Traditional Speciality Guaranteed
The Gloucestershire Old Spots is pretty special to have achieved this recognition – the EU Commission has decreed that its produce – when traditionally reared and finished – is a foodstuff with Traditional Speciality GUARANTEED!
Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork was protected throughout the EU from Friday 18th June 2010. This is the first breed in the world to gain such recognition.
The biggest single factor in the regeneration of the GOS breed has been the increasing awareness of the eating qualities of its produce and the growing niche market as a result.
It is a mistake to assume that pork is pork and that the breed it is derived from does not matter. Almost everyone could immediately tell the difference between the flavour of a Cox’s apple and a Golden Delicious. This difference comes from the genes that go into making these different varieties. Similarly, there are differences between pig breeds but most especially between traditional breeds such as the GOS and modern hybrids used to supply the mass market.
A big part of the difference lies in the fat. Modern pigs have hardly any fat whether as visible backfat or as marbling within the muscle. The GOS does have a distinct layer of backfat and marbling within the meat. That layer of backfat means that it is hardy enough for outdoor production but it also means that when the meat is cooking, it is being basted in its own fat making the meat succulent and full of flavour.
From many years experience, we know that the levels of backfat do not need to be excessive and that a well-finished porker of around 75kg liveweight should have a backfat measurement of around 12-15mm at P2. The same experience also tells us that excessively fat pigs are usually caused by poor diet or management. To carry this level of fat, the eye muscle (as seen in the round of lean meat on a loin chop) must be full and large and the GOS breed is well able to meet this demand.
For everything written here about pork, the same principles apply to quality bacon. To really make the bacon distinctive, ensure that it is dry-cured.
Protecting GOS Pork & Bacon
The committee of the Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders’ Club were far-sighted enough to set in motion the processes back in 1999 to register meat from pure bred GOS pigs as a special product in the EU. It was just as well because today we face challenges from the supermarkets wanting to sell the produce of cross-bred pigs labelled as Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork & Bacon.
In 2010, the Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders’ Club was awarded Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status by the EU Commission. Full details can be found at TSG.
The Club is active in pursuing traders who mis-label meat and try to pass off produce as being GOS which does not come from purebred pedigree GOS pigs.
With a niche market product, there are plenty of opportunities to sell your GOS pork and bacon. Firstly, there will be a demand from family, friends and neighbours so you can arrange slaughter and butchery and sell half pig packs this way. If you get your customers to collect their packs direct from the butchers, you do not even have to worry about meeting all the various food safety laws because you will not be handling the meat at any stage. Please, however, do ensure that you do not undersell your product. The eating quality of your pork should be far superior to anything that your customers have tried elsewhere. Make sure you price your meat accordingly. Don’t just work out your direct costs and price it accordingly. You should be looking at a premium price or your customers will not fully appreciate the quality.
The handling aspect applies of course once you get more ambitious and plan to start selling at Farmers Markets etc. Once you start down this road, you will need to be much more careful and be fully aware and spend the money to meet all the Food Hygiene requirements and labelling laws. However, you will have the advantage of a much larger audience and should be able to sell more product. Similarly, if you start to interest local pubs and restaurants, similar requirements will need to be met.
Lastly, a number of breeders supply direct to butchers, especially through the Traditional Breeds Meat Marketing Company, (www.tbmm.co.uk) who work with a number of Accredited Butchers around the country all marketing meat from pure bred rare and traditional breeds. As you are delivering your own pigs to a nominated local abattoir, you need not be concerned with the requirements for handling food.