Meating up

We are very committed to supporting local producers. We buy hardly anything from supermarkets anymore,  choosing instead to frequent local shops or buy directly from farmers and growers. It makes sense in terms of sustainability and supports the community – socially and economically. When it comes to meat, however, there is another major reason for buying direct from producers – we can be sure that there is good animal welfare.

Over the years, we gradually moved to buying mainly organic meat, but more recently we have started trying to source as much as possible direct from small producers who are happy to allow their customers to visit and see their production methods directly. Many such producers are not registered organic, but are low-input and high welfare and, unlike larger producers, happy to answer questions about their systems and pleased to have engaged customers.

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good to find a decent producer

And so yesterday we found ourselves on a hillside up above Abergavenny with Martha Roberts and The Decent Company pigs. We met Martha at a smallholders’ gathering last year and decided that her approach was just what we wanted from a meat-producer. So, when she announced that her latest pork was available, I asked if we could come and collect some in person and see the pigs. What a joy it was to meet Nancy, Winnie, Minnie, Dora, Madge, Margot, Wilbur and the growers, plus Polly and her (unplanned) piglets and see them enjoying a free-ranging life amongst the trees and grass… not to mention mud.

We learnt a great deal about pig behaviour and it was a delight to witness them exhibiting it – rooting, rolling, nesting, squabbling, snuggling up together. Most of Martha’s pigs are Gloucester Old Spots (or crosses thereof), but the wonderful Madge is a Mangalitza. Part of me balks at cooing over piglets that I know are destined for the table, but they have a good life and would not exist at all were it not for their meat value. It feels right, to me, to meet my meat and accept the implications of eating it.

So, we had sausages for breakfast this morning and we felt very grateful to Martha for her hard work, high standards and allowing us to learn what goes in to producing the food on our plates.

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the end-product

By the way, I highly recommend Twitter for getting to know small local producers – many of them have accounts and post often about their animals, crops and products. Martha Tweets from @martharoberts and this link should take you to her account even if you are not a registered Twitter user.

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22 Comments

  1. What a GREAT post. Fabulous photos, and such an enjoyable read.
    Thank you! ~ Cobs. x

    Reply
  2. Mara Morris

     /  March 26, 2017

    Totally agree and even closer to home is From the HedgeRose http://www.fromthehedgerose.com/ Sarah, whose business this is, is totally amazing with what she has a achieved in just a few years. Her bacon and sausages are the best I’ve ever tasted.

    Reply
  3. Oh, envious, not just of the lovely meat, but of your piggy visit! Gloucester Old Spots are my second favourite pig, after Berkshire Blacks 🙂

    Reply
    • They were such gentle pigs – Nancy was huge, but we went in her enclosure with her and she was simply inquisitive. And piglets are always fun… especially spotty ones. Isn’t there a Berkshire Black in one of the Beatrix Potter tales?

      Reply
  4. I’ve been looking for a natural meat producer here where I live. You would think they would be plentiful but not so. Checked out at our farmers market has turned out little so far. I will try again this season. I agree with you, I want to know where the meat comes from.

    Reply
  5. Great post Jan! I don’t eat much meat at all and I stopped eating pork altogether years ago when I realised how wonderful pigs are, they make wonderful pets and are intelligent and fun. I agree with you totally about ensuring our food comes from ethical producers. We have a butcher here known unimaginatively as the ‘German Butcher’ because, yes, he is German and an old school butcher. He sources his supplies from local organic and free range farmers which means we don’t have to travel and hunt em down ourselves. Every type of meat’s genesis can be told to you as you choose. And he is currently training four apprentices in his art too, so it won’t be lost. I hear people say they can’t afford to eat organic meat but the truth is you eat less as it is more nutritious, so really the extra cost is minimal. But for me the major issue is as you are not ingesting the chemicals and fear induced in the animals through bad husbandry techniques, how can you not afford to eat organic meat?

    Reply
    • Good to hear about ethical, trustworthy butchers. Here we are lucky to have local producers of all sorts of food and don’t have too much of a problem finding good-quality produce. I consider myself very lucky.

      Reply
  6. Murtagh's Meadow

     /  March 26, 2017

    Happy meat! I wish more people were aware of where their food came from. This is the way we should be buying our food. Well done.

    Reply
    • I don’t want to be disconnected from the source of my food. Sadly there are many people who can’t do what we do – it’s love to see a return to many, many small scale producers and the decline of industrialised production. I feel that every time I buy from a small, ethical source I’m doing my bit to create the world I want to see.

      Reply
  7. It’s so nice to see the animals going about their business. And yes, it’s good to know that meat didn’t spring from nowhere onto a styrofoam plate under cling film. I wish more people knew that–and your post (and videos on twitter) will help.

    Reply
  8. How great to see more from Martha and her pigs! I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while and I always enjoy news from the farm… Especially since I seriously considered chucking it all in and raising pigs myself once upon a time. It’s super to see a small, ethical meat producer doing so well, too!

    Reply
  9. I pretty much only eat chicken (organic) and that only rarely, but I love that you’ve found a place that respects and cares for their future-breakfast beasts and lets them have a happy life. As far as pigs, I think I’d enjoy them more as a pet…I can just see myself walking my giant pig down the streets of Portland!

    Reply
  10. It was such a pleasure to show you both around. Even though I am small in scale I do want to do what I can to help people see what can be done and achieved. And every visit it a little chance to break from the daily routines and reflect on how I’m doing with that.
    See you soon
    Martha

    Reply

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