A guide to sourcing the best quality meat:
Six questions to ask your butcher about Pork
When cooking any meat, the ultimate test is the taste test – and any food lover will tell you that humanely-reared pork has a more substantial texture and deeper flavour. It also looks better – it will have a good depth of colour and firmer fat. It’s healthier for you, too – as the animal won’t have been pumped full of antibiotics and cheap feed.
So, how do you make sure you’re buying the best quality pork from your butcher? Here are six questions to ask…
1. HOW WAS IT FARMED?
Pigs from farms that are truly organic or free-range generally offer the highest welfare and best quality.
Outdoor reared and outdoor bred pigs are not good enough. “Outdoor reared” means pigs are born and then reared in outdoor systems for around half their lives. “Outdoor bred” pigs are born in outdoor systems, but raised in barns after weaning. The sows (their mums) are generally in outdoor systems throughout their lives.
2. WHAT BREED IS IT?
Rare breeds have been phased out of commercial farms because the pigs don’t grow quickly enough to make them profitable enough. But passionate and enthusiastic farmers are fighting to keep the rarest pig breeds in existence and producing top quality pork by doing so – including (but not exclusively) the Gloucester Old Spot, The British Saddleback and The Tamworth.
3. AT WHAT AGE WAS IT KILLED?
Lower-grade pork comes from pigs that have been killed at about five months old, twice as fast as higher welfare breeds.
4. HOW WAS IT SLAUGHTERED?
Some pigs are gassed using CO2, which is aversive and can cause serious distress. Electrical stunning – when done properly – is much quicker and less painful.
5. DO YOU EVER BUY A WHOLE CARCASS AND BUTCHER IT YOURSELVES?
This is a good sign of knowledge and quality.
6. CAN YOU RECOMMEND A CHEAPER CUT AND HOW BEST TO COOK IT?
Of course, better meat is more expensive. But the less popular cuts are often the cheapest ones – and just as delicious. A butcher who is able to give you this information cares using the whole animal and the quality of the end product, another good sign.
The meaty chump: from the rump, this is easy to cook in a pan or under the grill.
The cheek: from the other end of the pig, this is fatty and great in a stew.
The loin: deboning, stuffing and rolling the loin can make it go further – and removing the skin to make a tasty crackling makes this go further still.
The shoulder: can be slow-roasted until tasty and tender, but it can also be minced for a delicious, slow-grown and slow-cooked ragu.
did you know?
The difference between low-welfare and high-welfare farming also impacts the nutritional value. The biggest nutritional difference between organic meat and non-organic is that organic meat contains around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, it’s found to have slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats linked to heart disease.