Bacon gift a slice of luck to start co-op; Top taste sparks farms' direct selling venture.
PORK products with a unique flavour are being launched by a new North Wales farm co-operative.
Cwmni Cig LlE[cedilla]n wants to help revive the Welsh pig industry on the back of renewed consumer interest in locally sourced products.
It was established last November by two LlE[cedilla]n farm neighbours in Rhydyclafdy who believe their pork, bacon and sausages have a market-beating taste.
Operating under the brand label Traedmoch, the co-operative sells products at farmers markets and food fairs but hopes to open a shop in the Pwllheli area later this year.
The co-operative's four members - two husband and wife teams - first plan a fact-finding trip to Sussex pig farmer Jimmy Doherty, star of BBC2's Jimmy's Farm.
Peredur Williams, 47, said the venture came about after neighbours Hugh and Carys Griffith gave him and wife Manon some of their bacon as a gift.
He said: "We were amazed by its flavour and I just had to investigate further. I went straight round and started talking to Hugh and Carys how we could add value to their products.
"It quickly became clear their pork was so good because they feed their pigs on their own cereals and root vegetables - and because Carys is an excellent stockperson."
Peredur and Manon, who have a 45- acre holding at Penybryn, live half a mile from 100-acre Penrhynydyn, where pigs have been reared for generations.
Between the two families, they aim to finish 500 Large White/Pietrain crosses this year.
Hugh, who rents a further 185 acres, said pig prices were so low on the open market that he and Carys had come close to packing in.
He said: "Prices are the same now as they were in 1964 and it doesn't help that the nearest live pigmarket is at Chelford in Cheshire. In the past we've had inquiries from people wanting to buy direct off the farm and so this cooperative seemed the logical next step. I estimate that by selling direct we can increase the value of the pigs eight-fold compared with live markets."
Wales' pig population is just over 1% of the UK total and only 3.7% of agricultural holdings in Wales keep pigs.
Low prices, imports and over-regulation have hit the sector hard and last year the country's pig total fell 11% to 25,000. But more producers are now adding pigs to their farming mix to meet growing demand from butchers and consumers.
Interest is growing in rarer breeds and Cwmni Cig LlE[cedilla]n will explore adding more exotic breeds to its line-up.
"At the moment it is more important we have the right conformation and flavour but eventually we'll look at other breeds too," said Peredur.
Slaughtering and processing is done 70 miles away at J Williams & Son, Denbigh, but Cwmni Cig LlE[cedilla]n is keen to find something nearer. All four members have attended butchery courses at Coleg Menai and aim to take processing in-house if they get their own premises. The shop would also sell home-grown vegetables and potatoes.
Pwllheli has long been the market place for LlEaA[cedilla]n and Eifionydd. In the 19th century 3,500 pigs a year were walked to Pwllheli or Chwilog for sale, prompting LlE[cedilla]n farmers to call for a new rail line.
Peredur can draw upon expertise at another co-operative South Caernarfon Creameries, where he is farm liaison manager.
With wife Manon, a senior social services worker, they do the selling, leaving Carys to tend the pigs and Hugh to work as an agricultural contractor.
Cwmni Cig LlE[cedilla]n is being formally launched next Friday. Products are available at Efailnewydd post office and Llanberis farmers market on February 9.
More details: www.traedmoch.com
From left, Manon Williams, Peredur Williams, Carys Griffith and Hugh Griffith of new cooperative Cwmni Cig LlE[cedilla]n with some of the pigs at Rhydyclafdy, near Pwllheli Picture: GERALLT RADCLIFFE