How We Rear Our Saddleback Pigs
Native breed pigs play an important role in sustainable farming. We rear our pigs in harmony with nature as part of an incredible mixed family farm. Providing our pigs with a healthy environment results in fabulously flavoured pork that can be enjoyed with complete confidence.
All of our breeding sows are Wessex Saddleback, the native West Country breed with the distinctive white saddle across her shoulders. We cross these traditional pigs with another native breed, a Welsh boar, another traditional slow-growing pig. The result is an old-fashioned slow growing pig, decorated with pink and blue patches, and, like their parents, their ears flop over their eyes.
All our sows live outside and farrow in arks. Pigs are intelligent animals and it is incredibly important for them to be able to exhibit their strong natural instincts. One of these is to build a nest before farrowing, which might take a couple of days. They do this using straw and clumps of earth and grass. The nest guides the piglets as they are born onto the teats – totally natural and so different from the way sows are kept in industrial pig systems.
We leave the piglets on their mother for 8 weeks, to get the full benefit of their mother's milk, and as well as rooting outside from only a few days old it ensures they build a strong natural immunity, which means that we only use medication when it is absolutely necessary.
Properly Free Range
All our pigs live outside, in family groups, roaming freely and display all of their natural instincts, digging for roots and wallowing in mud - Mother Nature's brilliant sunblock.
Pigs are highly social creatures with individual personalities, and spend much of their time naturally interacting with one another. Our pigs live outside for their entire lives in family groups, from birth right until they have reached natural maturity. We castrate our male piglets at 7 days old. This is a very quick simple procedure and our strong belief is that it is the right thing to do for 3 reasons. Firstly, the male piglets are then able to grow slowly in a stress-free environment to reach natural maturity, alongside the females. Secondly, the castrated males are more 'relaxed' and not, at any stage, exhibiting behaviour driven by high levels of testosterone. Finally, exceptional eating quality has always been the most important objective of everything we do in our day-to-day farming. We know that entire males definitely compromise our ability to achieve this.
Unlike industrial systems, we do not clip the piglets' teeth or dock their tails – it is unnecessary when pigs are reared outside for their entire lives, with plenty of space to roam, living in totally natural conditions.
Our pigs are raised on pasture and forage crops such as kale, turnips and fodder beet.
Pigs are monogastric animals, which means their digestive system is adapted to extract nutritional value from a wide range of sources. In traditional farming systems pigs have been very efficient processors of waste and by-products. Our Saddlebacks are not genetically engineered to respond to highly processed industrial diets. Instead, they thrive on a wide range of simple ingredients ranging from cereal grains to forage to acorns or apples, and very importantly soil biota to nourish their own gut biomes.
Regenerating the Soil
Sustainable food systems are about much more than simply avoiding nasty chemicals and antibiotics, they are about building organic matter in the soil through crop rotation and mixed farming practices. High levels of organic matter are the basis for soil fertility, releasing nutrients for healthy plant growth and ultimately food. In other words, the amount of organic matter present in the soil is essential, both for combating climate change and ultimately improving our health.
Managed effectively pigs provide one of the most sustainable ways of improving soil health, ploughing and fertilising the ground in the most natural way, minimising the use of machinery and inorganic fertilizers. The key is to rotate the pigs around the farm in order to reduce burden on a particular part of the ground.
We work with an incredible family farm just 4 miles from Pipers Farm HQ. Here, Mark, a fourth generation farmer, along with his parents, wife and brother have made their farm a paradise for Pipers Farm pigs. (Mark also rears lambs and turkeys for us as part of a traditional, mixed system)
Our talented, likeminded farmers work to our standards to ensure every animal reared is of exceptional quality and has been produced in a way you can have complete confidence in. We work closely with our farmers to ensure we are treading as lightly as possible on the land and producing delicious nutritious food for your table.
We take our pigs a short distance to our local, small farm-based abattoir. This is very important to us - it means that the animals are not stressed, the small team are highly skilled craftsmen, and importantly, the carcasses are in perfect condition to be hung on the bone, in the traditional way for 3 weeks. It is most unusual to hang pork – however we believe it helps to develop the award-winning sweet, melting flavour that has won us so many awards over the years.We hang the carcasses for a shorter time if we are using them to cure and air-dry to produce our award-winning bacon and gammon.
Shop Saddleback Pork
Our native breed pork has a distinctive, rich flavour and a fantastic texture, which are further enhanced and intensified by the maturing process. Our Saddleback pork has collected many accolades over the years, including Top 50 Best Products in the Great Taste Awards.