Happy (Ethical/Sustainable) Bacon Week

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:

Victoria

Tasmania

South Australia

New South Wales

ACT

Queensland

Western Australia

Published by

Tammi Jonas

The infrequent and imperfect yet impassioned musings of a farmer, meatsmith, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community…

43 thoughts on “Happy (Ethical/Sustainable) Bacon Week”

  1. New to Twitterz is @gaianpoultry available from @Hudsonmeats in Sydney. They breed free range Tamworth, Wessex Saddleback, Berkshire and Large Black pigs.

    I’ve eaten Mount Gnomon pork; it’s exquisite, very clean tasting.

    Also look at Mountain Creek Farm http://www.mountaincreekfarm.com.au – Wessex Saddleback

    You inspired me to do an alt.milk post!

  2. Hi Tam, nice one. The tip of the proverbial iceberg. I had read that most of the legs of pork for hams we consume at Christmas come from Canada and Denmark.
    Here in Tas there were a few free range pork pinoneers who generally raised a few rare breeds.
    IMO one of the biggests hurdles for these producers is the large fat content on their pigs. I later learned that though some breeds can have more fat on them, in the end it comes down to the diet as to how much they pack on.
    Now we are seeing less importance placed on the rare breed angle and more on the diet and conditions of how the pigs are raised. In fact some are farming the very conventional breeds free range with excellent results.

  3. Thanks, Zoe & Sharon for sharing those links. I’d love to get some more NSW, Qld, WA, SA examples?

    Steve, I’ve learned a lot lately about this fat and farming method thread and am looking forward to learning by practicing with our own pigs! On the rare breed question, I’m certainly keen to have some ourselves, and I reckon a Wessex Saddleback shoulder does in fact taste more delicious than many other breeds, as does Berkshire, but once you cure any of them, my experience is certainly that the curing process dominates the flavour (some smokier, some saltier, some sweet, some cleaner, more pork flavour…). So much more to learn when we get the farm!! 🙂

  4. I also buy from The Gypsy Pig –
    Bronwyn and Michael Cowan embraced them to save the rare-breed large black pig and many breeding pigs including the Wessex Saddleback found at farms around Australia come from her stock.
    http://www.thegypsypig.com.au/

    Andrew’s Choice, a butcher in Yarraville make a wonderful bacon using an old recipe. They source slow raised pork from near Bendigo. Their smallgoods are also available from Brewsters Butchers.
    http://www.andrewschoice.com.au/about.html

  5. After eating Black Pig bacon, I cannot go back to ‘regular’ bacon. Black Pig bacon is smokey and salty and crisps wonderfully. ‘Regular’ bacon can taste fishy or smelly and is difficult to crisp, and besides, if the pigs are going to be slaughtered for my benefit, I’d like to think they had a happy time of it.

    I get it from the local Stirling Foodland but your butcher can order it in.

  6. There is Gooralie free range pork in Qld, based in Goondiwindi and I understand they’re one of only two pork producers with RSPCA endorsement (I think the other is in Victoria?). The Superbutcher sells their produce and I think they have Youtube vids of the farm, which is nice. http://www.gooraliefreerangepork.com.au/
    http://www.superbutcher.com.au/

    Backa (with the thingo over the c, so it’s like Batch-ka) Gourmet Foods in Qld make smallgoods using free range pork which they source from small-scale, local pig farms. I spoke to the dude who makes & sells their wares at the Rocklea Markets every Saturday and he told me they only go through around 5 pigs a week.
    backaaustralia@hotmail.com

    It’s also now possible to buy products like ham and fresh cuts made from wild boar.

  7. Another in NSW is Bangalow Sweet Pork, they are a middleman, predictably in Bangalow near Byron Bay, who contract local producers, mostly black breeds, to produce to their specs, and BSP markets the product.Great products!!.
    Pity APL ignores the fringes of the industry, as the levies paid by this group are very small, too small for attention. However, this is where all the good, innovative stuff is happening. The future is not mass market, but the great specialist product of various types operating in niches.
    Have a feeling Pasture Perfect have gone into recievership, which is a disaster, the product was superb.

  8. Great idea. At this stage we have ‘yard’ pigs, that we are in the process of ‘free ranging’, after we get our paddock fenced. Our sows farrow in the sow stalls, then all go outdoors after about 3 weeks. We do sides of pork, delivered to the doors of Bundaberg families, as well as a service to Brisbane families.

    Robert
    Mob 0439 898 867 / bundyfarmproduce@harboursat.com.au

  9. I have met Belle from Tillari Trotters Free Range pork – they only use tamworth pigs and i understand their pigs are always outside 100% of the time. They sell at Brisbane markets but live somewhere west of Warwick.

    Their email is http://www.tamworthpigs.com.au

    Jay

  10. Hey Tammi,

    If you are ever in our neck of the woods – please let us know so we can organise for you to come out and meet our ‘tammies’ they dont have their own blog but i am sure they will oink to you! nice to see someone who cares about how pigs are kept!

    Belle

  11. Hi Belle – thanks for popping in! We’d love to meet your tammies (my kids thought we should have got tammies rather than large blacks for obvious reasons). If we can get up your way, we’ll be sure to let you know. Have you seen our farm website as well now that we’ve started farming pigs too?

  12. Hey tammi – congrats on getting the pigs. It is a wonderful but at times challenging experience. Let me know how you feel about bred free range once you have finished your first pigs. I am not a fan of bred free range when it is marketed in a manner that allows people to believe what they are eating is free range – when it is anything but. We had our audit done this week for free range accreditation so just waiting for the paper work now. Have a wonderful sunday!

    B

  13. I note some comments being unsure of the value of rare breeds and suggesting that commercial pigs can be as sucessful. Whilst I believe that any free-range pig raised appropriately will taste better than one farmed under factory conditions, the value of the biodiversity provided by rare breeds should not be under estimated. I believe the Large Black breed to produce the finest tasting pork in the world judging by the many comments I have had about our product. The qualities needed by an outdoor sow are amply met by the Large Black but will only remain so if they are bred pure. Whilst many people profess to be ‘saving’ rare breeds by breeding them, they do nothing for the breed without a pedigree. The homogenisation of genetics by intorducing into the breeding pen pigs of unknown background eventually leads to the homogenisation of taste.

  14. In FNQueensland (near Ingham), there’s the awesome Julz and Shane of Backfatters – they have Large Black and Berkshire free ranged pigs. We’ve visited their farm, had a long chat over a cuppa with them, and eaten their excellent bacon, chops, as well as free range Boer goat. They sell to Townsville and the Sunshine Coast mainly, but I believe are putting together a future package for Brisbane.

  15. Hi Tammi,

    Would love to be added to your Victorian list. Amber Creek Farm raises paddock raised pork and sells directly to the consumer or via local farmers markets. We are based in Fish Creek in South Gippsland. Our pigs get to be pigs. They live and eat in lush paddocks and are moved to new pasture regularly. They are hand fed grain and vegetables, wallow in mud, and are contented with human company and care. Our pigs are drug, hormone and GMO free.

    Thanks,
    Dan and Amelia
    *Website coming soon*

  16. Happy to learn of more wonderful free-range pig farmers out there, Dan & Amelia! I’ve added you to the list. Don’t hesitate to drop me an email once you get a website up. Thanks for letting me know – hopefully this will help others find you too. 🙂

  17. Sorry to be a bit slow on this, Coreen, and thanks for reminding me to add Backfatters. They’re now on the list. 🙂 Great to see more happening in Queensland!

  18. Hi Tammi
    You are one inspiring lady!
    We would love to be added to your list! We are at Strathbogie and have been raising very happy Berkshire pigs. Strathbogie Pasture Pork sells beautiful pork, bacon and ham at the Euroa Farmers Market. Our pigs live in pastures, get to wallow in mud, are fed grain and apples and all sorts of lovely things, and are gmo, antibiotic and hormone free. They are happy pigs, and we are happy in their company. Our website will be up soon. Thank you.

  19. Hi there,
    We are a Registered Pure Bred Berkshire Stud located in the Huon Valley (southern Tasmania). We produce premium quality Pastured Free Range Pork.
    We would love to be added to your list!
    Kind regards
    Damien and Lilli Reardon

  20. In the Queensland list, you have included “Gooralie”. This producer has most definitely only BRED Free Range (outdoor bred) and have no Free Range products. On their page via your link they make it clear that it is “Bred” FR but they sell it to our local butchers as Free Range and the butchers really believe it is Free Range and on-sell it to their customers as such.

  21. My word, Linda – thank you so much for letting me know. I rely on people in other states to tell me whether the farms are legitimate or not, but the example of Gooralie is terrible, in my opinion. Their name is ‘Gooralie Free Range Pork’ and yet as you say they then talk about how only their breeding stock are free range – grossly misleading! I’ve removed them from the list. I really appreciate you making contact. Thank you.

  22. Hi Tammi – we are doing free range pigs in South Australia….we have saddleback/berkshire cross and they wander very happily around the forest digging and enjoying their wallow when we have the intense Adelaide heat waves! No website as yet but on Facebook as ‘Whistling Pig Farm’ – farm gate sales at present with plans to extend to local farmers markets this year. We would love to be added to your list – thanks!

  23. Hi Tammi,
    Interesting comments above.
    Gooralie is now Free Range as I was talking to them recently and they have gone to an awful lot of trouble and expense changing over. They are also very nice people.
    We had a situation here a couple of years back where we caught a butcher selling our pork as organic. Needless to say he was told in no uncertain terms and we stopped supplying him immediately.
    That type of behaviour gives the industry a bad name to say the least.
    Noticed quite a few mentions about fat – feed pigs a correct diet and if you get it right, the problem goes away.
    Regards
    Peter
    KILLARA Pork.

  24. Hello Tammi,

    I cam across your blog post regarding the difference between ‘free range’ and ‘bred free range’ I think it’s great you made this distinction so clear as not many people are aware of the difference. I would like to let you know that Borrowdale Free Range Pork is sourced from a single family owned farm and has been approved by the RSPCA and APIQ as free range bred and raised. It’s available across many outlets in NSW, VIC, QLD and SA. I t would be great if you could add us to your list. You can find out more on our website http://www.borrowdalefreerange.com.au

    Great blog!

    Joanna
    Borrowdale Free Range Pork

  25. Hi Peter – thanks very much for this information! I’ll contact Gooralie to find out a bit more since they’ve been on and off this list a couple times in the past few years.

    As for the misinfo from the butcher on organic – this stuff makes me crazy. I’m glad the ACCC are investigating free range claims now, and hope for more clarity in future.

  26. Hi Joanna – thanks very much for letting me know about Borrowdale. Sounds like quite a big operation! Do you have any further details about the farming methods and space the pigs have? With a bit more info on your system I’d be happy to add you to my list. 🙂

  27. Hi Dean – thanks for making contact! Can you send me the list of farms that supply Pigs Run Wild? I’d love to add them if they’re another way for people to find genuine free-range pork in NSW and VIC!

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