The Royal Norfolk Show 2017: Why TV farmer Jimmy Doherty loves pork from rare breed pigs

Royal Norfolk Show 2017, day one. Jimmy Doherty with Gail Sprake from the RBST. Picture : ANTONY KEL

Royal Norfolk Show 2017, day one. Jimmy Doherty with Gail Sprake from the RBST. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

A TV celebrity farmer used his appearance at the Royal Norfolk Show to highlight a special rare breed of pig – and celebrate the food chain which supports it.

Jimmy Doherty, of Jimmy's Farm in Suffolk, is also president of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), which was showcasing lesser-known livestock at Mr Mawkin's Farm on the showground.

Among them were the British Saddleback, a minority breed which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and a pig very close to Mr Doherty's heart.

'British Saddleback is the breed I started with,' he said. 'It is very distinctive-looking pig, they are great mothers, and they have been very important in developing commercial breeds of pig.

'For me, it is important, because it tells the story of all our breeds of pigs, so it is great to celebrate 50 years of the breed society. But these pigs are not being preserved just because they look pretty.

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'They produce fantastic pork and some of the best crackling you will ever eat. And if you love sausages, you will love this pig.

'These pigs are only here because the breeders are out there keeping them going.

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'The preservation of diversity is really important. It is the key to so many things. People might say: 'That pig is rare for a reason, and it won't produce as many piglets as a commercial breed', but we need to protect that genetic diversity, because you don't know what's around the corner.'

Gail Sprake, who farms in the Waveney Valley, is the chairman of the RBST board of trustees.

She said it was important to explain to consumers that rare breeds needed to be eaten, in order to be protected.

'There are only 302 British Saddleback females producing registered offspring,' she said. 'Here, we have got a litter of seven-week old piglets, supplied from Church Farm at Stow Bardolph, and in the next pen we've got two fat piglets from Rory Smith from Beccles.

'Then Jimmy's executive chef Jon Gay, who is a Norfolk boy, is going to be producing a dish in the food hall using British Saddleback pork. So we are making that link that we have to be able to eat these animals to allow us to keep them.

'That's our message: 'Eat it to keep it'.'

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