Anna’s Happy Trotters are ‘what they say on the tin’ – happy! The Yorkshire based family farm has been nominated for a Good Pig Award at Compassion in World Farming’s annual Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards on 27 September, for the work they do with their 2,000 breeding sows and 800 piglets that are produced each week. The Longthorp family diversified from purely arable farming in the 1990s and started a pig farm to make better use of the grain they were producing. From the very beginning the pigs were bred outside, but in 2007 they decided to take it one step further and continue to grow the pigs outside after weaning – so that pigs are 100% free range from start to finish. This means that Anna’s Happy Trotters pigs fall into the elite 1-2% of UK pigs that are bred, born and reared entirely in free range conditions. Pigs are also outdoor bred and fattened in straw barns for the Waitrose own brand.
Anna Longthorp heads up the pig business under the name, Anna’s Happy Trotters. She said: “Our priority is welfare for the pigs. I’ve always believed that being free range is a much better life for them. I’d much rather see them rolling around in the mud enjoying themselves than being locked up in a shed, unable to roam around freely. It leads to greater contentment and importantly for the business, higher productivity and tastier meat.”
The pig breeds that they use are specific to outdoor production, but also selected for eating quality. The Duroc in them has a hardier skin which protects against sunburn in Summer and grows a fur in Winter to keep them warm. This breed is also well known for its intramuscular fat (marbling) which makes for a succulent, great tasting meat. The Landrace in the breed gives a longer loin, which is ideal for making their traditional dry cure bacon while the boar line, the Pietrain is a very muscular breed that delivers a nice big hind, perfect for making traditional dry cured gammon.
All Anna’s Happy Trotters pigs are bred and born outside and reared to four weeks of age when they are weaned and put into sexed groups in paddocks of around an acre in size for 100 pigs. They are provided with tents for shelter, straw for bedding and plenty of space to run around, they also have grass and mud to root around in. After about five and a half months the pigs are sent to slaughter locally at a carcass weight of 60kg; meat from the male pigs are sold to Waitrose while meat from females is sold via local butchers, to restaurants, at farmers markets and some through Tesco stores in London.
As well as having a better quality of life, the meat from these pigs tastes so much better because they are slower growing due to their free range lifestyle and type of breed. This slower growing process, along with a more active life ensures a beautifully succulent, superior tasting meat.
Anna’s Happy Trotters are also available online – Anna has developed a range of pork hampers: the maxi hamper; a midi hamper; a roasters pack and a survival pack in recognition of the fact that people buy a lot of processed meat and so the survival pack includes various sausages, bacon and burgers.
Anna Longthorp again: “I’m very proud of what we do at Anna’s Happy Trotters. We pride ourselves on our commitment to Animal Welfare and have created a brand aimed at educating the consumer and helping them to make informed decisions when buying their pork products. I’m over the moon at being recognised for our commitment to higher welfare standards. Being part of a nation that has some of the highest of welfare standards in the world, I’m sure there are many worthy nominations out there, so I’m absolutely chuffed to bits.”
Steve McIvor, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, said: “The work Anna’s Happy Trotters do to improve the life of pigs bred for pork and the fact that they have been able to make a successful and profitable business out of it is a fantastic story and an example to everyone.”