Adopt a Pig? - How an unusual scheme has taken off in Yorkshire

Could you care for Chris P Bacon or Rasher? Terry Fletcher discovers more about an unusual adoption scheme Photographs by Andy Bulmer

After a string of health scares over the last two decades it’s hardly surprising that many of us want to know a lot more about where our food comes from and how it has been produced. But how many of us actually have the appetite to be on first name terms with our dinner? That’s the surprising concept behind a foodie success story in North Yorkshire where families are snapping up the chance to adopt a pig, watch it grow.... and then eat it.

The idea of letting the customer pick their own pig and follow it from piglet to dinner table was the brainchild of schoolboy entrepreneur Duncan Turnbull, who founded his company, Yorkshire Meats, in 2000 when he was just 14. Now it has been taken up by James and Lucy Haxton who are running it from their renovated farmhouse at Little Habton, near Malton.

Lucy, a farmer’s daughter, from Lincolnshire says: ‘We are both very keen on food provenance and love the idea of putting people back in touch with what they eat. So many people, especially in the cities, have no idea where their food comes from or how it has been produced.

People like Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have done a lot to educate people about production and to promote the idea of provenance but I am still shocked that so many just accept that food comes from supermarkets. They have no idea how it’s been treated or what it has been fed on. I think that knowing the animal has had a good life and not been fed all sorts of hormones is important.

‘This idea gives those who are not country people the chance to own their own pig and they can come to visit it here on the farm and see how it is living and what it’s eating. Some people think it is brilliant but others I talk to can be really quite shocked at the idea of visiting an animal you are going to eat. The adopters get the best of both worlds. They have all the joys of ownership but none of the hard work because we do that for them.

All the animals are Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, a rare breed which Lucy says produces a tastier pork than the commercial breeds whose meat is to be found in most supermarkets. The couple keep one boar and four sows, producing about eighty piglets a year which keeps the business at a manageable size, but sometimes when demand outstrips supply would-be adopters have to go on a waiting list.

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Lucy says: ‘We have customers from all over the country, from Scotland to the south of England and quite a few from London. They tend to be quite big foodies – as we are – and to be very keen on cooking.’

Piglets are adopted at around eight weeks old and customers can even come to the farm to pick their own. After that they are sent regular updates on their pig’s progress as well as photographs and emails. They can even have fridge magnets of their pig and go to the farm to visit it.Then after a few months comes the big decision – deciding how they would like the meat prepared in terms of roasting joints, sausages, bacon and other tasty morsels.

Some might think that could be a bit of a wrench, having got to know the animal so well but as yet no one has baulked at the choice.

‘So far no one has said they do not want their pig. We did have one lady who rang up about adopting one for her daughter for Christmas. When I explained how it operated there was a long silence as I don’t think she’d realised she would eventually eat the pig. She said she would think about it but we’ve not heard from her yet,’ says Lucy.

‘I suppose that as soon as you start naming a pig there is the risk of attachment but we have people who have adopted several. One always names theirs after politicians. We also get quite a lot of pork-based names; we’ve had a Chris P Bacon and a Rasher.’

Adopters pay a �50 deposit when they choose a pig and then pay for the meat depending on the animal’s weight at slaughter. Depending on the animal this can work out at between 40-50kgs of meat and cost between �280 and �350, which is more than a supermarket would charge but is comparable with a good butcher’s prices, says Lucy

And now the bacon and other cuts will also be on the menu at the B&B the couple plan to open at the farm this spring.

Details of how to Adopt A Pig from or call 01653 669707 or 07876 433351

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