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Brecon Beacons: raising pigs in their natural environment

Lauren and Kyle gave up their London life for the Welsh Brecon Beacons. Here, they raise three species of rare, local pig.

Words Amber Elias
Photography Jade Holford

Against the striking Black Mountains in the Welsh Brecon Beacons you’ll find a restored farm, surrounded by lush forests and pastures. Lauren and Kyle are responsible for this renovation, changing a collection of dilapidated farm buildings into a thriving, sustainable and ethical farm.

In 2014, the couple sold their London apartment and moved into their farm in the south of Wales with little more than the idea that they wanted to create a farm with animal welfare and high quality produce at the core.

Now, five years later, the Forest Coalpit Farm rears three different types of pigs in the wild, encouraging them to forage, rummage and wander about the land freely. Gaggenau spoke to Lauren about the challenges facing a sustainable farm, and why the Large Black pigs are the future of pork in Britain.

Large Blacks thrive outside with their dark skin and a good covering of hair

Why did you decide to leave London and run a farm?
We wanted to create a good life for ourselves in the fresh country air and to do good for the environment, while raising meat to the standards we feel are important.

What breeds of pig do you rear? Why did you choose them?
Large Blacks are the rarest of breeds, even rarer than Siberian tigers. We wanted to raise pigs outside, as close to their natural behaviours as possible, and Large Blacks thrive outside with their dark skin and a good covering of hair. We wanted a pig that was close to a wild boar, so they haven’t lost their natural instincts and ability to forage. This means 25 per cent of their diet comes from foraging for foods such as acorns, apples and blackberries. This reduces the amount the carbon footprint of raising our meat.

Large Blacks have piglets all year round

Tell me about the Large Black, what meat does it give? How do you ensure the rare breeds survival?
They give beautifully marbled meat, that is enhanced by their ability to move around freely, roaming woodland and foraging, so they are able to build up muscle slowly, giving a real depth of flavour. We ensure the survival of the breed by eating them – which may seem counter-intuitive, but with coloured pigs falling out of fashion, we could have lost their genetics altogether, and all the qualities that go with them. By creating a demand for their meat, we are ensuring their survival.

What are the greatest challenges you faced when trying to run a sustainable farm?
Sustainable farming is really important to us but the greatest challenge on an outdoor farm is that it requires more labour input than factory farming. The other challenge is to manage the land. Pigs are busy creatures and can turn over land quickly, which can be beneficial, but can also make a mess. We’ve seen a huge change in how people view farming. The consumer is becoming more aware of their impact on food production.

What do you see as the future of sustainable and ethical farming?
In the future I hope to see a pig revolution in much the same way we had a free range chicken egg revolution. Only three per cent of pigs are raised outdoors their whole life. I would like to see the end of factory-style pork production where pigs are kept indoors, in cramped, smelly conditions with little mental stimulation, packed full of antibiotics to compensate, with the only consideration being the bottom line. Ultimately, I would like to see us, as a nation of consumers, favour high-welfare production methods, and start a farming revolution.

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