November 15th, 2022 Rooting for Real Farms

Rooting for Real Farms: Nic Day and Alastair Butler (Blythburgh Free Range Pork)

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Nic Day, formerly Executive Chef at Sixes Cricket Club Restaurant in Fitzrovia, believes that the taste of the pork he cooks tells the story of the animal’s life, what it was fed, whether it had fresh air and exercise, living outside and rooting in the soil with the sun on its back or whether it had been crammed for all its short life in a factory farm, trapped in a steel cage on a concrete slatted floor, overcrowded, bored, stressed and unhealthy, requiring routine antibiotics just to keep it alive.

“When it comes to factory farming there’s no worse conditions I can imagine a pig living in. From the day that this animal is born into factory farming they live a life of suffering, not only with injuries but also mental problems that then affect the overall taste of the meat. The stress levels seep into the fibres of the meat.”

While head chef at Temper in Soho, Nic got a rave review that shone through a list of complaints mostly about the service, “Big thumbs up for the Head Chef there, Nic Day for pulling up such a tasty menu from start till end, fitting perfectly in the vibe of Soho and making it a the city’s most talked about restaurant.”

After suffering a breakdown brought on by the stress of working long hours in frantic kitchens, Nic found himself homeless and sleeping in a tent in Victoria Park, but his passion for cooking and irrepressible motivation got him off the floor and onto…. Masterchef ! Things didn’t go that well though and the judges were not impressed with his main dish of undercooked goat followed by a dessert of a raw egg infused in whisky.

The day Nic cooked for us everything went perfectly. He had marinated the rare breed pork chops overnight in a light brine, they were then flame grilled over a wood fire and pan fried finished in rosemary infused butter and served with prune ketchup. The meat was cooked to perfection, with the superb taste and texture that top chefs rely on and expect from outdoor reared pigs where they have room to exercise and forage with plenty of space and fresh air.

This is where Alastair Butler comes into the picture. Alastair is a second generation pig farmer from Suffolk who, along with his father Jimmy and brother Stuart, runs Blythburgh Pigs, a free range farm with a herd based on Jersey Red Duroc and Yorkshire Large White pigs. These breeds grow more slowly than the pigs in factory farms where they are bred for quick growth (being typically slaughtered at 5-6 months) and efficient protein conversion without regard for either the pigs’ welfare or for the taste and texture of the meat, which from a factory farm is colourless and lacks flavour.

Alastair and his Dad Jimmy have slowly built their large outdoor herd over the past 20 years and are totally committed to raising their pigs free range, outdoors with arcs for shelter . The pigs are part of the crop cycle on the farm, digging up old leys and cropped fields, rooting and fertilising fields before they are re-sown.

Pig manure is excellent for nourishing and maintaining healthy soil, and the pigs dig in the ground, encouraging wild flowers which attract pollinators and other insects and wild grasses that trap carbon in the soil.

Alastair says, ”Truly free range pigs have close to 80 times the space of a commercially reared British pig along with the freedom to root and dig in the soil. This natural environment reduces boredom and stress, enhancing the quality of the meat further. This continuous activity and investigation not only leads to great muscle development but results in a slower more natural growth rate for the pig.”

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