Drive to revive demand for ‘lesser’ pork cuts
- Credit: Su Anderson
Pig farmers, butchers and chefs have joined forces in a bid to promote “forgotten” cuts of pork.
Pig farmer Alastair Butler of Blythburgh Free Range Pork, butcher Jeremy Thickitt, who owns K W Clarke’s of Bramfield, Halesworth, and Emmerdale Farm Shop of Darsham, Sophie Dorber chef-proprietor at The Anchor At Walberswick, and Steven Miles, head chef at the Swan At Stratford St Mary, near Dedham, said it was important to find a market for the whole pig in order to make the industry more sustainable.
“Most chefs and consumers think of pork as the loin or leg for roasting and probably not much else,” said Jeremy.
“The days of our grandparents cooking up trotters, pig cheeks and brawn from the head seem to be long gone. The pork belly and shoulder have been promoted by the likes of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on cooking programmes as great things to buy in a recession and we do sell far more of those cuts than we used to, but there are plenty parts of the pig which need to be more popular.”
Alastair, whose family rears outdoor pigs for the prime quality market, said he still faced a challenge selling all the cuts at the premium price it requires. The business’s extensive rearing methods, which requires large quantities of bedding and feed, are more expensive than conventional pig farming, he explained.
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“With our costly way of producing what we think is the finest local pork you can buy, with its trademark great marbling and succulence from the maturity the exercise gives the pigs as well as its proper old-fashioned flavour, we do struggle to create enough demand for the whole pig,” he said.
“We know our loyal restaurants and pubs who pride themselves on using Blythburgh free range pork rarely buy anything other than very specific cuts to suit their menu. So our butchery wholesalers do end up pushing the lesser parts into sausage production or even just selling our meat as standard, intensively-reared pork where its uniqueness is lost.”
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Jeremy, who buys around 50 of the Butlers’ pigs each week, said the prime cuts like loin and legs go out under the Blythburgh brand to his butcher and chef clients who specifically ask for the high welfare meat, but he admitted there was an issue with much of the rest of the carcass,
“The bellies often end up mixed into the standard bacon production and the other lesser cuts can go into the regular butchers’ sausage meat. It is a great shame that more consumers are not being so discerning when they buy their midweek supper ingredients unlike their Sunday loin or leg of pork roast when they do appreciate the free range Blythburgh label,” he said.
The Butlers are working with supportive chefs in the region, including at the Swan and Sophie at its sister inn, The Anchor.
Steven is promoting lesser cuts of pork with a mid-week pork trio main course, using all the forgotten parts, including cuts such as belly, cheek, trotter and offal.