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The Berry family scooped the interbreed pig championship once again with the Stocksbridge herd at last month’s English Winter Fair. Having won last year... Stocksbridge pigs claim Winter Fair double title

The Berry family scooped the interbreed pig championship once again with the Stocksbridge herd at last month’s English Winter Fair.

Having won last year with a purebred Pietrain, this year they took the honours with a ¾ Pietrain x Large White, which was also crowned in the interbreed pairs class at the two-day event.

“The judge really liked them as a pair and commended their good shape,” said Callum Smith, who was exhibiting alongside his cousin Jasmin Rouse and uncle Tom Dyas under his grandmother’s name W. Berry.

The pair of 21-week-old gilts went on to be sold in the Sunday auction, held on 19 November at the Staffordshire Showground.

“When breeding, we’re looking for good shape and bone structure – we produce purebreds for national shows and breeding stock, and cross the Pietrain and Large White for good eating quality,” said Callum.

Meat quality

“The Pietrain is quite lean, so the Large White adds some fat and meat quality.”

The family, who have about 30 sows at home, start training the purebred pigs to show at about three to four months old. They sell breeding stock privately, while finished pigs go to Selby Livestock Market at about 110kg.

Also exhibiting in the pig ring were a group of students from Hopwood Hall College and University, which has its own farm.

Lydia Meredith, Rubie Brown, Tia Siddle and Natalie Killoran are all studying for a Level 3 qualification in technical animal management – and brought along a number of Berkshire pigs to exhibit.

“Last year, we started a project where we are given 12 piglets to feed up, show at events and finish,” said Natalie. “We’ve had several prize winners including champions and interbreed champions.”

The project runs with support from the English Winter Fair and the Berkshire Pig Breeders’ Club. “We want to find the best boar lines, so we select from different breeders and students rear the weaners on and record all the data,” said club chairman Chris Hudson.

The team measure back fat several times. Data from the pigs after slaughtered is collated anonymously and used by the club to improve bloodlines.

“The Berkshire is traditionally a pork pig, but we want to get them to bacon weights as it’s more profitable,” said Mr Hudson.

“They have a habit of getting too fat at that size, but this project is proof that it is possible.”

Artisan ham company ramps up production

Royal Warrant artisan ham producer Dukes Hill says it is working around the clock to meet high demand ahead of the festive period.

The Shropshire-based business is known for its traditionally cured hams, free-range bronze turkeys, and artisan fine foods. It has increased its workforce by 200% to meet demand.”

Luxury producer

In the three months to December, Dukes Hill plans to cure over 15,000 outdoor bred pork legs across a variety of products, including traditionally cured cooked and uncooked hams, bacon, slices of porchetta, ham hock and pork products.

More than 40,000 hams were sold during the festive season last year, a number the luxury food producer is hoping to exceed in 2023. It also expects to distribute 2000 specially reared turkeys as people stock up for the big day.

Data collected by Kantar shows that retailers experienced a 23.6% increase in value of gammon sales and 5.1% uplift by volume year-on-year, of gammon products in the four weeks to Christmas Day 2022.

Dukes Hill farmer Andrew Tomson, from Peddars Pigs, plays a crucial role in helping meet the demand. He said: “As a pig farmer of 45 years, our commitment is to ensure the wellbeing of every pig under our care.

“I firmly believe that raising healthy pigs on straw is about providing them with a life of comfort and respect in an environment where they thrive. This produces the best quality pork and we know these animals have lived the best life possible.”