The Produce Index: Western Plains Pork

Published on 7 May 2020

Photo: Pork belly (credit: Western Plains Pork)

Some of the state’s finest pork can now be had several times a week at home, with the launch of an online store that offers more than just fresh cuts.

What
Top-grade pork belly, sausages, shoulder and more with excellent fat coverage and consistently high quality. Western Plains raises pigs that are a crossbreed of Duroc, Large White and Landrace, and can grow 10-kilo suckling pigs through to 120-kilo animals for charcuterie.

Mick Nunn, the former chef who started Salt Kitchen Charcuterie in 2014, works with Western Plains to specify exactly what he needs for his products – terrine, lonza, pancetta and more – to match the traditions and processes he learned in France. Together, Western Plains and Salt Kitchen have launched Pork Farm to Plate, an online store offering delivery to many Melbourne suburbs via drivers who, until recently, were delivering the product to restaurants.

Where
The farm is in Mount Mercer, 30 kilometres south of Ballarat. The pigs are bred outdoors, with some raised free-range and others in eco-shelters. The charcuterie pigs roam freely so they can develop the requisite muscle to create exceptional smallgoods.

Who
Judy and Tim Croagh, former beef, sheep and crop farmers, returned to Victoria from Tasmania 23 years ago to take the opportunity to run a pork farm. “It’s been a very steep learning curve,” says Judy. “And it still is!” Early on, the couple invited chefs in Melbourne to a lunch so they could pick their brains about what they wanted when they bought pork. Consistency was the main factor – and at the time chefs couldn’t get it from many suppliers.

Why it’s different
To achieve consistency in size, quality and, most importantly, flavour, the Croaghs monitor feed, handling and selection very closely. Automatic feeders and the help of a nutritionist ensure the pigs’ diet of wheat, barley and granola is just right for their age and weight. “You need to make sure you’re doing the same thing, all the time,” says Judy.

Who’s a fan
Troy Wheeler, butcher at Meatsmith, has regularly stocked Western Plains Pork in the past and enjoyed the peace of mind he had when ordering. “The portion sizing and the quality never really varied. You never had to worry too much.”

Judy Croagh’s early marketing strategy of thumbing the Good Food Guide each year and then going and knocking on doors in Melbourne paid off. Her early customers included Adrian Richardson at La Luna and Andrew McConnell; other high-flying fans include such aficionados of fine swine as Ian Curley, Nicky Riemer, Annie Smithers and Scott Pickett.

Buy
Order pork and charcuterie direct from Western Plains and Salt Kitchen at porkfarmtoplate.com.

See what’s cooking on Instagram at @wppork and @saltkitchen1.

By Emma Breheny

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