It's a Pig's Life

PUBLISHED: 18:45 21 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:01 20 February 2013

Muckleton Meats

Muckleton Meats

Muckleton Meats has received widespread acclaim for its delicious pork products provided courtesy of a herd of rare breed Gloucester Old Spots. Farmer David Haighton tells Rachel Crow why leaving things how nature intended gives the best results.

Muckleton Meats has received widespread acclaim for its delicious pork products provided courtesy of a herd of rare breed Gloucester Old Spots. Farmer David Haighton tells Rachel Crow why leaving things how nature intended gives the best results.

"I met Raymond Blanc last year and as he said, there is no way you can describe to people how the pork of a Gloucester Old Spot is different. What you need is some bog-standard supermarket pork on one side and the Gloucester Old Spot on the other and that's the only way to

"The Gloucester Old Spot is more moist, because of the fat in it; more tasty because it's never been interfered with, and the crackling is just fantastic," enthuses David Haighton. So much so I have images of tasty bacon butties,
sizzling sausages and crispy crackling popping up in my mind's eye.

David's herd of more than 100 Rare Breed Gloucester Old Spot has the run of most of the 47 acres at his Bank Farm deep in the Shropshire countryside. Here, the pigs are free to roam at their leisure, growing at their own pace with no
antibiotics, growth promoters or GM additives added to their feed. They are just left to happily frolic and forage for wriggly delicacies in the mud and enjoy the occasional roll or wallow in it themselves.

"They have a very high standard of welfare and want for nothing," says David. "And we treat them properly. We don't castrate them, cut tails or cut their teeth as piglets, so they are as nature intended, if you like."

The chosen pork of many a chef, this historic breed
which at one time was close to extinction, is sometimes
known as the 'orchard pig' dating from the 19th century when they were traditionally pastured in orchards where they ate drop apples, helping in small scale orchard management to prevent pests.

A traditional man at heart and born and bred Shropshire farming stock, David wanted to return to the way things were done centuries ago, when animals had space to roam.
"I think the modern pig has been genetically altered over the years so much to introduce genes which enable them to
grow much faster and produce more meat per animal than an old fashioned pig that hasn't altered in 200 years, and you can taste this in the end product. "

"Ours have a layer of fat on them you wouldn't see on a modern pig which adds to the taste and succulence and flavour of the meat."

David and his wife Pam brought Bank Farm in 1994, downsizing from a 300-acre farm at Ellerdine. In the early days they had a large herd of Highland cattle with only a few pigs, but this gradually reversed over the years and since 18 months ago they have concentrated on the pig

"I like pigs. They give me a lot of pleasure, especially these Rare Breed Gloucester Old Spots. They are very
intelligent animals and the Old Spot piglets are very cute, not like the modern pig. They are quite charming really,"
smiles David.

All of the pigs are processed on the farm by David's own hand after they have been sent away for slaughter. They
produce a range including the highly popular sausages - with a new onion marmalade variety - dry cured bacon,
pork pies and the traditional cuts. As well as supplying a number of pubs in the county and further afield, including the Crown Country Inn in Munslow, and venues in London, they sell at a range of farmers' markets and via the internet
building up a loyal customer base.

David starts the first Saturday of each month at the market at Stone in Staffordshire, then Wem on the second Saturday, Roden on the third and finally Oswestry on the last Friday of the month. It's a sad truth that many of us over the years had got used to eating cheap food, which had a direct impact on the quality of the produce and the welfare of animals involved.

But recession or not, there has been a growing appreciation for good quality meats produced in accordance
with acceptable welfare standards. For this reason David notes how the current economic climate has had little impact. "I think the old adage that you only get what you pay for is particularly true when buying food and people recognise a good quality product. On a regular basis I sell
out at farmers' markets. So the business is growing. We've only been doing it 18 months, but it is growing steadily."

Muckleton Meats, Bank Farm, Muckleton, Telford TF6 6RQ Tel: 01939 251128.

Time to sizzle

It's a perfect time to start thinking about barbecuing.
Whether it's fresh fish, prime cuts of the finest meat or a basket of fresh fruit, local producers at The Market Hall in
Shrewsbury has a huge range of quality fresh products perfect for al fresco dining.

The Market Hall houses seven family butchers each offering a range of quality produce at reasonable prices. The personal contact you receive at The Market Hall can give you a real understanding of where something originates from. Being able to trace what's on your plate to its very place of origin is helpful in itself.

It's during national weeks such as Farmhouse Breakfast and Bacon Connoisseurs' Week where the quality of the produce is fully demonstrated at The Market Hall. Mel Ling of Cook & Carve dedicated the recent national Bacon Connoisseurs' Week to a sweet cure recipe originating in the USA, by hosting a week of sampling. The food came with the reassurance that local food is good-home produced food that has not adversely harmed the environment.

For something a little different, Ian Cornall owner of Barkworths Seafoods in the Market Hall recently opened a
seafood bar in front of his shop and visitors are now able to sit and enjoy an oyster or two, crab sandwiches or some
jellied eels. The Shrewsbury Market Hall's only fishmonger, delights in offering the ultimate seafood experience for all those who share his appreciation of fish, seafood and cookery.

Most of the Market Hall's stallholders sell direct to the customer so the price paid, even for organic produce, can be
lower than the supermarket and it also cuts out the added premium of food miles.

For more information visit or call 01743 351 067.

Shropshire Life June 2009 - Page 95 Jun;

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