“REARED OUTDOORS, THE PIGS LIVE HAPPIER LIVES, FREE FROM CRATES, CRAMPED CONDITIONS AND GROWTH HORMONE”
Words: Ellie Costigan / Image: Kim Lightbody
There’s a lot to bemoan when it comes to the fight for a more sustainable food system. Rainforests are still being cut down to make way for soy, to feed cattle and the world’s ever-increasing appetite for beef. Brexit and subsequent trade deals threaten UK animal welfare standards. Biodiversity is at an all-time low. Which is why, when gains are made – however small – it’s something to be celebrated enthusiastically.
One such small win worthy of commemoration is the rescue of the British lop pig. Since the 1950s, when the meat industry deliberately switched its focus to quicker-growing breeds (namely the landrace, large white and Welsh), this native breed, hailing from and largely confined to the Tavistock region of the West Country, had seen its population diminish to the point of near extinction. But, thanks to the efforts of farmers and butchers such as Northfield Farm, it has been brought back from the brink and herds can now be found across the country. The British lop does, however, remain rare – and the best way to help maintain its revival is to keep buying its exceptionally delicious meat.
“The British lop is a large, docile pig, with big floppy ears,” says Dominic McCourt of Northfield Farm. “We don’t farm it ourselves; we get it from a trusted neighbouring farm in Firth, Yorkshire, which rears it outdoors year-round” – meaning the pigs live happier lives, free from crates, cramped conditions and growth hormones. And we end up with great tasting pork – the longer the animal is left to grow, the fuller the flavour of the resultant meat. At Northfield Farm, it’s then hung for up to a week before butchering to further ensure exceptional taste and texture.
This special breed deserves a special place on the dinner table: for Dominic, this means a deboned and rolled pork loin. “If you’re feeling it on your own anatomy, the loin is basically the main back muscle – you’ve got two that run either side of the spine,” he explains. “It doesn’t do a lot of work, so it’s fairly tender: the harder working a muscle is, the tougher it is. This one is a bit less hard working so it’s very tender, making it very suitable for roasting.” To get the best of it, butterfly the loin to make space for stuffing with lots of fresh herbs, garlic and apricots – “that kind of sweet, gelatinous fruit goes perfectly.”