What is different about our pasture raised pork?
Well you guessed it, it’s in the name. Our pigs are pasture raised, but what does this actually mean? And what else makes our pork taste so good?
Like all of our meat products, our pork tastes different to supermarket pork. This is due to a combination of animal management, breed or genetics, and feed.
Animal management and feed both overlap in this case. Our pigs are pasture raised, which literally means they spend their entire lives on pasture - no sheds, no sow stalls, no confined pens. The farrowing sows have access to a farrowing hut (an insulated hut lined with straw) so the sows can choose if they want to give birth to their piglets in the hut. It has an open door that allows her to come and go as she pleases. The rails you can see around the edge of the hut are creep rails that Bryan has installed - they provide the piglets with a barrier to hide behind if their mum decides to roll over, which prevents them from being crushed by her body weight. Bryan says the piglets learn pretty fast that the safety rail is a good place to get behind when mum’s on the move!
The grower pigs are slowly weaned from mothers via a system of creep feeding, before moving into finisher pens which have a series of size ‘drafting gates’, which minimises stress for the pigs, and allows for ease of management. The smaller pigs can still get back through the gates to get their own ration of food, which helps them get up to weight faster and makes it easier for them to get the food they need, rather than being pushed out of the way by the larger pigs.
The grower pigs also have access to some dome shelters that they can walk in and out of at any time, providing important shade in summer, and protection from cold winds and rain in winter.
When the piglets are being weaned from their mother, Bryan offers them fresh cow’s milk that he gets from a farmer down the road - this really helps the younger or smaller piglets catch up in weight and health to the bigger piglets, as only the smallest piglets can get back through the creep gate to access the milk.
Bryan has been experimenting with sowing different pastures for his pigs. This year he tried a forage brassica, which the pigs really loved! Pigs can’t digest fibre before they are about a year old, which means the young pigs search out forbes (plants with broad leafy greens such as clover, brassicas and lucerne) rather than grasses. Below is a photo showing when the forage brassica was just getting going, and the following shows how it looked after the pigs grazed across it.
Along with eating these forage mixes and other leafy greens they find in the pasture, the pigs are provided with pig grower pellets, which they need to ensure they are getting enough protein and essential nutrients to be healthy and grow well.
Bryan's pigs are a 50/50 cross of Landrace and Berkshire, which means they have positive traits of both breeds. The Landrace is the fast growing pig breed used in commercial piggeries, whereas the Berkshire is a heritage breed that is known for doing well on pasture. The Berkshire also has a stronger flavour, which, along with the pasture, differentiates our pork from supermarket pork.
Bryan has also recently introduced a new Tamworth boar into his breeding drive - everyone say hello to Ian! Ian is the handsome red Tamworth in the photo below, and Bryan has chosen to add some Tamworth genetics as they are renowned for being a fantastic pasture based breed. Stay tuned to hear how Bryan is working on his genetics and his pig pastures!