Truth behind the label: Free Range versus outdoor bred and reared

Yesterday’s news about the Waitrose multimillion pound ad campaign with Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith’s, highlights the widespread confusion about the labeling of pork.   You can read the story here: The Independent.

On our Food Safari visits to Blythburgh Pork I am always fascinated to see how many, educated and foodie people are confused by the difference between organic, free range, outdoor reared and outdoor bred. The RSPCA and the pork industry are working to standardise these terms and encourage the supermarkets to adopt them – Pork Provenance. In this case, the Advertising Standards Authority felt that because consumers didn’t understand the terms, they would uphold the complaints about the campaign.

At Blythburgh, Alastair Butler, takes the time to explain the terms clearly.  Blythburgh is one of only independent four commercial free-range pork farms in the country. The pigs are outdoors from birth until the end. Organic pigs are reared to the same standard but must be on land that has not been sprayed or fertilized for at least three years. All their food must also be organic. Alastair explains that the additional issues around the cost of the feed, versus the taste benefit, means that the commercial organic pork industry is practically non-existent.

Outdoor-bred, the term used by Waitrose means that the sows are kept outdoors and the piglets spend their first four weeks outdoors until they are weaned and taken indoors to be fattened.

Outdoor-reared is a loser term and means that the pigs are outdoors for APPROXIMATELY half their lives.

A visit to Blythburgh gives you the chance to see for yourself how happy the pigs are, and how they are able to behave naturally, playing, foraging or just snuggling together in their huts. After tasting the meat you also understand how their breeding produces better tasting meat – so good in fact that it is used by Mr Blumenthal himself at the Fat Duck!

So you see, there is a delicious irony in him fronting an ad saying outdoor bred pork produces better tasting meat, when in fact for his restaurant he choses the best Blythburgh Free Range Pork!

For a more light-hearted insight into our trips to Blythburgh Pork and butchery workshops I recommend Adrian Melrose’s blog:
Review of Free Range Pig in a Day

For more information about Blythburgh Pork visit: www.freerangepork.co.uk

Food Safari’s next Free Range Pig in a Day takes place on Saturday 7 May, 2011.  Limited to 12 people so book early.  Food Safari

Praise for Food Safari

I just wanted to write and say how brilliant the Game Day was.  I found it exciting, informative and really inspiring.

James Negus