Photo: Farmer Rob Mercer
In today’s modern world, too much emphasis is placed on speedy results and an ever–lower cost, regardless of the impact on animal welfare and the environment.
At Packington Farm, in the heart of rural Staffordshire, our pork farmer Rob Mercer believes what is good for the animals and the land will be naturally good for humankind. This was the philosophy of his great grandfather before him and we at field&flower whole-heartedly agree that it’s the key to sustainable food, for the long term.
Rob and his farmer brother Alec are fourth generation farmers. Their family have been farming since 1930 and today the story remains the same, it’s still very much a family affair. Like his Great Grandfather, who began farming pedigree large white pigs and award-winning dairy herds, Rob has focused his experience and passion to provide a low density, environmentally sound and welfare-oriented farm. His father Rodger used to be a conventional indoor pig farmer. “Growing up I always used to work on the pig farm during the holidays, and I used to love working with the pigs. By the time I came back from University my father had stopped farming pigs and I decided to set up an outdoor breeding farm at Packington and to start rearing free-range pigs. I wanted the pigs to have lots of space and to lead good lives, and to provide pork which tasted great”.
Photo: 1974, the team at Harlaston Farm, the boys’ Great Grandpa (Percy) centre of photo with the hat on, Grandpa (Alec) to the right with the tie and Dad (Rodger) to his right with the check shirt.
It’s not just us at field&flower who believe Rob’s pork is the best you can get, Freedom Foods RSPCA have accredited Packington Pork with the RSPCA Assured label. This gives you complete confidence that the animals have had a good life from start to finish. The RSPCA’s welfare standards are written by the RSPCA’s team of scientific officers in the Farm Animals Department, and are based on leading scientific, veterinary and practical industry expertise.
The journey of the pig on Packington farm
From the day the pigs are born, they’re raised on the farm enjoying plenty of space to roam free and play in the mud with an average stocking density of 60 square foot per pig. Once weaned off their mother’s milk at around 4 weeks old the pigs are fed a very high quality diet, high in milk powder, which gives the piglets all the vital nutrients they need, including selenium, a mineral which offers health benefits for both pigs and humans. As they grow they are moved into the spacious outdoor rearing paddocks, with tents for
shelter and lots of space to exercise, they have the perfect conditions to exhibit natural behaviour in grassy pastures. This practice is key to Rob’s success, “I always think that
the pigs’ environment needs to be good enough for humans. Pigs need space to roam, clean water, good quality food and a warm dry place to sleep. They need this 365 days of the year. A happy pig is a healthy pig and happy and healthy pigs produce great tasting pork.”
‘Pigs need space to roam, clean water, good quality food and a warm dry place to sleep. of the year’They need this 365 days
Once the pigs reach 24 weeks (6 months) old, they are then ready to be humanely killed under the watchful eye of local vets in an accredited processing facility.
Rob breeds Duroc crossed with Large White Boars. These pigs are renowned for having fantastic mothering qualities as well as being strong and most importantly having the best tasting pork. To field&flower, assuring the pigs are reared naturally without additives, growth promoters or antibiotics is just as important.
Looking after the environment
Rob’s respect is not only reserved for his livestock but for the environment in which they live too. Packington Farm are involved in a number of environmental schemes, such as the Countryside Stewardship project, where fields are given a 3m wide margin in order to encourage insect biodiversity. Not only this, but the boys have been working closely with RSPB to build on the declining population of Lapwing birds. By opening up two fields, the Lapwings are left to breed before going down to the lower lands to feed. Within a five year period, there has been an increase of over 300%. The farm has also invested in 400KW of solar panels to help offset their carbon emissions.
Getting the most out of the pork
It’s a real family operation at Packington and whilst Rob and brother Alec are busy running the farm, wives Sal and Pip are creating wonderful recipes to get the most out of the free-range pork.
Pork is the second most popular meat after chicken at field&flower and it comes as no surprise, ‘James and I are really pleased to be working with Rob Mercer. His pork is the best we’ve ever tasted and this is testament to the way he cares for his pigs. We are confident that you can’t get better proper free-range pork’. – James