The Inside Track on Building One of the Most Lauded Charcuterie Businesses in the UK
In episode #007 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show I talk to James Swift, owner of Trealy Farm Charcuterie Ltd. The company, recipient of numerous national awards, was founded in 2005 and is based in Monmouthshire, Wales UK. Not, in other words, on a hillside in Tuscany — more about this on the show.
In the show James describes the series of light bulb moments that gave birth to Trealy Farm Charcuterie. He explains how he has grown the business substantially and how he manages this growth. He reveals the secret sauce for developing new products. He also talks about how he has turned apparent shortcomings in raw materials into premium, value-added products.
As you’ll hear on the show, Trealy Farm Charcuterie has won most of the top tier awards in the UK artisan food scene — an extraordinary achievement that is worth exploring. So, reflecting on the reasons for these awards, James gives good insights into the aspects of his business that probably caught the different award judges’ eyes.
These awards celebrate ‘what good looks like’, in business. Ethical, sustainable, respectful of the environment in which it operates, and mindful of the welfare of its raw materials, the free-range and traditional breed animals used by the company. Arguably, this is the very definition, or at least one definition, of ‘artisan food business’.
This episode, Episode #007, is the first of a two-part series. You can listen to part 2 in Episode #008 of the show. If you think this episode is good, just wait until you hear the next!
Listen Now to the Episode with Trealy Farm Charcuterie
Audio Not Your Thing?
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Transcript of Episode #007. You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
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Key Points from the Show
- Your toddler’s needs are different from your teenager’s needs. Understand the stage of the business lifecycle your company is at (e.g., startup, growth, expansion, etc.). Each (fairly predictable) stage presents unique challenges, requires different resources and demands a different focus from you. Being clear on what stage your business is at will help you plan for the needs of your business at each stage of its lifecycle.
- Putting systems in place for tasks and procedures will help your business grow. Systems can enable your business to work for you rather than you having to work for your business.
- Become an expert on your product (whether it’s chocolate, charcuterie, real ale or cheese). This can help your product innovation and development because you can innovate best by knowing the science behind your product.
- In your business, stand for something. Have ideals. It doesn’t have to be a marketing ploy.
- Dare to turn market economics on its head. Rather than asking ‘What sells well?’ Consider asking ‘What can I make well?’ Consider the unique characteristics of your ingredients as well as consumer demand.
Very Sounds Bites from James Swift
Check out the infographic below for some direct quotes from James during the show.
Thanks to James for generously giving his time to come on the show and talk about his business success. To connect with James online and to find out where you can buy his products check out the Links and Resources section next.
Links/Resources Mentioned in the Show
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie Website
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie on Twitter
- Trealy Fram Charcuterie on Facebook
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie boudin noir
- Iberico pigs
- Mangalitza pigs
- Parma ham
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie salami
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie Bath chaps
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie chorizo cured cooking sausage
- Seam butchery
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie BBC Food and Farming Best Food Producer Award 2009
- Trealy Farm Charcuterie Observer Food Monthly Best UK Food Producer Award 2010
- Great Taste Awards
- Bocaddon Farm Veal
- Cabrito Goat Meat
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Transcript of the Show
Catherine: Hello, and welcome to Episode #007 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of success. On today’s show I talk to James Swift, of Trealy Farm Charcuterie Ltd. This episode is the first of a two-part series; you’ll be able to listen to part 2 in the next episode of the show.
James Swift is a true artisan charcutier and while he’s too modest to say that Trealy Farm Charcuterie pioneered the re-emergence and blossoming of real charcuterie in the UK, he will at least admit that he ‘busted open the market a bit’, to use his own words.
So, in this episode James tells the story of how his French grandmother, with her offerings of saucisson sec, seems to have had an indelible influence on his choice of food career and of how his sense of place and the unique characteristics of his raw materials — his rare breed meat — informs his product development.
Here, now, is my conversation with James Swift.
Catherine: So I’m with James Swift from Trealy Farm Charcuterie. Welcome, James, to the Artisan Food and Drink Business Show.
James: Very glad to be here.
Catherine: Lovely to see you and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you about your business. We are actually surrounded by your land, by Trealy farmland in Wales, and this, of course, is where it all started out. But before we talk about your business, would you mind describing what you did beforehand?
James: Okay. Well, immediately beforehand, because we moved here about 15 years ago — my wife and I and kids. We moved here from London. Though neither my wife nor I grew up in London. We both grew up in the countryside; my wife in Snowdonia on a large sheep farm and myself in Sussex on a sort of large smallholding more than a proper farm.
We both worked in London after university for about 9 years in education, totally different areas, of course, funnily enough, to charcuterie or farming. But we always knew we wanted to move out and when we decided to get married we moved out.
Catherine: And did an ‘escape to the country’?
James: Escape the country, but it didn’t really feel like that, it was just a sort of, London felt like a sort of curious interlude. It was great. In your twenties after university, that sort of thing. But coming back here was what felt normal for us, live in the countryside and certainly in terms of raising kids because that’s how we grew up. Yeah, it was a little bit the other way around, I suppose, to the sort of usual escape to the country idyll-type thing.
I very much knew that I wanted to have my own business come the time and so there was quite a long process supported by my wife doing other stuff where I was searching for that business in food and how to do it and what to do. And that was slow.
Catherine: Yeah, and why charcuterie?
James: Well it wasn’t like I came here with any idea of charcuterie. It was a very meandering process, I suppose, when I look back. I would say, because my mum’s French, and I spent a lot of time growing up with my mum’s family in France. There was always a little saucisson sec waiting for me with my grandmother. There was pig slaughter on the farm there. Stuff being made, boudin noir and stuff like that.
I loved all those products and they were really always a part of my life. I suppose there was a time during the process when I sort of clicked, ‘Oh hang on a minute! These aren’t in the UK, but they’re delicious.’ So there was that. There was the fact that we had some traditional breed pigs here and I loved the meat.
We’ve got a large range of traditional breed pigs in the UK and although I love the meat and other people love the meat it was very difficult to sell them because they’re quite fatty. They’re quite expensive because they’re slow to grow, but again there was sort of a little light bulb moment there. Thinking, ‘Oh hang on a moment. We’ve got ten breeds of traditional breed pig in the UK.’ On the continent they’ve got very few and when they do have them they are prime, added-value charcuterie pigs. Whether you’re talking about the Ibérico pigs in Spain or the Mangalitza pig or certain old breeds from Italy, and so on.
So that’s what they’re used for, and a little bit of marbling through the meat, just as you’d look for it in beef or whatever. In pork it’s the ideal thing when you are drying something. Yeah there was obviously a gap in the market, I mean, whether or not there was a market was another question. So there were a number of things coming together.
Catherine: Well whether or not there was a market, that’s a very good observation because many people credit you with having kicked it all off in the UK, proper artisan charcuterie.
James: There were people obviously doing stuff and what is the definition of charcuterie, anyway? I think its just about busting it open a bit. It’s maybe what we certainly helped do.
I mean, to my mind, a pork sausage or a piece of bacon is charcuterie. It’s just that unfortunately, in the UK, our range of charcuterie that we were making or that we were, not so much, that we were consuming because we were consuming a lot of continental charcuterie, was quite narrow. And there were good reasons why a lot of their dried stuff, funnily enough, is made on a hillside in Tuscany rather than a hillside in Wales, not raining at the moment but that’s a …
Catherine: It’s not far away…
James: It does, funnily enough. The basic raw material, in terms of the pork, I was realising, we had in spades. That was a wonderful thing and not only that, but this was literally round here in Monmouthshire, there were a lot of small farms raising free-range, traditional breed animals that people would be going crazy for on the continent and that people here thought was a kind of naïve hobbyist thing. I suppose it was, again, given the market for that meat at the moment.
We wanted to create a new market and I suppose we were also in a kind of climate which has very much grown since then but was certainly starting then, particularly amongst restaurant chefs where people were saying, ‘Yeah British, great. What’s out there? Let’s find it. Let’s look after it. If it’s not there, let’s think about making something new. Let’s think about filling the gaps’. To my mind that’s gone crazy especially in the last 3 to 5 years and so yeah, it was about helping bust open a particular dam gate, maybe.
Catherine: So coming up to the present day then, that’s how you started out and it’s clearly part of your heritage. How would you describe a typical ‘day in the life’ for you now?
James: Wow. Okay, we have got a farm. We’ve got a working farm, which is Trealy Farm. The charcuterie now, the main production unit is off the farm. It’s about 10 miles away over the other side of Usk and we still have the old production unit on the farm. We still use it but we mainly use it for training courses or people come and do their own processing here, which they can sort of hire out.
I suppose in terms of what I do, it’s, well, it’s quite a big business now and with any artisan business, and it is still at that level, you know, there’s only 5 of us and although we produce relatively quite a lot because we’re in a new unit, we need to stay ahead of the game.
That’s what you need to do as an artisan business. You may have the most brilliant idea or the most brilliant brand or packaging or hopefully product. There is particularly something about the British food scene at the moment, which is about not standing still.
Now some parts of that I really like, some parts of that I’m not so keen on but it is a reality so you need to keep abreast of stuff, and product development, just product consistency, just always looking out for new possibilities and new ways of doing things. Obviously sales, customers, meeting people. Yeah. But most of what is done is obviously production.
Catherine: It sounds like you’re at the stage where, you’ve got that classic saying ‘it’s important to work on your business rather than in your business’. Undoubtedly it’s a problem a lot of artisan and small business owners come upon in the early days where you’re just totally busting a gut all the time and working in the business, whereas now you seem to be at the position where you can perhaps oversee things a bit more and take a wider view and be perhaps a bit more strategic and react to the market and potentially drive the market as well. So that’s a good position to be in.
James: Yes, I mean, there’s certainly that thing about kind of ‘riding the crest of the wave’ time of the business when you’re sort of in your first few years. Hopefully it doesn’t carry on too much beyond that when everything’s churned up the whole time and you’re always sort of responding, responding, responding and you enjoy it.
That’s where you get your knowledge of the market. That’s where you find out what your customers want. That’s where you find out where your limits are. That’s where you find out what you can do, you know. You find out about how the business could work.
Yeah, at a certain stage you need to settle down a bit, not too much, and say ‘I now have a lot of information. I now have a lot of knowledge about what’s going on’. I think you always need to be responsive, or at least that’s what I feel, and keep a certain amount of flexibility. In a way, flexibility is what an artisan business is about.
It’s about a lot around the food, about quality and so on, but I think being able to change, being able to add things, not being set in your ways, is almost a better mark of a … I can think of some artisan business or small businesses so set in their ways that that spark is something that is maybe gone and other big businesses, not that many, but some who definitely keep it. That’s an ‘artisan spark’ in my view.
There’s different ways of looking at all these definitions but yeah, there is a different stage of the business now. There is more overview, there is more direction. At a certain point it’s got to not all be about individuals. If you want to grow, if you want to steady the ship. You can’t be that if someone’s ill or if someone decides to leave to whatever then, ‘Oh my God we’ve lost it’ sort of thing. You’ve got to put some of yourself and other important people in the business into systems and ways of doing things that are not set in stone, but at least mean that you don’t have to be constantly checking your mobile phone, he says as the person who constantly checks his mobile phone.
Catherine: I guess it’s a matter of making yourself not be indispensable.
James: Yes, yes. Which is not to say that people aren’t indispensable, they are indispensable in an artisan business. Individuals are kind of what it’s all about but at the same time other people need to be able to operate without a particular person being there. Everything needs to be able to be done, at least in the short term, without important people being there.
Catherine: I’m curious as to what you meant a few minutes ago when you said there were some aspects of the UK food scene, the market for artisan food, that you didn’t like.
James: Well when I say that I didn’t like it, I think if you look at the British artisan food scene at the moment, I kind of see it in a kind of teenage stage, which is that there’s suddenly like, ‘Whoa! Let’s make this and let’s make that and let’s put chocolate in our wine!’, whatever it is. ‘Let’s just do it!’
Of course, when you go to the continent, we spent a lot of time studying on the continent to actually find out how to do what we do. So we have a lot of great relationships out there and also from my French background from my mum. I can think of how the food scene more traditionally is out there. I say more traditionally because everything is changing on the continent as well. You have there something where if you go to an artisan producer in Italy, I am obviously generalising massively, you will get somebody, maybe, who makes a particular product incredibly well in a certain way. Do they want to change that? No.
If somebody mentions ‘why don’t you put some chili in that or why don’t you make it a different shape?’, they will look at you as if you’re totally barmy and in a sense you are because this is a perfect product. It’s an expression of their terroir. It is something that naturally grows out of, in whatever way, out of the animals they produce, the fruit they grow, the ground they’re on, the particular way people eat in the area and of course it’s interrelated. It’s a feedback loop.
People eat in that way because they produce the particular products there. They put rosemary in their salami in that place because funnily enough, if you look at the hillside up above, there’s tons of rosemary on it. But they don’t put, I don’t know, cranberries on it because they’ve never even seen a cranberry. So if you say ‘Put cranberries in your salami it will be nice’. Yeah, it might be nice, but what they’re making is a kind of, it’s a sort of perfect product.
Which, and then you come to the UK and you put cranberries in it and it is nice and people go, ‘Hey, this salami with cranberries in it’s so nice, it’s so nice!’, and it is. It’s interesting and you can play with it and you can take it somewhere. What the negatives might be, I mean, when I see this teenage phase settling down I see it sort of settling down into a terroir. When I’m talking about terroir is you know, everyone knows what that word is but then it is a very indefinable word and we haven’t got something in English for it. There kind of is something in Welsh for it, which is interesting. It’s about your space around you, the growing space, the living space, where stuff comes from.
For instance, nowadays, okay, 20 years ago, the British cheese scene, for instance, which is exploding alongside charcuterie, exploding alongside artisan beer and cider and wine-
James: … bread, sourdough bread. Funnily enough all those products are fermented products. Interesting I think.
Catherine: Yes, absolutely.
James: Fermented products really are a core part of the artisan scene at the moment and always will be because they offer so much variety and nuances in terms of flavour, product development. 20, 30 years ago people, when they wanted to make a new cheese, said, ‘Oh, you know, what sells well? Brie. Okay, let’s make Somerset Brie because we’re in Somerset and people like to buy Brie, so let’s make Somerset brie’. Brie is produced, which is a product. It’s kind of a pale imitation if you like — well it is — and what people are doing nowadays, which is to my mind this terroir thing and some settling down a bit, and you see it very much in cheese. You see it very much in wine, speaking to wine producers around here, is that people are not saying to the market ‘What is selling well?’ They are saying ‘What does my soil…’, have a soil test, then thinking about planting the grape variety that goes well with the soil.
Look at the climatic conditions over the last 10 years, humidities and temperatures and all that sort of thing. Okay, again, what grape is going to grow well? They say, ‘Okay, I have this breed of cow on this soil. What is the pH of my milk in the springtime. What is the pH of my milk in the summertime? What is the pH of my milk in autumn? What is the fat content of my milk at those times? Again, therefore, what cheese would best be made using what I have?’
People are coming from that space so I think there’s something there about the kind of ferment of innovation is brilliant and it busts things open and traditionally we’ve been very good in Britain about not having boundaries around food.
Part of the reason we don’t have boundaries around food is because part of the reason we’re so good at busting food cultures is because we haven’t already got one of our own. So we’re used to being like a sort of teenager, sort of like [puts on a Harry Enfield ‘Kevin’ accent], ‘Why can’t we do that?’ That might be a really brilliant question. Why can’t we do that?
Well, it might just be a kind of slightly sort of disrespectful, not really seeing the wood for the trees type question, which is maybe worth exploring but then you come back and you do say, ‘Actually, what have I got here and how best can I use it?’ Maybe I don’t have to use it in 65 different ways and change every 2 months and all that sort of thing.
Catherine: It seems like to me what you’re saying is that innovation in food is good and fine as long as it’s not ill disciplined and uninformed.
James: Yeah, I think it’s got to be based on something. It’s got to be based on some kind of, I mean, I don’t know. I really, I suppose, I’m half French, I’m half English. I feel those two things alongside. I feel like, ‘Oh, it’s very nice to have something solid and grounded’, which is maybe a sort of classic thing and maybe that’s more the continental side.
Then there’s something, oh I really want to shake things up. Oh I really want to do things different. I really want to experiment and maybe that’s more the sort of teenage-y British side or whatever. But anyway, you need some sort of base to operate from and certainly for us in charcuterie-making and for myself that was very much learning about the science and the microbiology of what’s going on. I think that’s something that increasingly artisan producers are turning towards.
It’s all very well, you know, putting cranberries in it or whatever, but you need to know does the sugar content of the cranberries increase, have this effect or that effect. There are a lot of interrelated aspects of making a product. You can innovate best by really knowing the science behind your product. I was just… there’s an ice cream book down there [points to bookshelf heavily-laden with cookery books], we only make home ice cream, this ices book. It’s just brilliant on the science of making ice cream. Oh wow, we’ve got a little home ice cream maker but I learned from that. Brilliant stuff and I thought okay, yeah, now I see how maybe you could change this and change that and make some different sorts of ice cream. Yeah, it’s science. It’s solid science.
When you go to, say, Germany, you can’t open a butcher shop without 2 years’ of really solid meat science technology. They are meat technologists, those guys. Anyone could open a butcher shop in the UK. That’s kind of cool but it kind of isn’t, either.
Catherine: I know what you mean, yes. So let’s move on to talk about your products and you have an impressive range. Could you give us a brief overview of what you actually make?
James: We generally put our product list into 4 areas, so there’s 2 areas of air-dried products. So an air-dried product would be like a Parma ham or a salami. These are all fermented products. This might sound curious but they are made with a fermentation culture which means they’re all probiotic. The culture is very similar to a yoghurt culture. There are a lot of different types of culture that would produce different outcomes in different products.
You know, if you look at a whole ham hanging or a salami you often see a little dusting of white on the outside if they’re not cheating and using rice powder or something like that which quite often they are, that will be the just the sort of dusting of the fermentation culture, mould on the outside.
Catherine: So that is actually a living organism?
James: It’s a living probiotic, really good for you, yeah, fermentation mould. Normally it doesn’t really kind of apparate on the outside of one of these air dried products. If it does it’s usually a sign that the conditions they have been kept in a little bit too humid. If you see excessive white mould on the outside of a salami or an air-dried ham it’s just because the atmosphere it’s in is a little bit too humid, probably. That’s just a sign of that so scrub it off, dry it and keep it somewhere a bit less humid.
But inside the air-dried ham, inside the salami, if it’s made in a traditional artisan way, and I’d have to say that because now not all such products are, then they will be a probiotic. As I say, positively good for you in the same way as sourdough bread or live yogurt would be. Fermentation culture doing it’s job, giving you some of that sort of tangy hit of taste that you get in these products. They are all fermented products. They are air-dried. They are obviously all cured, which just means salted. That kind of salt is a essential part of making all of these products.
There’s roughly 2 categories of our air-dried products. There’s a whole muscle air-dried products where we have a whole muscle of, and we do do a lot of different meats. So we do pork and beef and venison and lamb and duck and veal and all of those if we have a whole muscle like a… we generally don’t do a whole leg but we tend to break, for instance, like a leg down by muscle. There are 4 muscles in the leg and we would tend to make a different product out of each muscle. That’s a technique called ‘seam butchery’.
That’s something that we found very useful to us partly because there’s just so many things we’ve learned how to do across our training and across our mucking around. We enjoy making different types of products. What we tend to do is work with the particular characteristics of a muscle and work with it rather than against it, rather than trying to say we want this outcome.
We’re like, oh yeah what can this do for us and we’ve made quite a lot of different types of single muscle meat products. Then, if we mince down the meat and add some of the sacred pig back fat, which you need for salami, which of course traditional breeds are so good at giving, then we make salami which is an air-dried sausage, essentially, but the production techniques are not a million miles away from the air-dried ham.
So those are 2 categories and then we do a bunch of cooked products, some of these smoked. Again, obviously, all of these are cured. Some of them are like cooked hams and pastramis, cured cooked spiced beef, boudin noir based on my grandmother’s recipe actually, not that I ever had it from her but it was just based upon trying to reimagine it from memories of it, which is a black pudding but made in more a French style so it doesn’t have all the oatmeal. Well it doesn’t have any of the oatmeal or pearl barley and it has a little touch of sweetness and slightly different spicing. Things like hog’s pudding and a white pudding and all those cooked meat products, that sort of thing.
And then simple cured products like bacon. Some of them are partly air-dried like a cooking chorizo, a bunch of products like that but products that are not ready-to-eat, so that would be the fourth category. All the previous 3 products are products you might want to cook with but you don’t have to, you can just slice and eat them but products like cooking chorizo, products like bacon, they’re not in the ready-to-eat category.
Catherine: And you even do Bath chaps?
James: Yes, Bath chaps. That’s another one of our cooked products. They’re cured and smoked. They’re the pig’s cheeks. It’s getting slightly to the point where we’re kind of scouring the whole southwest of the UK for pig’s cheeks. [Laughs loudly] If you see any pigs wandering around looking a bit hollow-faced, it might be us.
Catherine: [laughing] They might point some fingers your way.
James: Yeah, they are very popular.
Catherine: Yeah, I wonder why they’ve become so popular? It’s a great thing.
James: Well I think it’s kind of, yeah, again it’s the sort of more obscure parts of the animal. They’re really popular with chefs, with certain people especially, a lot of people will say they haven’t had that for 50 years or whatever it is and came to try it again. Yeah, again it’s the sort of thing chefs are really interested in experimenting with, making new dishes, getting something that’s a bit different, getting something that’s got a British background.
Catherine: Talking about your products, you have won a striking number of prestigious national awards — really remarkable, actually. I’m wondering, how do I ask this question? Apart from the fact that your products are very good and they taste very good, why do you think you have won so many really heavy duty awards? Is it just because of the fact that they taste very good or are there other factors at play?
James: Well I suppose the two most heavy duty awards that we won, which were the BBC Food and Farming Best UK Food Producer and then the Observer Food Awards, again Best UK Food Producer, they were obviously based on our products presumably not being rubbish in the judges’ eyes.
On the other hand, those 2 were very explicitly about the whole way we ran our business and structured it. The other ones, Great Taste Awards whatever you enter or True Taste Awards you enter for them and it’s just a product and that’s it. Then certainly other ones, those 2, also the Waitrose Food Awards that we won back in the day when it was still running, they kind of, as I say, they look at the whole structure of a business. They look at how innovative you are.
I think that they were impressed with our product development and product design and our ideals and how we wove them in because we’ve always been about free-range meat, traditional breed, traditional breed crosses, Trealy Farm here is basically sheep farm, sheep and beef cattle farm. That’s again how we run it now. I mean, we do have a few pigs and we’ve got some Mangalitzas running around outside because I happen to love pigs and we’re always going to want some pork to eat for ourselves and we always want a few pigs around.
We did try and raise pretty much all the pigs here for the first couple of years but it’s not a pig farm. It’s got clay soil. It looked like the Somme battlefield after it was rainy. You know, good reasons why this has never been a pig farm. Though we were sort of struggling and then I started thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, this is bonkers’. There’s loads of small farmers around here, especially around here in Monmouthshire, not really further afield in Wales so much, who raise a few pigs, who they’re nearly all traditional breed. They’re looked after really well, in fact some to the extent that they’re like members of the family almost. There may only be a few of them but pigs have big litters, they always want to sell a few. They find it difficult to sell them. They don’t get a good price.
The market price for pork, as you may know, is frankly derisory and has been for many years and it’s only gotten worse in the last few years where essentially it stayed the same as the price of feed has nearly tripled in the last seven or eight years, so pig farmers have been going out of business all over the UK.
Around here what we’ve done is we’ve kind of produced a cooperative, it’s not quite as structured as that, but people have got a sort of a group of farms that feed into us which go beyond Monmouthshire now and some give us 10 pigs a fortnight. Some give us a pig every 2 years but we’re a bit of an inlet and we try and concentrate of family farms. We ask them to produce the pigs in a certain way, particularly to make them very, very big because British pigs traditionally are by continental standards ludicrously small.
They think we’re bonkers. ‘You kill a pig at 6 months, why do you do that? You’re mad! It’s not good!’. Okay, and so the pigs… 10 to 12 months, they’re big pigs, which is what we need for charcuterie. We give them a good price but we say this is what we want so we get the pigs that we want. We’re part of a network that’s very supportive. That’s very important for us. That was certainly something again that the awards people were looking at.
For me, the ideas like that are as much the foundation of our company as anything else, so it’s important to look to your suppliers, try and create a bit of a community. That’s definitely part of what artisan food means as well.
Catherine: Because you are controlling the means of production you will always be doing that, hopefully, as an artisan producer, but you’re also effectively controlling the source of production or the raw materials and there’s a very big ethical issue in terms of animal welfare at stake there. I guess that must be incredibly important to you because you can’t go out and say ‘here is our salami, it’s got free-range pork in there’ and all of a sudden, because you couldn’t get free range pork that week, well actually it’s not in there. So you’re in a, well a very dodgy situation, for lots of different reasons, legally and ethically and all the rest. So you will never be in that position because you have, I don’t want to use the word control, controlling your raw materials, but-
James: Well we’re kind of looking at what’s out there and we’re saying it’s out there and not only is it out there but it’s really good but it’s not being bought. It really kind of, I mean, other people have done this recently. We’re great friends with Bocaddon Farm Veal in Cornwall. I think the whole veal thing, you know obviously has a terrible history of crated veal and all the rest of it, but this is not what that’s about. This is about taking male calves from dairy farms that would otherwise be slaughtered, growing them on, that’s what they’re doing and making great meat out of them. That’s where we buy our veal from for our veal salamis that are really popular.
It’s a similar thing. It’s looking around and saying yeah, you know this is a resource that other people might have overlooked and you know, artisans are traditionally very good at that, again that’s part of what it’s about. It’s about finding something that’s being overlooked and making use of it. The way that particularly the modern meat industry works in the UK, less so on the continent, you will find, is that it’s incredibly wasteful of a lot of parts of the animal and it’s environmentally destructive in all sorts of ways. It’s not welfare friendly in all sorts of ways. It’s not supporting communities and those things are really important, I think.
They are some of the most important questions addressing us if you look beyond artisan food but of which artisan food, I think, is a very important part at the moment in the UK. So let’s support those things because more broadly those aspects of our life, community and looking for quality in whatever way you see that and I don’t see that in any way as being an exclusive thing or a kind of snobbish thing.
That’s not what it’s about and again I would kind of go back to my French side there and say in France, Champagne, nobody thinks that Champagne is a snobby good. The workman in the street, will he want Champagne on his birthday and at Christmas? Of course he blooming well will. There’s no way he will think that’s for rich people. That’s a British: it’s a class thing. Fortunately, we’re kind of shrugging that off a bit in this country.
Yeah, of course the rich person in France might have Champagne 3 times a week and of course the poor person will have Champagne maybe twice a year but there’s no culture of ‘there’s a food for us and there’s a food for them’ and all of that side of things. So yeah, I think artisan food is about integration. It’s about breaking down those kind of splits. It’s about making use of what’s maybe not being made useful and it’s about I would say quality in all areas.
Catherine: There’s a great collaboration amongst producers. You mentioned the goat, no sorry, the veal…
James: Well no, you say about that but the goat, Cabrito Goat Meat who just also I think won the, is it the Observer Food Award they just won, or something they just won anyway, they do exactly the same thing. They just take male goats from dairy goat farms and they would otherwise be slaughtered and they raise them as goat meat. Great.
Catherine: Makes total sense doesn’t it?
Thank you James for coming on the show and for telling the story of your brand. You can follow James on twitter, he is @trealyfarm and his website is trealyfarm.com. You can download a transcript of the show for free at myartisanbusiness.com.
I’m on twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please follow me there. If you liked this episode with James I’d appreciate if you’d leave a review on iTunes — this will help me to spread the word about the show. Don’t forget to tune in next week to part 2 of my conversation with James Swift. Until then, I’m Catherine Moran. Happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thanks for listening.
You can listen to the podcast of this interview with James Swift at www.myartisanbusiness.com.