Posts Tagged ‘Pork of Yore’

Pork of Yore: Pasture production means happy pigs and succulent pork

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Pork of Yore owners Ida Vaillancourt and  Gary MacDonell raise heritage pigs on their  200-year-old farm northwest of Renfrew.

The  animals – about 100 mostly Berkshire or  Tamworth-Berkshire crosses – have access to  large mobile houses where they can take  shelter from the weather or farrow their  young. But mostly, they’re out in the fields,  foraging for grasses and leaves, and grazing on apples and wild plums from the fruit trees that dot the 110-acre property. They benefit from exercise, fresh air and sunlight. They can root, dig and wallow to their hearts’ content, and they aren’t subjected to the painful tail-docking and tooth-clipping that take place at factory farms. In other words, they get to express what high-profile American farmer Joel Salatin calls the “pigness of the pig”.

Better life, better taste

Raising the animals in a healthy, stress-free environment not only gives them a better life, it results in safe, richly flavourful pork. After years of eating ultra-lean, dry-textured supermarket cuts, customers are bowled over by the succulence of naturally raised meat, Ida says. To prove it, she lets me sample a slice of roast butt chop as well as squares of pork terrine prepared by Chef David Cooke of Arowhon Pines. I found the meat to be addictively tasty, with the colour and umami of dark turkey meat. It’s a hit with area chefs, too: Pork of Yore is a regular supplier to The Black Tomato, Thyme & Again, Indulge Kitchen & Cocktails and Arowhon Pines.

“What you feed an animal affects the taste, and stress hormones affect the texture,” Ida says. “We don’t expose our pigs to artificial growth stimulants or chemical additives, and we don’t feed them animal by-products. They eat chemical-free pasture and hay, in addition to a twice-daily mixture of locally milled grains and soy.” The pigs certainly seem healthy and happy,  following Ida and me as we tour the paddocks and gently  nuzzling the backs of our legs.

 

Pastured heritage pigs at Pork of Yore

More eco-friendly

Rotating the pigs through the paddocks – each paddock is at least of 2.5 acres — also helps keep the land healthy, Ida says, by stimulating new growth and returning nutrients to the soil.

Although sustainably raised meat is more expensive than what’s  in supermarket cases, its superior taste and more humane and eco-friendly production make it worthwhile for a growing number of consumers.

Industrial pork

Pork of Yore’s approach stands in stark contrast to the industrial meat system. It’s no secret that most pigs in Canada and the U.S. are housed in crowded, contaminated surroundings, and given daily doses of drugs, including ractopamine, a controversial substance to promote leanness that’s been banned in the EU, Russia and mainland China.

In the past few weeks, the Humane Society International/Canada has made headlines by calling for a complete ban on gestation crates for breeding sows. The crates are too small for the sow turn around or to lie down in comfortably, yet most breeding sows in Canada are confined to them throughout pregnancy. Not surprising, the confinement promotes anxious, repetitive behaviour in the animals, and results in sores,  abrasions and other injuries. The sows are moved to slightly larger cages to give birth, then re-impregnated and returned to the gestation crate for the next cycle.

The National Farm Animal Care Council has drafted a new code of practice calling for gestation crates to be phased out by July 1, 2024, but the Humane Society is pushing for faster action to bring practices in line with Canadian public opinion (more than 84% oppose the use of gestation crates, it says) and with the direction major food companies such as MacDonalds and Costco have already committed to.

Write your MPP about local abattoirs

As a culture, we’ve become so used to industrial farming we tend to see pasture production as a relic of the past. Not so, Ida Vaillancourt says. “In fact, it’s the historical norm and the best way to protect people, animals and the land.”

Besides buying pastured pork, she urges people to support small meat producers by contacting their MPPs and demanding a stronger local abattoir system including mobile abattoirs where those make sense. Today, most animal processing is carried out by a handful of big facilities. Consequently, producers must transport animals to slaughter over longer distances, a more time-consuming, costly process that stresses the animals and racks up extra food miles. Licensing local abattoirs, as the B.C. government has done with the Salt Spring Abattoir, would go a long way to encouraging small-scale meat producers, Ida says.

Where to find Pork of Yore products: At the farm gate, the Carp Farmers Market and the Ottawa Valley Food Co-operative. You can also call 613-649-0076 or order online from heritagepork@porkofyore.com

What’s most important to you when you buy pork or any other meat: price, taste, eco-friendly production, or ethical treatment of the animal?