Fingal Ferguson of the Gubbeen Smokehouse, near Schull in West Cork, has encountered the perennial problem of not being able to source enough high quality pork to meet the ever-growing demand for his range of bacon, sausages and charcuterie. Gubbeen Farm itself is limited in the number of animals they can rear, and the opening of their expanded smokehouse has made it necessary to buy in pork from other local farmers.
To do this they have devised a co-op model which is as simple as it is ingenious. It is designed to provide a predictable year round supply of quality pork for the Smokehouse while at the same time providing a guaranteed market and prices for local farmers who are willing to invest in higher welfare reared pigs.
They have put the call out to farmers in the locality to supply Gubbeen directly via a trusted local abattoir, O’Donoghues, in Durrus. A farmer must first meet strict standards of animal husbandry before becoming an approved supplier, the pigs must be antibiotic free and have warm dry bedding in straw pens, and all the correct paperwork and traceability records must be in order.
Farmers get in touch with the Smokehouse through the website – www.ourpiggyco-op.com– where they enter the details of their animals and the timeframe for slaughter into an online calendar. The Smokehouse will agree to buy the pigs, whole litters where possible, and agree on prices and dates for delivery to O’Donoghues. The price paid is set according to the husbandry, breed, feed, and living environment of the pigs. Higher rates are paid for traditional breeds, extra again is paid for outdoor reared animals, extra again for apple reared pigs, and so forth. The animals are delivered to O’Donoghues and the farmer is paid by bank transfer exactly twelve days later.
This co-op model works on so many levels, as it means that the system allies friends and neighbors working with each other, and it makes sure that the money stays in rural communities. The farmers are rewarded for raising animals to higher welfare standards, and one of the leading Irish artisan food companies can continue to grow and expand safe in the knowledge they don’t have to compromise on the quality of their life’s work.
Interested farmers in the West Cork area should visit http://www.ourpiggyco-op.com/ for more information.
Photograph by by kind permission, John Carey http://www.john-carey.com