Dare I say it? That dirty word at this premature time of year – CHRISTMAS. For us, Christmas is a difficult time, knowing how much more our customers are going to need for the festive period.
Because of how our farm is set up for the free-range enterprise (pigs which go via the Anna’s Happy Trotters brand) and those that go to the outdoor bred side of the business which go on contract to a major retailer, we are constantly having to plan how many weaners we need to send to our free- range fattening unit as opposed to our straw-based yards.
Given that it takes 15 weeks from wean to slaughter for pork pigs (longer for bacon), we need to make decisions in August/September about how many extra weaners to send. And to be cost-effective we don’t want to send too many, as these pigs cost more to fatten outside. We also don’t want to go too mad as January tends to be a little flat, apart from last year when we gained a big new customer so sales never went down.
It’s always difficult for our butchery staff too, knowing how many extra pigs to get in and how many hams to cure. Historically it has been the ham and streaky bacon sales that have gone mad, but then, thanks to Jamie Oliver and his Jerky ham hocks recipe the week before last Christmas, we were inundated with ham hock orders – something we are rarely ever asked for!
In fact, so renowned is Mr Oliver for causing these overnight booms in random product sales (he did the same thing with his slow roast shoulder recipe during a campaign some years ago), in the industry it is now known as “the Jamie Oliver effect”. So if you’re reading this Jamie, if you could do a nice recipe with pigs’ tongues or tails, or a good bit of offal that’d be greatly appreciated.
Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows