It's a free range life for the pigs of Mid Clyth
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Animal welfare issues are a major priority at a Caithness pig farm, the Caithness Courier was told during a visit to an artisan food producer in Mid Clyth.
The aptly named Clyth Charcuterie is run by Alan Skivington, who knows good produce having previously worked in the food industry as a chef, spending 12 years in Switzerland and travelling in Europe.
"We use the full pig," said Alan as he showed off his larder that had eight types of salami in stock at the time of the visit. Clyth Charcuterie has 15 different flavours in total, along with five to six dried meats including bacon, pancetta, air-dried ham and smoked cured sausages to cook that utilise the whole animal.
"A salami takes anywhere from six to eight weeks to dry – air-dried hams and some of the dried meats take up to two years. There are no plastics used in the process and the casings used are all natural."
Salamis are wrapped in what is called "a beef bung" which Alan says comes from a cow's stomach. Some of the Clyth Charcuterie salamis use Caithness-based flavourings such as Old Pulteney whisky and locally sourced seaweed that comes from the Wick-based Shore company.
The business originally started trading as Westnewton Artisan Charcuterie in 2011, in northern England and south west Scotland. Alan specialised as a chef garde manger which sparked his interest in charcuterie. "I made artisan cheese from unpasteurised milk for a local cheese company which finally inspired me to set up as Westnewton Artisan Charcuterie, but we had to rely on other people to produce the meat."
Having moved to Caithness, Alan's 16-acre farm at Mid Clyth has Oxford Sandy and Black cross pigs which are free range grazed and frequently moved around to new areas. "We feed local cereals compound foods and vegetables, which we grow ourselves."
The ground where the pig farm is situated has strong bedrock under the shallow soil and may not be prime crop growing ground but suits the animals well. "As long as we change the ground for them every three months or so, it's fine. They eat the grass and dig up the weeds, roots and worms and everything. We also feed them pig nuts."
The company hope that the proposed kill facility at Keiss that is being planned by the North Coast Abattoir Group (NCAG) will benefit it as well. NCAG is made up from a growing number of Caithness farmers and crofters who are determined to create a local abattoir to receive their livestock and "reduce food miles and stress on the animals".
Clyth Charcuterie does the rounds of local food fairs such as the one held recently in Watten and the community markets that have recently restarted in Wick. Alan's son Leon is studying construction engineering at UHI Thurso but also helps with sales at food fairs and does a lot of the day-to-day work feeding and looking after the pigs while his dad works mainly on the cutting and production side of the business.
Alan said: "I've still got customers from when I lived in Cumbria and I used to do around 16 farmers' markets a month then. There's a TV programme called The Farm Shop and I used to supply them too. We've lost a lot due to Covid but we're picking up again now. We do mail order and people sometimes just come to the gate."
The Mid Clyth business says it is always looking to create new and seasonal products and will add to the list as these come along.
Clyth Charcuterie can be found on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/clythcharcuterie
There is also a dedicated website which can be found at: clythcharcuterie.co.uk/