LOW stress animal husbandry principles and a farming sustainability philosophy has delivered a pork product that hits the mark for both superb eating quality and consumer ethical demands for Southern Queensland’s Ladner family.
Their Gooralie Farm at Goondiwindi supplies leading organic meat company Arcadian’s free range pork brand Borrowdale, which has just taken out the Australian Pork Limited’s prestigious Steak Your Claim competition.
Run by Mark and Charisse Ladner, Gooralie runs 1000 Large White Landrace cross sows, turning off all-in all-out at 22 weeks to Borrowdale specifications. They also do a whole carcase to butcher trade under their own Gooralie brand.
Gooralie is the longest-standing RSPCA-approved pork producer in Australia and an Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance certified free range farm.
Pigs have unfettered access to the outdoors but are still protected from the elements by open sided insulated huts filled with comfortable deep straw bedding.
The 4000 hectare mixed farming property produces cereal grain and cattle as well, with much of the grain used in the pig’s diet.
Holistic management practices enrich the soil of the cropping land using manure and used bedding from the pig production.
“We try to have a minimal environmental footprint - we operate on solar and water and feed is gravity fed,” Mr Ladner said.
“Ultimately there are no shortcuts in farming. You can’t rob Peter to pay Paul - your system has to be sustainable.
“We love farming and want to continue to do it in the future.
“It does cost more to follow the sustainable path but it also delivers a better product.”
The Borrowdale brand was launched in December 2014, with the majority of product going to the domestic market and some exported to Hong Kong and Singapore.
Marketing manager Paul da Silva said Arcadian saw a market gap for a product which allows consumers to rediscover the real flavour the pork, combined with the highest level of ethical production.
“The fact that Borrowdale Pork won this competition proves the effectiveness of using the highest standards of ethical production,” he said.
“The result is the superior flavour and tenderness of pork that is all perfectly natural.”
It might be on the menus at some of Australia’s most awarded restaurants, including Dinner by Heston in Melbourne and Quay in Sydney, but it was not intended to be an exclusive product and was available through butchers and food service, Mr da Silva said.
“A good eating experience is still the dominant driver but there is an increasing awareness of how food is produced,” he said.
“If you hit that first marker and then can genuinely prove you are addressing those ethical concerns, you will have demand.”
Mr da Silva said he did see a day when organic would become a possibility with pork, with the starting point being a quantity of grain produced to make it a viable option for producers.
The pork loin steaks in the Steak Your Claim competition were expertly assessed in ‘blind’ judging according to very specific criteria including colour, visual appeal, marbling of the raw product, aroma, flavour, juiciness and texture.
For the first time, all three winning steaks came from Large White Landrace crosses.
Second place went to Westpork, Western Australia, while NSW’s St Bernard’s Free Range Pork was third.
Westpork produces more than 35 per cent of WA’s pigs, with 14,000 sows spread across 10 company farms and five contract growers.
Committed to animal welfare benchmarking, Westpork also creates a low-stress environment to optimise the growth potential of its pigs, thereby ensuring a high integrity quality assured end product, according to its managers.
St Bernard’s Free Range Pork is grown on two farms, one in the Northern Grampians in Victoria and the other near Corowa, in the NSW Southern Riverina.
The main farm in Corowa runs approximately 390 sows, while over the border there are approximately 475.
Both properties’ herds are fed locally sourced grains, predominantly wheat and canola, which is made up at the business’ own feed milling site.
The Steak Your Claim competition offers significant prize money for the first three places, but also marketing opportunities for the winning pork.
“Australians’ appetite for pork continues to grow, and our farmers are continually looking to improve their already high-quality product” said APL general manager of marketing Peter Haydon.
“This competition seeks to find a really special product, and producers have responded by looking at different breeds and feeds to deliver a stunning pork steak.”