Before we were treated to a beautiful lunch, we headed to Perth Pork Products to learn about the main ingredient of our lunch: wild boar, along with a variety of other pigs that are raised on the 100 acres farm. Owned and operated by Fred de Martines and his family, Perth Pork Products specializes in rare and heritage breed pigs, and is home to five breeds of pigs: commercial pigs, wild boar, Tamworth, Berkshire, and the prized Iron Age.
We first checked out the commercial pigs. These pigs are a cross between three breeds: Yorkshire, Landrace, and Duroc. They’re raised in a closed pen and takes about six to seven months from birth to have them ready for the market. While they’re fast and cheap, and the kind of pork you’ll usually find the meat aisle of your chain supermarket, Fred makes it clear that these aren’t the money-makers on the farm.
Next we walked over to the wild boar pen. These small, lean animals are raised on corn and grain, but get the occasional treat of black walnuts. Wild boar is a lean meat with a slight wild flavour, and I couldn’t wait to try it for lunch later, especially after having it seen roasting over the pit earlier at Soiled Reputation.
Fred then led us to the pastures at the back of the farm where the Tamworth, Berkshire and Iron Age pigs are kept. The Berks and Tams were lazily hanging out, basking in the shade for a little afternoon nap. The life of a pig…it’s hard!
Sure, the pigs may look different (Tamworth pigs have a orangey-red coat, while the Berkshires wear a black coat), but what is the real difference between them? Tamworth pigs are known as bacon pigs because of how deliciously fatty they are, while Berkshire pigs will yield a richer, darker, sweeter meat. Both are rare heritage breeds, and a treat to have on your table.
Lastly, we went to the see the prized Iron Age pigs, a result of cross-breeding a Wild Boar boar with a Tamworth sow. This has been the newest addition to the farm, and because of its long growth time, is only available periodically.
Besides raising pigs, Fred is also passionate about another important factor in the meat processing industry: saving small abattoirs of Ontario. Since the listeriosis outbreak at the Maple Leaf plant, new stringent provincial regulations are putting small Ontario abattoirs at risk of closing down, costing them thousands of dollars to to meet the new rules, inspections and paperwork. This seriously poses a threat to our local abattoirs, and as Fred explains, does nothing to get to the root of the problem with big processing plants like Maple Leaf. “At a small abattoir, at the end of the day, the small equipment gets completely taken apart. Everything that touches meat is out in the open; it’s washed, disinfected, dried, and then the next day gets put together. That’s why you don’t get any recalls from abattoirs. It’s just not possible.” As a result, meat from small abattoirs are much safer than what you would buy from one that, despite wearing a brand name, comes from a huge, commercial plant.
You too can make a difference by supporting the National Farmers’ Union in Ontario to save small, locally-operated abattoirs in Ontario. Print this card and send it to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to the address on the form.
If you find yourself at Perth Pork Products, be sure to stop by Fred’s little pork shop to purchase some of his fabulous pork products. Fred’s products are also bought by some popular Toronto restaurants, including The Black Hoof. You can also find Berkshire pork products at J-Town in Markham.
Tomorrow’s lunch: Perth Pork Products’ wild boar and more as we’re treated to lunch at the Soiled Reputation barn, courtesy of Chef Neil Baxter of Rundles.
Perth Pork Products