The quality of food we put into our bodies is sometimes overlooked but one family has taken the leap to grow their own fully organic pork to ensure they consume only the best.
Homemade, Happy, Healthy Farm has been operating for four years and is a small scale ethical pasture-raised and organic-fed pork operation in the small village of Waitui on the mid North Coast.
Farm principal Sarah Groom said she had always been very passionate about animal welfare and the environment and as a consumer, she wanted foods that were organic, bio-dynamic, and free from chemical farming.
"When I was pregnant with my first child, I had to think about what was going in to my body as it was feeding another little person," Mrs Groom said.
"I wasn't happy with the options out there, nothing was doing it for me or was good enough so it became clear to me that if I wanted good food, then I had to raise it myself."
Moving out of Sydney and to rural NSW was something Mrs Groom said she had wanted to do in order to be more self-sufficient. She wanted to help improve the land and look into regenerative agriculture.
Currently on-farm there are three English Large Black sows and one boar with anywhere from one to two litters on the ground at any time. Mrs Groom said the breeding was staggered so piglets were born throughout the year and not all at once.
"We never have more than 30 pigs on the farm if we have our scheduling right," she said. "Part of us being small scale is the ethics of it."
"The more and more animals you have, the harder it is to know each animal and it's harder to keep a tight hold on the ethics."
Mrs Groom said the operation was free from sow stalls and farrowing crates with all pigs being able to roam freely in open pastures with a grazing rotation where pigs were moved each week to prevent any heavy impacts on the soil.
"All of our sows give birth outdoors and they have shelters outside that they can use if they wish," she said.
"They build their own nests 24 hours before birth, chomping the grass down and making a structure to give birth in."
The sows are not restricted in any way and Mrs Groom said she hasn't lost any piglets from being laid on as the sows were stress-free and could pay attention to their young.
Piglets were naturally weaned by the sows, usually occurring at 10 to 12 weeks but she said each sow was different.
Mrs Groom said the male and female piglets were put in separate paddocks after weaning as the males were not castrated and she didn't want to risk any accidental pregnancies.
She said there had not been any issues with boar taint in the meat, even with the uncastrated males, as the pigs were stress-free and had access to fresh pasture.
"It is genetic too, we haven't had any issues with our boars having taint," she said.
The pigs are processed at about six months of age, but Mrs Groom said it varied slightly depending on the availability of the butcher.
"If you raise pig longer, their weight gain begins to drop off so it isn't overly financially viable to feed them past six months," she said. "The pigs we raise are a naturally fatty pig too so we need to be careful of that as well."
Selling this niche market meat requires a different type of marketing compared to conventional pork producers as it is a more expensive product.
Mrs Groom said the pork was stocked in Organics Matt R, Port Macquarie, but the majority was sold in half pig shares.
"Because we are organic, and the fact we give them organic feed, means obviously our costs of production are a lot higher," she said
"We pay about double what conventional farmers do for their grain but we can't charge double for our pork because no one would buy it."
"The way we can bring the price down for our customers is by selling in bulk."
She said when a half pig is purchased, a cut list is sent to the buyer where they choose exactly how their pig is cut. The information is then compiled and sent to the butcher to be completed.
Mrs Groom said she enjoyed being able to connect to her customers and teaching them how the pigs were raised and the reason behind it.
She said she is already making rendered lye from the pig fat and making soaps with it in their own kitchen.
Looking to diversify their income from the pigs, Mrs Groom said it was difficult to convince the modern day consumer to take extra pieces like the head, tail, and fat.
She said she was looking to make jars of rendered lard and bone broth but would need to have a commercial kitchen to make these.
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