We only use free range meat in our Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, supplied by Packington Free Range in Tamworth. But what does free range actually mean?
Pork labelled free range or organic has been raised on high welfare farms, almost certainly in the UK. Organic pork comes from breeding sows and fattening pigs that can roam freely between the outdoors and shelter their entire lives. They will have access to straw bedded huts for shelter, as well as being able to roam and forage for a natural diet. Much like organic, free range pork is bred almost the same. The only big difference is that the piglets are usually weaned at 7-8 weeks.
Your local butcher, or (better still) your local farmers’ market, will have organic, free range pork. We get our meat from a Packington Free Range, local supplier which we carefully selected to ensure the meat is free range!
Outdoor reared pork uses free range sows for breeding. The sows have access to large bedded huts that provide shelter and a dry lying area. They give birth to their litters outdoors in individual straw-bedded shelters, called arcs. The piglets are free range with their mothers until weaning, which is usually up to ten weeks. Then, they are moved indoors. Outdoor bred is much the same, but they are weaned at around four weeks then they are moved indoors. Piglets that are outdoor bred or reared are likely moved into an intensive system post-weaning.
Sadly, there is very little difference between the minimum Red Tractor standards and the legal minimum UK requirements. The breeding sows can be confined in metal cages, ‘farrowing crates’, for up to five weeks during each pregnancy cycle. The piglets can be kept permanently indoors, often on bare concrete flooring.