I am a sucker for a pig story. I don’t know what it is but I just love pigs – both on the plate and off!
If there is an opportunity to visit a farm and interact with some piggies, it doesn’t take much to convince me. It was with this in mind that I ventured up past Gympie, Lower Wonga way, to visit Melinda and Brad Murnane of Rhodavale Pork.
Rhodavale Pork is not a new business. In fact, they have been around for a few years, producing quality, ethically raised pork, which has been available at markets and through various outlets around the coast and beyond.
But things have just got better, with the recent installation of a processing facility on their 430acre property that allows them to process their meat onsite. Additionally, availability and accessibility is now even easier than ever with their pop up shops and delivery points in Gympie and the Sunshine Coast, as well as a whole lot more butchers stocking their products. More on that in a minute…
I had planned to visit Rhodavale Pork last year, but a busy workload and baby number four took precedence, and after visiting and seeing just how much Melinda and Brad have accomplished / do on a daily basis, I am amazed they have any time at all.
But I guess that is it. It is all about the passion, and it is the driving force for people like Melinda and Brad, who’s primary focus is to produce ethically raised, pastured, quality pork, and do it in a way so that it is available to everyone. And I am so glad!
So, back to the piggies… all 800 of them! Yes, 800 – at various stages of growth. That is an astonishing number of pigs! Yet, when you visit, you would be forgiven for thinking there are not many at all. Taken on a tour around the property with Melinda, and our quality control supervisor, 1 year old baby Charlotte, who happily supervised from the back seat of the car, I was able to see just how freely they all roamed and how happy they all were and importantly, how much space they had. Piggy paradise.
Purpose built piggy bungalows scatter the landscape spaciously. Mud bogs are dotted sporadically in between with some very happy pigs seeking solace from the heat.
Rhodavale breed Large White pigs, with a speckle of Landrace in them. They are pink. Extremely pink. Well technically, they are white, but they look pink.
People always think pigs are dirty. They are not. I think this has come about through piggery mentality where pigs are forced to live in their own squalor, but left to their own natural free-range devices, they are quite the opposite.
Growing up, we had a pet pig, Freda (my dad’s name was Fred, we thought it fit). Contrary to popular belief, she would wander to the furthest point of the paddock from where her food and bed was, to do her business. They are fastidiously clean. So when you see them covered in mud in a free-range environment, don’t be mistaken in thinking that they are neglected or ‘dirty’ – it is their cooling mechanism, and it prevents sunburn. Piggy equivalent of Slop, Slop, Slap 🙂
Watching them wallow is endlessly entertaining. Each paddock has several wallow bogs that is fed by a tap, the nozzle of which the pigs have managed to work out how to control themselves, feeding water in to top up their bogs and to have a drink.
I admit it was a hot day… the bog looked tempting, even for me. I can see why they want to spend so much time there! Piglets of various age and size, would wander in and out playfully, pink noses shining like beacons from underneath a cloak of mud. They are so cute, they just make me laugh.
As a treat (for me), there was a litter born just the day before. 12 little piglets, ears still turned down, followed their mum to seek refuge in one of the bungalows away from this strange lady that was desperately trying to get some close up photos! They were sooooo cute!
I will stop talking about how cute they are now, and get down to the business of eating them!
Most importantly, these pigs are pastured – they roam freely, forage freely and enjoy a natural pastured diet. I can’t emphasis enough how important this is. If you are buying your pork at the supermarket, I can guarantee, it is not pastured – I don’t want to spoil your appetite for eating pork, so I will say no more other than you need to be eating pastured or free range, and even free range has its own definition which does not always mean the same thing as pastured.
If the fact that pastured / free range methods are the ONLY ethical way to produce pork, is not enough, then I hope by emphatically stating that it tastes massively better, you will be swayed to make a conscious decision when buying your pork – if you need more convincing, read this.
The difficulty in buying pastured / free-range pork is that it is not widely available, but with Rhodavale’s new processing facility, that has all changed. Additionally, when given the option to purchase pork, direct from the farmer, you do not always have the choice of cuts. Generally your choice is ¼, ½ or whole beast. Which can be difficult for a number of reasons. It is a large quantity of pork to have to accommodate in the fridge / freezer. It is also a large financial outlay, and then you have to work out how to use all of the different cuts. I don’t really see this as a drawback as there are lots of lesser-known cuts that are fabulous, but if you are not knowledgeable in this area, it can be discouraging.
This is where Rhodavale differs from other producers; you can buy whatever cut you want, and whatever quantity. If you just want 1kg bacon, or 1 pork chop – that’s what you order. Alternatively, if you want a ¼ beast – then they have some great volume specials.
Additionally, what I would like to mention, is the consistency and quality of the meat. Rhodavale have been doing this for a while now. They have done the trial and error, and you now get to benefit from that knowledge in the way of consistent, quality meat.
I have bought pork from a number of local producers – and the meat has all been exceptional, but for me, I felt Rhodavale have got it just right as far as timing and fattening goes. They ‘process’ the meat at just the right point to ensure that there is a balanced amount of fat to meat. I love pork fat, but I need the balance