It’s Australian Bacon Week, an initiative of Australian Pork, which is a producers’ owned company promoting the interests of the pork industry in Australia. As a pretty committed bacon eater, I, like many others, read about this with some level of Pavlovian response. But then my mouth went dry as I considered how much pork is likely to be consumed in a mere week, and how much of it will be from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). My reservations grew when @SimonThomsen tweeted:
Roughly 1 million pigs were imported, mostly from Europe, for more than 70% of bacon consumed in Australia #AustBaconWeek
That’s a lot of imported bacon, and at a guess I’d say not much of it comes from free range pigs. Our family has been eating only free range or ‘bred free range’ pork for a number of years now, and yet I know many people find it difficult to source.
On the question of ‘bred free range’ (or as the industry has agreed to call it, ‘outdoor bred’), just quickly, I think there’s a fair bit of diversity in what that means on different farms, but it’s defined by the RSPCA to mean that sows give birth outside instead of in sow stalls (which are now banned in Tasmania), and the grower pigs are subsequently moved inside upon weaning. There was an excellent article on SBS Food last year about the distinction, which also covers the growing movement to raise rare breeds as well as an overview of the different cuts.
(NB The list below no longer includes outdoor bred farms. 26/3/2013)
For home, I only buy certified free range (or ‘happy pigs’), but when out, I will occasionally eat outdoor bred pork as well. Does this mean we eat less pork? Well, yes and no. We try to limit our meat intake so that on any given day we’re unlikely to have meat in two meals and we enjoy meat-free days three or four times a week. However, because where we live we have good access to free range pork, our pork intake has surpassed chicken, beef and lamb (and in fact fish as well, as we run the minefield of unsustainable fish available).
We basically follow Peter Singer’s argument that if everyone simply ate less meat and only ate that which is ethically, sustainably grown, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are with agro-industry and impending major food security issues. @evcricket has also written on Chooks, Ethics and Animal Stewardship that you might like to check out.
Some folks over on the twitterz were asking where to source free range pork, so I thought I’d compile a list of those I know. If you know of others, or want to let me know I got the classification wrong on free v bred free range, please add them in the comments and I’ll make corrections. Some of these are farms, some retailers:
New South Wales