Saturday, 25 September 2010

A Visit to Perth Pork Products

Back to the tour. The next stop was at Perth Pork Products, home of the de Martines family and a whole bunch of very interesting pigs. The de Martines were busy this day, so the tour was given by Linda Walton, who is a friend and neighbour along with one of their daughters. This is a typical farm of the area, dating from the 1850's. The de Martines came from Holland and bought it in 1979. A few years back, during one of the low-price crises that afflict pork farmers with depressing regularity, they were in danger of losing the farm. They decided on a new course. Ingrid took an off-farm job, and they started raising Tamworth pigs. This is an old and hardy British breed; the resemblance to wild boars is noticable, although they are consistently redder in colour as well as larger. More recently, they have added Berkshire pigs to the mix, and they still raise commodity pigs (that's what you get at the supermarket) in the barn.

They also have wild boars, which look remarkably like the ones in the Asterix books. So they should, I guess! They live outdoors all year round. They have plastic calf hutches surrounded by bales of straw, which the pigs can burrow into to keep warm and to provide shelter for their babies when they have them.

The babies are really, really cute, having reddish stripes. All the pigs wagged their tails as they ate, which was really funny to watch but I'm afraid all they were doing was keeping the flies off.

The de Martines collect vegetable scraps from the local farmers markets and restaurants as a treat for the pigs. Their main diet is corn, barley and soymeal. The manure from the pigs is used to fertilize the fields, however the farm is not organic as they have no reliable supply of organic feeds available. In addition to the vegetable scraps they get black walnuts and other nuts grown on the farm as a treat when they are available. They were given some when we were there, and we could hear them crunching away as they ate them, shells and all.

Next we headed out to the shelter/pen where the Tamworth sows live, along with Todd, the boar. These are their breeding stock. As soon as we came along they all trotted out to see us. These were once a common pig in Ontario, and their long lean sides produce lots of bacon. However, the white commodity pigs, while not nearly so hardy, are ready in 6 to 7 months. The Tamworths will not be ready for 9 months to almost a year.

It takes a 1 1/2 years to 2 years before the wild boars are ready to market; the same with the "Iron-Age" pigs.

One of the de Martines daughters poses with the pigs.

Happy as a pig in mud...

After we saw the Tamworth sows we continued on past their shelter a good distance.

There, we found the pasture for what Perth Pork markets as "Iron-age" pigs. These are a cross between the wild boars and the Tamworth pigs. They look a lot like the wild boars, but in a range of colours between the grey of the wild boars and the red of the Tamworths. They started raising these when they could not get a Tamworth boar. They do have one now, but still produce the "Iron-age" pigs, which combine the slightly gamey, finer grained and more solid meat of the wild boar with a little more fat.

They too were happy to be fed a box of vegetable scraps from the market, although I was amused to see that they all sniffed at then rejected a lemon. The large grey pig in the middle right side of the picture is the boar, Prince.

There is a viewing room where the commodity pigs in the barn can be seen roaming about inside.

And finally, there is a small shop on the farm where frozen pork or smoked proscuito hams, schinkenspeck and bacon can be purchased. Orders can also be made online.

A piece of schinkenspeck and a proscuito ham from the fridge.

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