After our trip to Monforte Dairy and Soiled Reputation, we headed out to Perth Pork Products, a certified hog farm which has been selling pork products since 1992 directly to the public on the farm and to local restaurants and stores. Chefs are loyal customers of the farm due to the exceptional quality of their products. All of the pigs are heritage breeds (ie. Tamworth, Berkshire and Wild Boar) raised humanely in and out doors with the heritage breeds raised as they were historically (on pastures and in the bush-lot).
Fred and Ingrid de Martines, originally from the Netherlands, bought the 100 acre farm (in production since the 1850s) in 1979 and performed extensive renovations to make it what it is today. Fred is a certified Swine Specialist with European training and experience.
In 1992 the de Martines started their first Wild Boar herd with certified breeding stock originating in Germany and Russia. They have since added a Swedish boar to the herd. More recently they were afforded the opportunity to buy a herd of Tamworth pigs, however they did not have a suitable Tamworth boar for breeding so they introduced their sows to a Wild Boar for one cycle. The resulting piglets are the hearty Iron Age pig so prized in Great Britain. After much searching they found two unrelated boars and two more sows to add to the Tamworth herd. All the sows are now birthing beautiful piglets. They are provided a shelter where they give birth. They then are turned onto pastures where they graze. the de Martines family also raise a herd of Berkshire pigs, raised in open fields on natural feed.
The farm offers the tourist a chance to view traditional pig farming with a viewing room into the barn, next to the pastures with the heritage breeds. The pigs you see below are commodity and a cross between 3 breeds: Yorkshire, Landrace and Duroc, which results in a pig that is mainly white, with some pigs showing some red color. It takes approx. 6 – 7 months from birth, to bring these pigs up to 250 lbs live weight. This is the pork that you will find in the regular supermarket. The pigs were cute but not so cooperative!
We moved on to feed the Wild Boar. Raised in field and forest conditions where they forage, the boar receive naturally fertilized, non-GMO, farm-grown corn and grain during the winter months. The meat is fine-grained with little fat and keeps much of its original wild flavour. Rich fruit sauces and chutneys or juniper flavors work well with Wild Boar. Since it takes two years to bring an animal to weight naturally, they only become available periodically. Here they are eating the black walnuts Fred threw them. As you can see, the little boar were interested but most of them were muscled out with the exception of one brave little one!
We headed out to see the Berkshire pigs next:
These field-raised Berkshire produce rich, dark meat with fat marbling that gives it a full flavour. It is considered sweeter than commercially raised pork. The meat needs gentle handling and works well with slow cooking. Many older people who are given Berkshire meat report that it taste like pork used to when they were young. The Berkshire pig has apparently been a favorite of the British Royal Family since Queen Victoria’s time.
Also in the pen were the Tamworth pigs. They looked pretty tired. LOL!
Tamworth pigs are the “poster animals” of heritage pigs. The beautiful red Tamworth pig, known traditionally as a “bacon pig” because of the excellent flavour of its smoked meat has a history as a British forest pig that grazes. This has given fresh Tamworth meat a distinctive flavourful taste. A Bristol University taste test, under scientifically controlled conditions, rated Tamworth meat as the best when compared with other rare breeds and commercial pork. As with all pork, light fruit based sauces make a good accompaniment but it is the flavour of the meat alone that makes this heritage breed worth growing slowly. They take 50% longer than commercial pigs to grow to market weight.
The Berkshires and Tamworths live in an open shelter with lots of grazing space and mud. They seem to live a happy life.
Next we went to visit the Ironage herd.
“Iron Age pigs” are known in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and are the result of cross breeding a Wild Boar boar and a Tamworth sow. Dominant genetics seem to play a role in the flavour of the meat. Since Fred only recently started breeding these animals and they take a year and a half to come to weight, they are not able to fully describe the flavour of the meat with any consistency. It appears the meat seems to have some wild boar taste along with additional fat that enhances the flavor. Again because of the long growth time they will only be available periodically.
Fred made it clear that it is the “Berks and Tams” that keep the farm in operation. Fred also talked to us about how critical it is to keep small abattoirs alive and in business (there’s only one remaining in Perth County today). He reminded us that whilst people are often suspicious of smaller meat treatment plants and fear contamination (i.e. listeriosis) from such operations, it’s actually easier to keep the plants and machines clean as they are able to take the smaller machines apart and clean them thoroughly which is practically impossible in a large-scale operation.
If you are interested in saving smaller locally-operated abattoirs in Ontario and believe that “small, locally-owned and operated, provincially-inspected abattoirs are a key ingredient in safe, local food. They provide a crucial link between livestock farmers and the local food movement,” you can support the National Farmers’ Union in Ontario by printing this and sending it off to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at the address on the form.
Factual information about the pigs gratefully retrieved from Fred’s website.