Is It Really Free Range?


Is It Really Free Range?

When we first ventured into the world of free range pig farming we thought we had it all planned out. It seems sometimes that two years on we are still changing our plans on a daily basis. Pigs have proven to be a worthy adversary and we have discovered that like most forms of farming there is no cookie cutter approach that will suit all farms. Despite the issues we face with farming, we thought the one part of our plan that was solid was the free range aspect. We believe that the general public do care about how our animals are treated and want to purchase ethically raised pork.

When we originally started calling butchers to offer our beautiful product they would say our competition is free range at a much lower price. We would then explain to them that their current supplier is actually not free range and are just using carefully scripted wording to imply that they are. We had some butchers say they knew their suppliers weren’t free range but the butchers’ customers were none the wiser so they could still charge a premium price. Luckily for us we have found butchers that are not scrupulous and care about the product and their customers. You can find our butchers under the PURCHASE page of our website. Unfortunately, the amount of butchers we called that responded with their customers were none the wiser was staggering.

Two years on, with the help of other free range pig farmers and the likes of the ACCC, we are slowly making progress towards changing the way free range pork is marketed. We still have a long way to go so we thought we would do our little bit by explaining some of the differences between pork labelling and our views on some of the labels. We obviously can’t name the companies that are trying to muddy the waters but the ACCC have recently concluded a review of free range claims in the pork industry and you can find their media release into the review in the link at the bottom of this page.

The three labels you are likely to hear when asking where your pork comes from are listed below.

Free Range

Outdoor Bred

Outdoor Bred, Raised Indoors on Straw

Please note as a repercussion of the ACCC findings, “Outdoor bred, Raised indoors on straw” is actually the new name for Outdoor bred.

That leaves us with two current types of labelling so let’s look at the only one that relates to free range first.

Below is an excerpt from the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program (APIQ) website on the definition of free range.

Free Range (FR) means that pigs are kept permanently outdoors for their entire life with shelter from the elements provided, furnished with bedding.

FR pork production consists of outdoor paddocks, which include rooting and/or foraging areas, wallows (where state regulations and seasonal climates permit) and kennels/huts for shelter. The huts allow the animals to seek shelter from environmental extremes. They also provide additional protection for the piglets when very young.

The weaners, growers, and sows from which they have been bred have access to paddocks at all times for their entire life. Shelter, food and water must be provided and all pigs must be able to move freely in and out of the shelter and move freely around the paddocks, unless required to be confined for short amounts of time for routine husbandry or diagnostic procedures to be conducted.

This is how we raise our pigs at Moyarra Fine Foods and it is how we think all pigs should be treated. It is very simple and to the point. There is no reason to have a different definition for free range pork. But alas….

Outdoor Bred

Again let’s start with the definition for Outdoor Bred (Outdoor Bred. Raised Indoors on Straw) according to APIQ.

Outdoor Bred, Raised Indoors on Straw’ pork production means that breeding pigs live in open spaces with free access to paddocks for their entire adult life; with rooting and foraging areas, wallows where conditions and local regulations allow, bedded shelter and adequate feed and water provided. Piglets are born and raised under these conditions until weaning.

At weaning piglets move to bedded grow-out housing with adequate feed and water provided where they remain until sale or slaughter. Housing can be permanent or portable structures or outdoor pens with shelter. The shelters must have an impermeable base and / or be located and moved regularly to minimise nutrient leaching and runoff.

Pigs may be temporarily confined to pens for routine health treatments and husbandry practices, or when directed by a veterinarian.

To put it simply this means a pork producer operating under the “Outdoor Bred” definition allows the mothers to live outside, but her litter lives inside for the majority of their lives. What does this mean to you? Ok let’s put it this way, most commercial piggeries will try and wean the piglets from their mothers at 4 weeks. This means the pork you purchase has only been outside for 4 weeks of its life. Doesn’t sound very free range does it? The ACCC agrees and that is why they have forced these producers to include “Raised Indoors on Straw” at the end of their label.

Now that you know the differences between the types of free range pork, ask your butcher what makes his pork free range. Also ask for their suppliers’ name and do some research on them. Look at their website or call them. We are happy for our customers to call us and ask how we raise our pigs so we can’t see why other producers would feel any differently.

Moisture Infused:

Now I know your mind must be swimming with information you thought you would never need but I wanted to add this little gem called moisture infused pork.

The below is the official statement on moisture infused pork.

What is Moisture Infused Pork?
It is a type of pork that has been infused with a solution of water and salts. This has been done to help the pork stay moist, juicy and tender after cooking and improve
eating quality. Infused pork is available from several certified supplier and is growing in popularity. Trial it in your store and watch your pork sales soar.

How should Infused Pork be cooked?
Infused Pork can be cooked by all the same methods you would usually cook pork: pan fry, grill, BBQ, roast, stir fry, etc. Cooking is even easier with Infused Pork, as the tender and juicy meat means it’s harder to overcook and dry out. Suggest your customers try it on the BBQ for guaranteed juiciness.

What is the sodium (salt) level?
The nutritional profile of Infused Pork is similar to other fresh, lean pork, with the exception of the addition of sodium and phosphate. The sodium content in Infused pork makes it a “moderate sodium” food and is very comparable to other foods (please refer to your supplier for actual sodium level if required). Suggest to customers they have the choice whether to add more salt at cooking or the table. In fact, a normal sized packet of chips contains more salt than over 2kgs of MI pork.

What can I do with Infused Pork Offcuts?

Infused Pork can be successfully included in rissoles and sausages for additional sales. However, given the added ingredients, Infused Pork cannot be added to mince.

Insider tips

  • Identify Infused Pork as a new offering.
    The best sales results have been from retailers who have informed their customers about Infused Pork as a new product to try at home. Your customers will take a fresh look at pork.
  • Explain the benefits of Infused pork to your customers.
    Tell them it is infused – a new type of pork which will cook and taste superb and is easy to cook. Encourage them to try it.
  • Train your staff.
    Share this handy Q&A section with your staff.
  • Buy boxed Infused Pork from an APL Certified Supplier.
    Infused Pork requires specialised equipment to ensure quality and food safety. Australian Pork has developed Infused Pork standards and certified suppliers to ensure the quality of Infused Pork. Always source from a specialist certified supplier.

To explain, moisture infused pork is pork that has been pumped with water and salts. Obviously this water and salt is going to add to the weight of the meat, reducing the density of meat to water/salt. We have also noticed that supermarkets are offering moisture infused pork at a higher premium per kilo to their standard pork giving “better sales results”.

For us our Berkshire pork is already tender and succulent and doesn’t need artificial additives, but at least now you are armed with the information to help you make the right choice when it comes to the food you put on your plate.

Below is a link to the review conducted by the ACCC into free range claims in the pork industry.

https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-concludes-review-of-free-range-and-other-similar-claims-in-the-pork-industry-0

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