Some people become addicted to smoking whilst others get hooked on chocolate or even something a little less sweet but a whole lot harder. Some people find solace in the bottom of a bottle while others find it in a credit card, but for some, the allure of pigs is far more appealing.
For lawyer Michelle Evans and her husband Leum, the pull of the pork has seen their pig-rearing hobby mature and evolve since they bought their first two piglets back in 2011, up unto the point where they now serve their burgers, posh dogs and hogget out of their kitsch Citroen H, and trade under the name of Slow Pig.
“We bought two Kune Kune weaners (piglets around 8 weeks old),” explained Michelle. “It was a bit of a hobby at that point, just for our own freezer,” she continued but what started as a harmless hobby soon escalated.
“The pig thing is contagious,” she admitted and the next thing they new, they had a Kune Kune sow named Florence, a Swallow Belly sow (one of the rarer colours of Mangalitza) plus a blonde Mangalitza boar called Napoleon heading up their herd.
Now the Pembrokeshire couple keep a herd of 40 pigs at any one time (not to mention a small herd of sheep) made up of Saddlebacks, Oxford Sandy & Blacks, and three different colours of Mangalitza. Although each of the breeds and colours differ, the way in which they are reared remains the same for Slow Pig gets its name from the Slow Food Movement.
Striving to reconnect people with where their food comes from in order to encourage them to choose food from sustainable and local sources, the Slow Food Movement is deeply ingrained in Slow Pig’s ethos, but the name also derives from the way in which their animals are reared.
“The pigs are all relatively slow growing breeds,” Michelle, whose family traditionally farm beef in Pembrokeshire, explained. “Mangalitza being the slowest of the lot. We tend to keep them to around 15 months,” she continued, and they are all free ranging on their 12 acres of oak and beech woodland and never go hungry with a diet supplemented with apples and greens plus anything they forage in the woods.
“Contrast that with the commercial breeds, which kill out as young as 4-5 months and never see the light of day, you can see where the quality is lost,” she said, and she’s not wrong.
Boasting a menu that constantly changes according to what cuts of meat they have to hand and uses every part of the animals, Slow Pig create incredible burgers and sausages, smoked to perfection, topped with locally sourced veg, salad and Welsh cheese. Take their Slow Pig Chorizo burger for example, with its home reared patty and chorizo made by the local butcher to their recipe, nestled between a crusty roll bun and topped with Perl Wen cheese and watercress.
Although taking to pig rearing like a Mangalitza to mud however, and although farming was in their blood, they both initially chose a rather less porky path. Leum, whose family farm in Carmarthenshire, became a builder whilst Michelle pursued a legal career in Cardiff before the draw of the countryside led her back to Pembrokeshire, but despite becoming a divorce lawyer, food was constantly calling her.
“I had always seen myself as opening a food business at some point in my life,” she said. “Before buying the van, we flirted briefly with the idea of buying a dilapidated cottage in the beachside village I grew up in and turning a small outbuilding into a farm shop-cum-deli-cum-café,” she continued. After weighing up their options however, a deli was too much of a risk and they turned towards a street food type venture and on Michelle’s 35th birthday, the couple invested in a Citroen H van from a small village near Newcastle Emlyn but it was far from plain sailing.
“The five months that followed were hard ones,” she explained. “As with the best Grand Designs, we probably went over budget by at least 50%. We were let down by countless tradesmen and given the run around by gas men and electricians.”
The idea of failure however never entered either of their minds and with a blind confidence in the quality of their meat and the food that they serve, Michelle and Leum have powered forward. Proved popular at festivals across the country this summer, from the Eisteddfod to Cardiff Castle’s Tafwyl festival, their franks, burgers and hogget (lamb aged between 12-18 months) have gone down a treat and despite their name, the couple is charging ahead at full speed.
- Trealy Farm: A British breed of charcuterie
- Pen-y-Wyrlod Farm: Passed from generation to generation
- Cardiff’s Ultimate Burger? Slow Pig on The Plate Licked Clean