred’ is the one that frustrates me. These pigs are born in outdoor pigsties but, after weaning, at 3-4 weeks old, the piglets are confined inside: it’s better for the sows but intensive for the meat pigs.
If you want to avoid these cruel and immoral ‘farming’ practices the simple truth is we need to pay more for properly free-range pork and eat less but better meat. At The New Meat Project we sell pork from Large Black Hampshire Cross pigs, a rare and native breed, which are far slower growing than those bred in intensive systems. It has a generous fat layer for terrific crackling and the meat is rich and sweet, with fantastic texture. These qualities are only possible with animals that are truly free-range.
To find out more about the free-range pork at The New Meat Project visit www.thenewmeatproject.com. First orders will receive 15% off.