Bringing Continental-style meat to Wales
Three Welsh young farmers swap city living in favour of a return to their roots to create Bwyty Mawddach restaurant, home-produced meat and charcuterie at Trehale Farm.
PARMA ham and salami may be synonymous with Italy, but back on Welsh turf the art of charcuterie is causing quite a stir, and is firmly placed on Adam Vincent’s agenda.
The young producer, who quit London to follow his family’s roots back to West Wales, is on course to become one of only two producers of European-style cured meats in the country.
Adam runs a herd of 100 rare breed pigs on a five-hectare (13-acre) smallholding near Mathry, Pembrokeshire. The natural rearing methods he favours, coupled with his slow-maturing breeds, has encouraged him to look at adding value to the meat to make it commercially viable.
To that end he has become an expert in charcuterie after undertaking courses in butchery and the making of cured meats at Food Centre Wales, Horeb.
He has already sought the opinion of local chefs on his chorizo, salami and Parma-style ham. His final hurdle is to secure the necessary food safety approvals before the products can be sold commercially and believes he may be in a position to market his chorizo and salami later this summer.
“There is only one other producer of charcuterie in Wales, so there is definitely a gap in the market,” says Adam, who admits to approaching farming from a ‘foodie’ angle.
He was encouraged to look at adding value to the meat by Cywain, a project set up by the rural business development agency, Menter a Busnes, to help primary producers in Wales add value to primary produce.
“Cywain has been influential in encouraging us to do something different.
“If we were trying to sell in the general marketplace, we would be losing money because our system just does not suit that.
“But thanks to Cywain we have been able to establish a niche market,” says Adam, who runs Trehale Farm with help from his wife Jenny, mother Tricia Crozier, and brother Toby.
The family also runs a flock of rare breed sheep, including Jacobs and Manx Loaghtan,producing top quality lamb, hoggets and mutton.
But it is the pigs and their potential that holds Adam’s attention the most. He says he specifically chose the old fashioned breeds, which include Iron Age, Berkshires and Saddlebacks, because of their superior flavour.
“The breeds we have are slow-maturing and as close as possible to the pigs our ancestors would have eaten, not the pink pigs that are kept inside and finished within four-and-a-half months. Our pigs take 12 months to finish - even longer for bacon.”
He admits this is commercially disadvantageous, which is why he has always sought to add value by doing his own butchery and by producing sausages, burgers and bacon. Charcuterie will tap into new markets and retail outlets, a venture he is clearly excited about.
His sausages are 94 per cent meat and gluten-free, while the burgers are 100 per cent meat. Along with restaurants, hotels and direct sales, both products are available from the Really Wild Farm Shop recently opened at Nant Y Coy, Treffgarne, a business close to his heart that he co-runs with Julia and Brian Powdrill.
Much of his time is now focused on developing his latest venture - a joint partnership between another pedigree pig producer, Will Kerr, and the managing director of Caws Cenarth cheese, Carwin Adams.
Following their trip to Italy in the name of research, funded by Cywain, the trio learnt the charcuterie process from the best in the business and returned to Wales determined to emulate production back home.
But after realising the necessary production technology did not exist in the UK, they decided to build their own specialist, pilot chamber to create the charcuterie.
“We spoke to Lorne Anderson, a renowned specialist in meat cultures, who advised us on cultures and the process of drying the sausages out.
“Years ago on the Continent, they hung the pork to dry outside, but as times have changed, chambers have been created to control the temperature and humidity of the pork to produce a more premium product.
“The chambers are incredibly expensive, so with the help of Will and Carmain, who are both trained engineers, we built our own version using the knowledge we gleaned from abroad.”
This is now their second trial of produce, which will be sent off to be analysed before the business goes fully commercial.
“We know the chamber will eventually have to be bigger to comply with commercial demands, but our pilot version has served the purpose during these stages.”
There have also been other challenges to address, such as climbing the various hurdles surrounding Environmental Health.
“It’s been a challenge getting Environmental Health to understand Continental technology, but our process results in a perfectly safe product to eat.”
They are hoping to supply new markets and expand into England as well as their native Wales with salami, chorizo, Parma ham and other charcuterie products.
At home on the farm, the pigs forage in the grassland and their diet is supplemented with fruit and vegetable waste and even cider pressings.
The plan is to also feed the pigs on barley grown on-farm, mixing it with organic whey, utilising waste from cheese production.
“The whey is very high in protein and is similar to how the pigs are fed in the Parma region of Italy.
“There, they are finished on the whey from Parmesan production, which contributes to the particular taste of their ham.”