Britain is a nation of pork lovers; from a gourmet ham hock terrine to a humble pork pie - we love to cook and eat the meat. Yet, as Isaac wrote on this very blog just a few weeks ago, the British pork industry is under threat: farms are closing in their dozens, forcing sows to slaughter and farmers out of work. This is the time to stand up for our pig farmers.
With the help of some Great British Chefs, I have scoured the country to find some of their Great British Pork suppliers and discovered what makes each of them so great.
Paul Foster’s choice: Dingley Dell Farm (Suffolk)
The name of Dingley Dell will be familiar to many pork connoisseurs. The original farm is located in Suffolk and is owned and managed by two farmers, Mark and Paul Hayward. The success of Dingley Dell pork products - whether it be their ham, bacon, sausages or several of cuts pork - has allowed the two brothers to oversee the production of Dingley Dell pork on two more farms across Suffolk.
The pigs are reared outdoors and are free to roam, with the farmers adopting a ‘happy pig, happy customer’ approach to pork production - the farm has been a member of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food Scheme for over 10 years. The farm now supplies to butchers, caterers and high-end chefs like Paul Foster.
What Paul Foster says:
‘Dingley Dell is my favourite local pork; the meat has a fantastic flavour and is welfare friendly. My preferred cut is the neck, which I cure and cook very slowly like pork belly.’
Take a look at Dingley Dell’s website for more information on their award-winning pork, where you can buy the pork and the ‘Dingley Dell song’…
Shaun Rankin’s choice: Brooklands Farm (Jersey)
Ham hock, split yellow pea and barley soup - Shaun Rankin
When it comes to farming, sometimes the smaller operations are the best. Rearing rare and sadly declining British breeds like Black Pig, Saddleback and Oxford Sandy, Brooklands Farm has won many admirers in Jersey. Husband and wife team, Jon and Jenny Hackett oversee production but are relaxed about the pig’s being free to wander and as they say on their website, ‘do all things piggy’.
The farm’s products include pork pies, Green back bacon and all the pork cuts possible. It is easy to see why local chef Shaun Rankin is such a fan.
What Shaun Rankin says:
‘I use a great local pork farmer, Jon Hackett. I always try to choose Jersey food producers as much as possible and Jon offers a wide range of quality products. I know that their animals have led a natural, happy and healthy life on their farm in Jersey.’
Read more about Brooklands Farm on their website, where you’ll find out how you can adopt a piglet for Christmas!
William Drabble’s choice: Cornvale Fine Foods (Lune Valley)
Cornvale Fine Foods sources from a handpicked selection of farms across the Lune Valley region of Lancashire rather than being a farm itself. Nonetheless, its credentials are undoubted among restaurateurs and customer base. Cornvale is renowned for the exacting standards all of its farmers keep to and has supplied good quality pork and meat for over 30 years.
What William Drabble says:
‘I have built a very strong relationship with Cornvale over the years; what I like about them is obviously the outstanding quality of their products, the consistency and their personal approach. They know exactly what I want and how I like the pork butchered. I have created my own unique sausage recipe for them and they produce it specifically for my kitchen, along with the black pudding. They even slice the bacon according to my instructions, just for our guests, at St. James’s Hotel and Club.’
Read more about Cornvale on its website, where it offers intriguing sausages of black pudding and haggis!
Mark Dodson’s choice: Heal Farm (Devon)
Heal Farm used to be Devon’s best kept secret. After being championed on BBC’s Great British Food Revival by Tom Kerridge, however, it is hard to see that this will remain the case.
The farm was set up in the 70’s by farmer, Anne Petch. As Anne says herself, this was a time before provenance and sustainable farming were even of consideration and therefore Heal Farm, with its avowal not to farm intensively and to keep livestock in good conditions, is a real trailblazer of UK farming.
Heal Farm has won many accolades and supplies to many restaurants (and people) in Devon and beyond.
What Mark Dodson says:
‘We buy our pork from Heal Farm and they buy from 3 farms around Taunton, these are traditional farms and are non-intensive, in the summer the pork can also come from Winkleigh. The pigs will be typically 18-20 weeks old when locally slaughtered. We look for high quality, high animal welfare and a local product.’
Galton Blackiston’s choice: The Fruit Pig Company (East Anglia)
The Fruit Pig Company concentrate only on supplying pork and source from a number sustainably run farms in East Anglia to do so. The quirky outfit, run by acclaimed butcher, Matt Cockin, champion rare breeds to create artisanal products like pancetta, sausages of apricot, red onion and ginger and Mazzafegati.
Another thing that sets these pork suppliers apart is their wonderful range of free-from products, perfect for the gluten-free pork lover. They have also embraced social media and perhaps therein set the blueprint for how pork farmers and suppliers can move with the times.
What Galton Blackiston says:
‘The better quality meat is reared organically and I’ll pay more knowing that I will receive a better result on a plate. We use the fruity pig company and my favourite cut is the cheek or the rack.’
And Finally…Some of the Great British Chefs’ team favourites
The Ginger Pig – Safe to say one of the biggest hits of the porcine world in the last few years – follow @gingerpigltd
Eckington Manor - A working farm, B & B and cookery school combined. They breed the award winning Gloucester Old Spot Pigs - follow @EckingtonManor
Inspired? Visit Great British Chefs an amazing selection of pork recipes using the best meat from Britain’s pig farmers. Let us know some of your favourite pork suppliers too.