Blythburgh: Free range pig farmers supply Mexican burrito chain Chipotle

Blythburgh Free Range Pork' s
Stuart Butler, Jimmy Butler and Alastair Butler

Blythburgh Free Range Pork' s Stuart Butler, Jimmy Butler and Alastair Butler - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk-based free range pork producer has become a leading supplier to Mexican burrito chain Chipotle.

Blythburgh Free Range Pork, which has worked with Chipotle for three years, now sells 100 pork shoulders a week to the US-based giant, which is gearing up its expansion across the UK.

The pork business, run by Jimmy Butler and his sons, provides meat to top restaurants including the Savoy, the Fat Duck, the Ivy and the Hind’s Head.

“Chipotle wanted to work with a farmer that had all the right animal welfare values and ethics in place,” said Alastair. “Free-range pork also tastes better, because the animals grow slower over a longer period.”

The £5million turnover firm, which began producing free range pork in 2000, is now the UK’s largest producer of the product, selling 750 pigs a week.

The farm sells whole pig carcasses to butchers in London and East Anglia, and also sells sections to a variety of customers. Jimmy’s son, Alastair, explained that where customers, such as Chipotle, wanted only part of the carcase, Blythburgh had to scale up its orders for other parts of the meat in order to justify it.

“We saw there was an opportunity in the market place to be dealing with a ham manufacturer for the legs,” he explained. “We were very much looking to expand into a marketplace where we could break the pig down and sells it to different organisations.”

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Through talks with Chipotle, the firm now understood where the Butlers’ business was coming from, he explained

“The expansion part is great, but it means we need to be expanding the other parts of the pig we sell as well,” he said. “They understand all this. It’s taken a long time for us to explain our problem to them, but they have been pretty understanding.”

There were also seasonal variations, he added. The long, warm summer holiday season meant that nationally there was a drop in demand. However, in the run-up to Christmas, demand for ham was high.

“The core or our business has still got to be butchers, because they’re the experts in breaking down carcases,” he said.