Recently, I had a gentleman question the amount of fat on our bacon which to him was unacceptable. He had proudly taken a photo on his phone of the bacon and the fat on it to show me that this wasn't what he would get at a supermarket. I agreed - no you certainly will not get bacon like that at the supermarket.
Education is an amazing thing - and I am a big believer in 'we don't know what we don't know'. As a result I thought I would take the time to state a few facts about pigs - and the resulting bacon that comes from them.
How did we end up with pork and bacon with under 10 mm of fat on it?
First - pigs are supposed to have fat on them. Traditionally they foraged in paddocks - they were exposed to the elements and needed fat for cooling and heating in the different temperature extremes.
So what happened?
Society - OH MY GOD NOT FAT!! Let's consume every 'sort of food looking item' known to man and usually very highly processed, high in fats (animal or palm oil) and sugar - but heaven help us if we have some good pure lard fat.
Then there was this big 'idea' that pork should compete with chicken and as a result be ultra lean. It was the start of the 'I am scared of fat phase' which is slowly but surely changing in Australia. Suddenly farmers growing the highly prized pork with 15-20 mm of fat (on the chop) were told that anything more than 10 mm was unacceptable and they would get get less for their pigs.
So how is this low level of fat achieved?
Basically this is a chemical added to feed that keeps animals lean and promotes muscle growth. Added early on in piglets' feed - its impact on the growing pig continues - promoting lean, more muscled animals. Studies have shown that feeding pigs Ractopamine can have negative consequences
on the animals' behaviours, ease of handling and also increases the animals heart rate. At Tillari, there are no added chemicals or antibiotics put in our animals diets or in their water supply.
In a society that is concerned about growing 'protein' instead of homing animals, we have seen a tendency towards fast growing hybrid breeds of pigs. You can view some of these here
- commonly referred to in the industry as Superporkers. Australian pig farmers are continually under pressure to produce the most pork for the least cost per kilogram and to ensure that pig is the 'pig' that the supermarkets and media tell you that you want -that low fat pig. With the 'Big Two' continually putting pressure on all farmers - not just pork farmers, these genetic hybrids help farmers produce protein. Would these animals perform outside of a controlled situation? I do not know. But these animals produce the ultra lean bacon and pork in the controlled environment in which they are 'managed'.
The Tamworth is fatter than the pigs used in commercial piggeries - there is no question about that. And we think that is ok. Some pigs will have more fat than others - remember our oinkers are in paddocks doing their thing - not in a small pen in a controlled environment with a controlled diet. And the fat tastes beautiful - so rich and creamy and it renders to beautiful lard.
This too influences fat on pigs. Free range pigs need fat to keep them warm in winter - basically a level of insulation. Further - mothers needs good fat coverage - as this helps them maintain their weight when feeding piglets. Please keep in mind - our mothers are in paddocks - not crates - they are free to wander - and as as result also use more energy. Similarly - as they are not in climate controlled sheds they use more energy keeping warm (even though they are provided with shelter and straw).
70% of bacon and ham in Australia is imported. Yes! I am serious! Australian pork farmers are struggling and 70% of ham and bacon in this country is imported!!! Pork farmers are possibly the most screwed over of all farmers when it comes to imports. There is something seriously wrong when you can buy bacon cheaper per kilogram at the supermarket than what you can buy a live pig in Australia. How are these pigs grown? To what standard? In what conditions? Who knows but hey the bacon has little fat on it and a big eye....
When you make something in a factory - you expect the same result, day in and day out - it is the same with commercially grown pigs. When you home and love animals - and encourage them to be what nature intended - there is always going to be some variation. That is ok. We are not a factory - nor are we a factory farm. We love and grow pigs, some of which are destined to become ethical pork and bacon. If that means our bacon has a bit more fat - we are ok with that. We hope you are too.