Oak Valley Free Range Piggery

Words: Karl Tessendorf

In today’s consumer culture we often tend to pick quantity over quality. We always want more and of course, we want it yesterday. We want it cheaper and we often don’t care where it comes from. The advent of the supermarket, for all its convenience, has driven this culture to new heights. But like all things that go up they must eventually come down and I, for one, am glad.

It’s time to reconnect with our food. It’s time to reestablish a relationship with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. It’s time you started buying free-range, acorn-fed pork from Oak Valley Piggery.

The piggery is situated on the Oak Valley Estate, which was founded by Sir Antonie Viljoen in 1898. Viljoen was a gifted farmer and he was responsible for planting the first commercial deciduous orchards in Elgin. He also had a love for oak trees and planted thirty hectares of oak forest. He even had a clause in his will stating that no future inheritor of the land will ever be allowed to cut down the trees. It was Antonie himself who first reared his pigs on the acorns, and now over a hundred years later the farm has reintroduced the practice.

Oak Valley Free Range Piggery

Acorn fed pigs are healthier to eat and the meat has a nuttier taste. Enzymes in the acorns enhance the intramuscular fat making it rich in omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat that has been known to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. The farm harvests about fifty tonnes of acorns a year from four thousand oak trees and they’re stored in ventilated rooms to prevent rotting. The acorns make up a large part of the pigs diet in their last 3 ½ months on the farm.

The pigs live a comfortable life on the farm free from hormones and antibiotics. When the piglets have done their time in the nursery they’re moved outside to the fields. Here they roam around chewing on grass, digging in mud and generally doing piggy things.

From there they’re moved to the acorn pen when they munch away constantly. Standing next to the pen hearing a huge herd of pigs crunching the acorns is quite a thing. I found it quite relaxing, kind of like listening to the waves break on a smelly beach.

oak valley pigs
oak valley
oak valley pigs

Veteran farmer, Werner Krag, has been in charge of the pigs since day one and he takes great pride in the operation. Originally a cattle farmer, Werner says he had to learn fast when they decided to build the piggery. There was a lot of trial and error in the early days but today the piggery runs like a well oiled machine. Werner can even tell you which piglet belongs to which sow just by looking at the markings on their ears. When I asked him if he still ate a lot of pork he laughed and said of course, but his favourite dish is still skaapstertjies.

Oak Valley pork is available at selected outlets including: Ryan Boon Specialty Meats and Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants. Alternatively, you can order straight from the farm via their website with a minimum of half a carcass order.

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