Life on the piggy farm
Damn simple this is.
We think it’s the right thing to do.
We believe that everyone who eats meat has a responsibility to ensure they know how the animals have been farmed and to be sure they are good with that.
We reckon piggies should always be in an environment that allows them to display their natural behaviour. The more natural the environment the happier the piggy and the healthier the piggy.
And there’s another real good part… the happier the piggy the better the pork.
For us it’s not about cheaper and cheaper… it’s about happier, healthier piggies and better tasting pork.
We actually describe what we do as ‘Freedom Farming’… not free range.
The thing is… we reckon free-range should mean that the piggy has lived all of of its life in a field like sheep and cows do and this is actually very rare for piggies.
However for us as consumers and for most people we talk to, what we are looking for is an assurance that the piggies have been farmed without cruelty, can always display their natural behaviour and their welfare is the number one priority (this is why we have every farm independently audited by AsureQuality to make sure the ‘five freedoms’ welfare standards are being met).
But there’s heaps more…
When we say ‘Farmed the Freedom Way’ it’s about more than where the piggies live.
It’s about saying no way to growth hormones and tricky chemicals in the feed. It’s about controlling the use of antibiotics… trying to farm more sustainably and improving the quality of the meat we produce.
Too much to insist on?
We say that natures way is best. There’s a heap of tricky stuff going on in farming worldwide these days. Some piggies have tricky chemicals slipped into their feed.
These chemicals are designed to trick their bodies into producing lean muscle rather than fat. We don’t like that.
We say ‘fat is good’.
Well actually we don’t think so… most pork farmed in NZ is farmed the same way as it is overseas… with crates and barren concrete fattening pens. Sad.
It’s good news that sow crates have finally gone in NZ… but thats all that’s gone.
We reckon all piggies would like to be farmed the Freedom way… and we know heaps of other people out there think that too.
It’s not the farmers fault… they are told people just want ‘cheap’.
But heaps of us are prepared to pay more.
What do you think?
Sadly… yes, they do (but not ours). The most commonly used is PST (Porcine Somatotropin).
PST is registered for use in NZ… but farmers in NZ choose voluntarily not to use it.
However most ham and bacon consumed in NZ is made from imported pork. Often imported from countries that use growth hormones. This means we have no idea.
We reckon you don’t like that, just like we don’t.
Make sure the brand you support guarantees no growth hormones…
Without a doubt.
Problem with intensive pig farming is that they create as much raw sewerage as a small town (well some of the big ones do).
This sewerage is a real threat to our environment. It needs to go somewhere but it often ends up in the waterways and even in the water table. Not good we say.
By raising piggies in fields the soil is enriched naturally.
And when the piggies are raised on deep straw they are busy enriching the straw with their do do.
We love that because the straw is then composted and spread back over the fields ..or used by other gardeners.
No way… absolutely not.
We reckon that would be yuck!!
Here’s the thing.
Product of NZ doesn’t mean the pork was farmed in NZ.
The reality is, most pork, ham and sausages are made from frozen imported pork.
This means you can’t be sure how it has been farmed.
Bet you could guess though?…
No… to the best of our knowledge there are no certified organic pig farms in NZ.
The challenge is feed. To be organic the feed needs to be organic too… and this means importing feed from overseas. We don’t like this and would prefer to encourage our farmers to grown the feed right on the farms.
Maybe one day.
The reality is getting on a truck and heading off down the road is stressful for a piggy.
We have deliberately chosen an abattoir that is nice and close to the farms to help reduce this stress.
The abattoir is privately owned (and is also inspected by AsureQuality auditors). This is important to us.
We have been there ourselves with the auditors to be sure its always humane.
Crate is really just a nice word for a cage (sometimes the industry refers to them as stalls).
Sow crates are used to seperately confine the pregnant sows for all or part of her pregnancy .
They are roughly the size of the sow… i.e. think of the size of a large family sized fridge.
She can’t walk or even turn around.
These crates are currently being used worldwide… including the countries that NZ imports pork from… although they are gradually being banned… yippee.
They are of course prohibited on a Freedom Farm.
A sow’s natural instinct is to actually build a nest when pregnant in anticipation of the arrival of her litter.
We think that’s important which is why all our pregnant sows have their own shelter in a field which we fill up with straw for her. She eventually gives birth to her litter in this shelter. Nice.
Really it’s another cage (sitting on a concrete floor) that the pregnant sow is moved to just prior to giving birth. She is confined in this crate whilst she gives birth and then for approximately another 3-4 weeks until her litter is weaned.
The farrowing crate is probited by Freedom Farms.
This crate means the sow is unable to move about or even turn around. She is unable to instinctively mother her piglets.
We think she deserves to be able to live in a straw shelter just like in the wild. Give birth naturally in this “nest” and be able to mother her piggies in an unresticted environment.
Heaps of people know about those sow crates and farrowing crates now… and that’s a good thing.
Good riddance to them we say and we are sure the sows out there will be thrilled to know people are finally getting on to it.
But for us it’s not only about the breeding mums… its also about where the piggies we turn into bacon actually live?
Sadly for them, the majority live their entire lives crowded into wee small concrete pens inside a big shed. The industry calls them ‘concrete fattening pens’. We call them something else.
We reckon its a miserable existence and we reckon deep straw shelters or open fields are a far better way.
For us it’s about piggy being able to do ‘piggy things’. Having the space to run about ,digging in the straw or the dirt,enjoying some fresh air and some sunlight.
That’s why we harp on about those concrete fattening pens.
Hey… are we perfect and can we do better?
You bet… we can always do better and we promise to keep trying.
Life on the Egg farm
Well it turns out the answer is no.
Like everything there are good ones and some not so good.
Some with heaps of space per chook and some with not much at all.
Some with lots of trees and shelter to enjoy and some without any.
There are some with large industrial sized flocks and some with small flocks.
There are some that welcome third party independent inspectors and some that are not keen on that at all.
This is why we decided to get into the egg business.
Heaps. But to be exact the absolute maximum number of chooks allowed per hectare on one of our farms is 2000.
For us it’s about the whole picture.
We like the idea of heaps of space, big grassy fields, lots of shelter, big trees, small happy families, lots of cuddles from the nice AsureQuality auditors and bedtime stories for all the girls every night (well maybe not everynight… but you get the idea).
We reckon happy chooks lay the tastiest eggs.
That’s why we say “Farmed the Freedom way. No exceptions”.
We take guidance from the animal welfare experts on this issue.
Our farmers receive their birds from the hatchery at one day old. They arrive with the very end hook part of their beak already trimmed off. This has been done by infrared laser and we are assured the process is relatively painless and stress free. The birds can still display all their natural behaviours including digging for bugs and grooming.
It is prohibited to tip the birds beaks by any other method or at any other age.
We regularly consult with animal welfare experts and will update our standards in line with any advice we receive from them.
Life on the Chicken farm
…like really soon.
Pork Foodie Questions
Well it’s normal to have water in the brine used to cure the ham or bacon (but real dry cure bacon can be made with just salt and sugar rubbed on the meat).
Trick is though, the more water you put in, the cheaper you can make the stuff.
We reckon people don’t want that… so we try real hard to make dryer style bacon and ham.
Our piggies deserve the best.
In a ham bag is best.
If you don’t have a ham bag… you can use a clean pillow slip (take out the pillow first).
First mix a tablespoon of vinegar with water and soak the bag… it only needs to be damp. Then pop in your ham and keep it in the fridge.
Repeat the process every 5 days or so.
Sure you can. But it is actually better if you can avoid it as it tends to thaw out wetter than before you put it in.
We reckon the guru on roasting is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
His ideas are you always start with a “half hour sizzle’ then turn it down. He goes into huge depth on the reasons why in his book The River Cottage Meat Book… if you are interested.
So to quote Hugh it’s like this…
– Heat the oven up to 220 oC
– Roast your cut for 20 min (up to 2 kg)… 30 min(over 2kg)… 45 min(over 3 kg)… this is called the “sizzle”.
– Turn down oven to 160oC
– Then roast for 25 min per 500g… for whole fillet, whole scotch, rolled leg
…or 30 min for belly, shoulder, bone in leg and loin roasts.
– Remove and rest for 10 mins before carving.
You do not have to overcook pork… treat it like beef and its best medium really… it’s not like chicken. Juices just need to run clear.
Egg Foodie Questions
Most Free range eggs come in boxes labelled mixed grade.
This means a lucky dip of different sizes.
We decided to offer our eggs in various sizes so every egg in the box is the same.
It goes like this.
M-our not too big eggs -M stands for medium
L-our big eggs-L stands for large
XL-our really big eggs -XL stands for ?
Chook Foodie Questions
…like really soon!
There’s heaps of work going on to make freedom farming environmentally sustainable. Check out our good farming page to learn about what we do.
We liked the idea of going to a supermarket and being able to trace the bacon in the pack right back to the exact farm the pork came from.
So we made it happen. Seriously if you give us the batch number on the pack we can tell you the exact farm.
This is important because as consumers we can then be sure exactly how the piggy has been farmed.
We love stuff like this.
Just like our piggy farms they are independently audited and approved by the AsureQuality auditing team.