Crossgar Farmer’s Ethical Approach Features In Animal Welfare Campaign
Farmer Robbie Neill, whose farm Stonebridge Cottage Farm is just about a mile from Crossgar off the Killyleagh Road in County Down, is starting to enjoy the fruits of his labours in diversifying into a niche pork sector.
And recently he has taken part in a promotional video for Farms Not Factories, highlighting the benefits of buying high quality meat produced sustainably and ethically and touching on how he has managed through the Covid-19 crisis.
The featured video uses the farm’s approach to encourage ethical management conditions for livestock, and is available to view on:
Stonebridge Cottage Farm rears free-range pigs and sells pork in their farm shop, as well as to local restaurants, pubs, and shops.
Robbie said: “I have farmed all my life by its only in the past few years we built up our pig herd and every thing seems to be going great. We used to do cattle and sheep farming but it is just great to have diversified into this sector.
“My pig herd basically consists of two different breeds of pigs. The Oxford Sand and Block breed is a very traditional old breed – they are kind to the eye and great to work with. They were almost extinct a couple of decades ago and have made a good comeback. They have an extra layer of fat so this appeals to many of the older school of pork eaters.
“And the Duroc breed we rear have lovely marbelling in the meat which allows for excellent cooking and presentation of the finished product. We cross this breed with the Oxford Sandy and Black and get the best of both worlds.
“Both of these breeds are very hardy and live free range. We have around 100 pigs in the herd at any time.”
Robbie explained the pigs are fed on brewers grain from the local breweries, whey from the local cheese makers, and raw veg from local farmers as well as some mineral grain. During lockdown the grain and whey ceased, so costs went through the roof. But, the farm shop got busier.
He runs the farm along with his wife Louise, said: “In the early days of Covid-19, our brewers grain and whey went into short supply and the demand fro beer declined as bars closed and the cost of feeding the pigs in the short term went through the roof.
“But on the flip side, in the medium term, our farm shop got considerably busier as people preferred to go to their local farm shop instead of the supermarket because it was easier to organise deliveries and do pick ups.
“So we have secured an excellent new customer base that appreciates free range meat which they have not tasted in many years. With our pedigree Oxford and Sandy Blacks there is that extra level of fat in the pork which is just fantastic to cook with.
“It’s been a good opportunity to educate people too – there is an alternative out there and people are doing something different to the massive commercial farms.
“I hope that as the Covid situation progresses and normal life returns that people will remember local producers who have helped to supply people with food during these lockdowns, rather than returning to buying low quality produce such as factory farmed and imported meat which may appear cheap but has a high price in many other ways”.
Campaigning against factory pig farms for over 15 years, Farms Not Factories campaign group leader and spokesperson Tracy Worcester said: “We use video for public screenings and social media to expose the damage caused by factory farming to pigs, human health, environment, rural economies and urges consumers to only buy local, high welfare and ethically produced meat.
“During the coronavirus era, our campaign group has been asking small-scale pig farmers and pork producers to film themselves explaining how their businesses are faring and how they have adapted their sales strategies to cope with the impacts of the pandemic.
“Thankfully most are doing well as the lockdown restrictions have meant that more people are shopping locally from farmers they trust.” said Tracy Worcester.
So if you want a tasty dry cured ham joint for your Christmas dinner this year, give Stonebridge Cottage Farm a ring.
Stonebridge Cottage Farm’s video can be viewed at: