One thing that most people can agree on is how much they love food. It has transformed from just a substance that sustains us, to a pliable product that intrigues and tempts us. Thanks to TV, recipe books and Michelin starred chefs, a whole new world of experimenting and tasting has opened up to us. Although we have more on offer than ever before, we still need to be aware of where our food comes from.
For too long we have eaten out of season food and meat that has had to travel continents to get to our plates. It is staggering to think that in 2001, the distance from farm to the plate was on average 200-400 miles. However, with the rise of the Slow Food Movement and celebrity chefs encouraging local produce into our meals we are beginning to take an interest in where our food comes from, how it is reared and whether it is in season.
In China, a new system developed by IBM and Shandong Commercial Group Co. Ltd will track a pig from farm to plate, when fully deployed in 2013, the system will allow Lushang Group to monitor and trace the movement of meat across all phases of the supply chain, including farms, processing plants, trucks and supermarkets.
In the UK, Packington Free Range Farm undertakes a similar process- although without the technology; to monitor where each piece of pig is going. Rob Mercer, managing partner, comments “we undertake the whole process, from rearing the animals from day one, through to delivering the final product to consumers, butchers and farm shops.” The company is proud to say that all pigs are free range and live their whole lives this way. “As they grow, they are given more space to move around which can help their muscle density – it’s good for the pigs but also helps develop a richer, deeper flavour as a meat.”
Although they don’t produce retail packaging, they do produce a range of consumer support material to help inform and educate the end consumer and support the butcher. “It is important that the butcher is able to communicate our story and complete supply traceability and provenance.”
The farm has caught the Slow Food Movement bug; which they feel echoes their farming values. “We could quite easily produce more meat by cutting corners on our welfare standards, giving the animals less exercise and cramming more pigs and chickens into the space we have, but this just isn’t the way that we want to do things. It is too easy to go to the supermarket and get your meal from a box, but thankfully people are beginning to realise that food produced in this way simply can’t be sustained forever.”
The life giving land needs to be considered, as well as the animals, so that it can be sustained for future generations, “all of our land is in environmental schemes, over the past 20 years we have planted over 80,000 trees in our woodland and the manure created by the animals goes straight back into local farmland.”
With the media and celebrity chefs highlighting welfare issues and encouraging farms, such as Packington, to monitor the whole process from farm to plate it is easy for the consumer to make an informed choice. “We do everything in our power to make the whole process transparent, so when customers buy from us they understand exactly how the meat has got on their plate and where it has come from.”
Next time you visit a supermarket, or a restaurant, take an interest in your foods journey.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours 30 minutes
1 x 2.25kg Packington Free Range Rolled Shoulder of Pork
1 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled
100g baby spinach leaves
Sprigs fresh thyme & sage
25g focaccia breadcrumbs
Sea salt & cider vinegar
12 small whole carrots with stalks
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
3 apples, halved
400ml vintage cider
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
Remove pork from fridge 2 hours before and cover with a clean tea towel. Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
Crush 2 cloves of garlic and blend roughly with the spinach, thyme and sage. Stir in the breadcrumbs and season then push the mixture into the meat.
Place in a large roasting tin. Score the skin and rub in salt and vinegar. Place
Meanwhile, peel the shallots and wash the carrots. Remove the pork from the oven 45 minutes before the end of cooking time, skim off most of the fat and then scatter the remaining garlic cloves, shallots and carrots around the pork. Sprinkle over the sugar and continue roasting for a further 30 minutes. Add the apples and continue roasting until the pork juices run clear.
Remove the pork from the oven
and transfer to a warm serving plate. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.
Add the meat juices in a pan with the garlic. Place over a low heat and blend in the cider and mustard. Bring to the boil stirring until reduced slightly. Serve the gravy with the pork and vegetables.
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