WHEN it comes to value adding, particularly for the smaller pork and bacon producers, the Australian pig industry is finding its feet and adopting new ways to market product often using direct relationships with butchers.
Australian Pork Limited released its roadmap for the future this month in the form of the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and it highlights some of the important ground the industry has made in the past decade to combat ongoing threats such as cheap imports, climate change and animal welfare issues.
APL chairman Andrew Baxter outlined in the report that in the past 10 years the industry had increased domestic pork consumption by 35 per cent while at the same time grown the industry to be worth $5.3 billion via a lift in productivity.
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During the same period, Mr Baxter said piggeries now used 60pc less carbon and many generate electricity via on-farm waste.
During the next five years APL intends to specifically target market and product differentiation, better management of market volatility, driving consumer demand, social licence and enabling viable productive farms.
But at the coalface many pork producers are already making their own luck and generating strong community demand for their innovative pork products.
Wellington butcher and pork producer Rodney Dowton is right in the thick of making a living from both ends of the meat and livestock production chain.
He breeds his own pigs and lambs on his property a little west of town.
Mr Dowton and his wife, Monque, run the Dowto's Family Meats butchery to complement the farm's production.
He started his butchering career as an apprentice to Greg Gillin, who bought the shop in the late 1980s.
Mr Gillin was a specialist when it came to curing and Mr Dowton said he soaked up all the mentoring he could to become quite adept with the process.
As a result, the shop offers cured hams and chickens, plus smoked products including bacon, chooks, and a range of homemade salamis.
The lead-up to Christmas preparing hams meant all hands on deck at Dowto's Family Meats butchery.
Their butcher shop is now one of only three family-own butcher shops in town, but it's still competing well against the Coles and Woolworths meat aisles also in Wellington.
Mr Dowton said his ham smoking process during curing used shavings from either white box, mountain red gum or even acacias.
"You really can't beat Aussie hardwood for smoking, although acacias are soft, but give a real bush taste," he said.
All his wood comes from their property Four Winds between Walma and Arthurville.
All their animals are rangeland bred and reared, so there's a "grassfed" taste to the meat with not a lot of grain.
Mr Dowton said he tried to manage up to three litters from his sows a year.
"They roam the farm and piglets have to survive, especially the foxes in winter, and I'll market those as either suckers or baconers, depending on the time of year, and of course the lead up to Christmas is ham time," he said.
Mr Dowton takes his stock to Cowra abattoir for slaughter.
"I fill the trailer with straw (home grown cereal) and you can see the pigs enjoy the ride," he said.
"I reckon they fall asleep they are so comfortable, and I can assure you they're hard to budge out of the straw when they arrive."
Mr Dowton said he was using Duroc sows with either a Red Duroc or a Large White boar to produce his pigs for the butcher shop.
In addition to the pigs, he runs Glenwood SRS blood Merino ewes with either Merino or meat breed rams.
At present, he has an Aussie White ram whose progeny are about four months and getting close to market.
The progeny are all sold as home-grown prime lamb.
Mr Dowton said the taste of his Merino lambs was "fantastic".
"I reckon you can't taste the difference between these and crossbreds," he said.
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