On the first Saturday of June, thousands of people will descend on Thainstone Mart to visit the Taste of Grampian event, in association with Specially Selected Pork, which celebrates the richness and diversity of food in the region.
Pork and bacon production is particularly important to the economy in the North East of Scotland and the Davidson family have been farming pigs for generations at Mosside Farm near Tarves. Ian Davidson, better known as “Mossie” produces all the pork for his nephew, John’s butchers shops in Inverurie, Dobbies at Aberdeen and Elgin.
The Davidsons are a great example of commitment to quality from start to finish. From the care of sows and birth of piglets at Mosside Farm, to the roasts and pork chops sold over the counter at the shops, the history and provenance is there for the customer to see.
Farmers Weekly UK Pig Farmer of the Year in 2013, Ian produces around 8500 pigs a year from his 300 sow unit. The majority are marketed through Scottish Pig Producers Co-operative and killed at 84kg deadweight at the new abattoir at Brechin. However, about 12 pigs per week are sold through John Davidsons Butchers.
A little side line of Ian’s is to provide hog roasts for weddings and functions, he explained: “It all started 26 years ago when we had a party to celebrate the birth of our daughter, Jill. Now I have two big barbeque units I built myself and I have perfected the art of cooking a 85 to 90kg pig to produce succulent meat and crisp crackling!”
Ian believes in the farm being as self-sufficient as possible, with pig slurry spread as fertiliser on the growing crops and all the cereals fed back to the pigs. He reckons it was this economy and efficiency which earned him the Pig Farmer of the Year title.
The key to the eating quality of Mossie’s pork however, according to both Ian and John, is the use of Hampshire boars. This old-fashioned breed, which Ian introduced six years ago, produces meat with excellent texture and flavour which John’s customers come back for time and time again.
“It is a win/win situation as not only is the meat superior, but the hardiness of the Hampshire breed means we are able to rear more pigs per sow,” said Ian.
Ian takes pride in the Specially Selected Pork brand and producing pigs to Quality Meat Scotland’s high welfare standards, and from a retail perspective, John agreed.
“Quality and value for money brings our customers back but it is so important that we have the back-up of traceability and welfare. We find our customers do want to buy local and are interested in where their meat comes from,” said John.
“Pork from the Hampshire cross is noticeably different, and because we kill them at 90 to 100 kg deadweight, the yield is fantastic, allowing us to price the product affordably and providing a good return for Ian.”
John, also from the Davidson farming family, took a different route in life, trying his hand at trawler fishing before becoming a fully-fledged slaughterman and eventually general manager of Mathers. A self-taught butcher, he opened his first shop in Inverurie in 2004, with the shop at Dobbies in Aberdeen following in 2010 and just last year he took over the oldest butchers shop in Scotland, Royans of Elgin, which will be 166 years old this year.
The business has won countless awards culminating in UK Butcher Shop of the Year 2012 and now employs 26 people full-time over the three shops.
The business is also a member of the Scotch Butchers Club, run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), which has butcher members throughout the UK. Members of the club are committed to sourcing and clearly identifying top quality Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork from approved suppliers.
Mossie’s pork is one of the key products in the shops and it will be featuring in the Barbeque tent at this year’s Taste of Grampian, where John will be demonstrating cutting techniques, while the chefs showcase the versatility of pork by cooking different cuts in different ways.
Davidsons main stand will be using the event to launch three new sausage brands for barbeque specialists Angus and Oink, while promoting the award-winning Bennachie brand of gluten-free haggis and black-pudding.
“We are always looking to come up with new ideas for the business and in January we launched the probodyfuel.com range of ultra-lean products aimed at athletes and gym-goers, which has really taken off, so we will be showcasing some of these products at Taste of Grampian too,” said John.
Retaining and extending the customer base is crucial for any business but the provenance and family connection at Davidsons is the key.
“I believe we are extremely lucky to have the close relationships we have with our suppliers, working alongside lan to produce what we believe to be the finest pork in the world from the ultimate pig is always exciting,” said John.
“To have a relationship with a supplier who takes time to understand the whole story from when the pigs leave the farm right through to the final consumers experience is not only rare but plays a key part in the success of my own business.”