We rear our Pluckley Porkers on the Greensand Way, Pluckley, Kent. They are rare breed Berkshires and free range. Sadly, there are not very many free-range pigs these days.
Whilst we run a farmI wouldn’t exactly say we arefarmers. 10 years of experience with pigs really only grants us the title of pig enthusiast (or just “pig lady” as the local children call me). In more recent years we have stopped buying in weaners and now either have our own boar or use artificial insemination, which I seem to be quite good at. Who could have guessed 30 years ago when I was studying law that I would be poking around pigs bottoms! But we have had huge success with AI and this keeps the pedigree line strong.
We might only be able to call ourselves pig breeders, but what we can say with certainty is that our truly free-range pigs are cared for with high welfare standards at the very forefront. We have a lot of love for our pigs and in return we are rewarded with happy pigs. Pigs are such characters.
Free range provides nutrients and minerals from the ground, we have naturally flowing spring water and together with a balanced diet we havevery healthy stock. Living outdoors in a lot of space means that our pigs do not require routine medication. Each pig has plenty of space to run and perform their instinctive behaviour to root around the soil, or simply just sunbathing or wallowing in mud. We are very lucky that the old fruit and veg from the farm shop is a large part of their diet and locals bring their windfalls or leftovers from their veg patches too.
It’s not always easy or straightforward to care for pigs in this way. Winter is coming and whilst we want rain to soften the clay (sadly we get the odd cracked trotter on hard ground), it can also get very hard going for the pigs in heavy mud and feeding time is a messy affair.Keeping beds dry (sometimes carrying bedding some distance when the truck can’t handle the sloping fields) is just an example.
For all of the reasons above (and so many, many more you’d be exhausted by the list) free range farming is labour intensive. If it takes a lot of time it costs more and it is as simple as that. All the time we buy in cheap meat from abroad it has a knock-on effect to the economic stability of our British farmers.
The extra couple of pounds you spend means you are supporting local people, supporting high welfare standards, helping the local economy and getting superb quality meat as a result. You really can, to coin the phrase, taste the difference.