Pig farmer Richard Baugh is at the forefront of a new business partnership that’s putting provenance and taste at the top of the menu… with a slight twist.
Pork from the third generation pig farmer’s Woodside Farm on the outskirts of the pretty Nottinghamshire village of Wellow is fully traceable and produced to high welfare standards. Richard’s attention to quality is shared by friend and award-winning Nottingham butcher Johnny Pusztai, who ensures a perfect cut and preparation for the locally sourced meat.
And they’ve built on their quality credentials to diversify their respective businesses by launching Bofs Hogs, Richard also runs a hog roast catering business to capitalise on the popularity of street food, traditional markets and barbecues.
Richard calls himself Bofs Hogs because his surname is pronounced that way, and it reminds people of Boss Hog, a character in the Dukes of Hazzard TV series.
“I run the business in partnership with Johnny, who has his own hog roast service and who trained me up and provided the equipment,” said Richard. “I tend to focus on the north of the county, but we cross-promote each other on our banners at events, which works well.”
He offers hog roasts from May through to November, taking in around 18-20 events, including weddings, private parties, local ploughing matches and music festivals, within a 40-mile radius of the farm.
“Hog roasts are cost-effective for wedding receptions, with an 80kg pig feeding up to 250 people,” he said.
“The bride was allegedly sentimental about pigs, so the groom secretly planned the ceremony to be in a pig field”
People love the theatre of roasting a whole pig, seeing the carving process, the smoke, smells and sounds of the meat crackling on the spit. The pigs are slow-roasted for 12 hours to bring out the flavours, with Richard starting cooking the night before.
This summer, the farm hosted an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride, the hit TV show in which the groom must choose every detail of the wedding, from venue to wedding cake.
“The bride was allegedly sentimental about pigs, so the groom secretly planned the ceremony to be in a pig field,” chuckled Richard.
“Predictably, nothing went to plan. There was a huge thunderstorm on the day of the wedding, and an attempt on a world-record pig parade was a complete fiasco. I don’t think the bride particularly enjoyed her big day.”
But back to the business though where all the pigs are bred and reared by Richard, whose farm is certified and inspected under the terms of its membership of the Red Tractor farm quality assurance scheme.
Richard runs the 250-acre farm with his father Andy and stockman Jamie, who has been with them for 15 years.
“The provenance of sourcing from a small family farm is important to our customers, who want to know that the animals have lived and eaten well, and been cared for by people who value their welfare,” said Richard.
“It takes a bit longer to raise pigs in this way, but that care is reflected in the quality and fantastic flavours of the meat.”
The Baughs work closely with award-winning Nottingham butcher Johnny Pusztai, who ensures a perfect cut and preparation for the locally sourced meat. As well as the farm’s fresh meat, Johnny sells delicious smoked and cured produce from his premises, Johnny Pusztai at JT Beedham & Sons, in Sherwood, and supplies hotels and restaurants.
Back in 2007, top local chef Sat Bains used Johnny’s air-dried meat in a ham dish that was awarded three perfect 10 scores on BBC’s Great British Menu.
“Johnny orders from us every week and says he wouldn’t go anywhere else,” said Richard. “He typically will contact us on a Monday and order five or six different weights of pig, but also sometimes comes over here in person to make a selection, or to show clients round.”
Another customer is Hartland Pies in Cotgrave, famous for their Melton Mowbray pies. The farm’s meat can also be ordered online.
The Baughs grow and mill 50% of their wheat and barley feed requirement on-site, buying in the remainder from neighbouring farms, and produce all their own straw for the pigs’ bedding.
“Soya sourced from Brazil is added for extra protein, as well as an energy-rich biscuit meal – a by-product of the biscuit industry – and fish oil,” said Richard.
The breeding herd is based on 120 Large White/Landrace sows crossed with Pietrain boars by means of artificial insemination.
The dry (pregnant) sows are kept on an outdoor site about a mile from the farmhouse where the sandy soil is more suitable for keeping pigs, and they can root and forage, cool in the wallows and behave naturally.
Ten days before they are due to give birth, the sows are moved into straw-bedded farrowing arcs in a separate field to nest. The piglets are weaned from their mothers at 28 days and then go into an outside ‘cosy kennel’ in groups of around 50, with a shelter and outdoor run.
“The gestation period for sows is three months, three weeks and three days, and within five days the sows are on heat and ready to be served again,” said Richard. “For a pig farm to be viable, there has to be a fast turnover, and the aim is for each pig to have 2.5 litters a year.”
At 8-10 weeks, now weighing about 35kg, the piglets are brought back to a straw yard at the main farm with plenty of natural light, air and space to exercise. Here they spend three months in the growing/finishing process prior to slaughter at around 4-5 months.
Oral medicine is administered just once to the piglets and no growth promoters or antibiotics given. Every effort is made to avoid unnecessary interventions with the pigs.
This sensitive management means the pigs are not stressed or aggressive, making practices such as tail-docking (to reduce tail-biting) and tooth-clipping unnecessary.
Richard is always on the lookout to make improvements. For example, he has begun replacing the converted blue oil barrels used for drinking with a system based on nipple feeders from raised tanks, which provides a cleaner supply of water.
The family is very happy to show interested visitors round the farm, including children from local schools. “We’re very proud of what we do here,” Richard said.
Many British pig farmers have gone out of business, unable to compete against lower-welfare cheap pork from Europe, where there is an over-supply situation. The Baughs, however, remain committed to producing high-quality home-grown pork, which appeals to discerning customers who care about where their food comes from.
Pictures courtesy of Roy Kilcullen Photography