The Decent Company
The Decent Company are a small-scale free-range pig farmer and smallholder based just outside Abergavenny (Wales) in the Brecon Beacons National Park run by Martha Roberts.
"This place is special to me because I spent time here as a child on my grandparents’ farm. I loved the space, the life and the markets. Now, some 40 years later, I'm back working the same land rearing free-range, rare breed pigs. I like being small in scale. I love spending time with my animals. This is the way I choose to produce decent meat."
The pigs live on the smallholding which is around 15 acres. It is high on a hillside outside the market town of Abergavenny, SE Wales, with the Sugarloaf Mountain and the landscape of the Brecon Beacons National Park all around. Some of the land is old woodland - the pigs clear patches of scrub land around the farm and rotovate and fertilise the vegetable patch.
The pigs are free-range animals - they live outdoors, all year around in large paddocks of pasture and woodland. Even when the sows are farrowing (having piglets), they have access to the outdoors. Piglets will naturally start to dig within 24 hours of being born. The piglets grow up in family groups and all the pigs have cosy straw-filled arks for shelter.
Unfortunately this is not the norm. The overwhelming majority of pork produced and sold in the UK does not come from free-range pigs. Free-range is important because pigs are outdoor animals - they root and forage, roam and snooze under trees. Keeping them indoors (intensively, where there are many of them confined together) does not allow them to be pigs. The Decent Company pigs are mostly Gloucestershire Old Spots, also known as the Orchard Pig. Old Spots are a native British Rare Breed and are amongst a group of breeds who’s numbers are low and monitored by the RBST (Rare Breeds Survival Trust). Rare Breed pigs fell out of favour during the last 30 years because the animals grow slower and over time, lean, commercial indoor animals have replaced them to satisfy mass meat production for supermarkets.
So as well as the ethical aspects to rearing free-range animals, by choosing to buy meat from a breed like Gloucester Old Spots, you are also helping to preserve this fabulous breed and their great tasting meat.
The pigs are fed on cereal pellets which helps them grow and provides much-needed protein - it is feed (non-GM) grown and milled locally. This is substituted by their daily rooting in the woodland giving acorns, beech nuts and other treats. They also chomp their way through windfall apples and pomace (fruit pulp) from surrounding farmers and orchards as the seasons change.
Antibiotics are used only when absolutely necessary.