Tamworth pork prized by chefs and gourmets
Hank Daniszewski, March 11th, 2009
Vegetable Clippings Fuel Pig Partnership
August 14, 2008
It may be the ultimate in recycling and eating local.
Ten Stratford restaurants are sending their vegetable clippings to a local pig farmer and getting a to-die-for type of pork back in return.
It's part of a partnership with local producer Mark de Martines, who is raising Tamworth pigs -- a rare breed prized by chefs and gourmets.
Commercial pork producers have long shunned the breed because it's slow to get to market weight and has a high fat content.
But that's exactly why chefs such as Neil Baxter at Rundles favour Tamworth pork.
"With slow growth it will acquire the right characteristics . . . It has a nice, interesting, rich flavour -- a little more chewy than ordinary pork," said Baxter, whose restaurant also sends buttermilk to feed the Tamworths.
De Martines has 18 Tamworth sows, which are raised in an old fashioned, free-range fashion instead of being herded into big commercial barns.
"I don't like seeing animals raised that way. Consumers also like to see animals raised in a more humane way," he said.
De Martines and his parents, Fred and Ingrid, operate Perth Pork Products, a family farm just north of Stratford that dates back to 1850. With depressed prices for their commercial breed pigs, de Martines said, he saw an opportunity for a niche market with Tamworth hogs and bought a herd from a producer near Grand Bend.
"A lot of people want it. I can't produce enough to keep everyone satisfied," he said.
The de Martines have experience with exotic breeds -- they've raised wild boars for 15 years. They also have Iron Age pigs, a cross between Tamworths and wild boars.
De Martines used to pick up the vegetable clippings from a few restaurants to supplement the regular feed for pigs. But the Stratford Tourist Alliance has now recruited 10 restaurants and volunteers from Community Living Stratford who have started picking up the vegetable clippings and delivering them to the de Martines farm.
Alliance spokesperson Danielle Brodhagen says Tamworth pork can be marketed on menus as a unique local product. She said the pickup program might be expanded to retirement residents and other establishments to give the pigs a good, rich diet of Stratford vegetable clippings.
The Boar's Head Pub at the Queen's Inn is saving pails of vegetable clippings. The Inn has been buying wild boar from the de Martines' farm for years and serving it up in burgers and chili. But they have haven't been able to get any of the prized pork.
"The chances of our getting it are slim. We are trying to do him a favour and hoping he'll turn around and give us some," said chef/manager Henry Stobbe.
Hank Daniszewski is a Free Press business reporter.