“They’re easy to get on with, they have two ends, a biting end and a back end.”

 

There’s an irony in the fact that Borough Market, once a leading symbol of the Slow Food movement, has now become a Fast Food destination, more popular with tourists than with locals. Thankfully, the market’s best food retailers are time-proven, and still hold their magical lure over true foodies. Sillfield Farm is a slow food champion,  working to revive old breeds of pigs – and Alan is their porcine ambassador in London.

How long have you worked for Sillfield Farm?
Just about two years, I’ve been here at Borough about five months, then back there I work outside with the wild boars in the wood.

Explain the charm of pigs.
They just have that cute face, don’t they? They’re easy to get on with, they have two ends, a biting end and the back end, stay away from the biting end and everything’s ok. They are quite adorable really – they listen to you, they follow you round, as long as you’ve got a bucket of food with you they’ll do what you want. And they’re very intelligent, they know what they want.

Do they have personalities?
I suppose they do. They’re sort of blind in a way, they have tunnel vision, so if they see a figure coming towards them, instead of running away they actually charge at you… which is stupid in a way. But they do have personalities, for definite.

The business was started by Peter Gott, and his wife Christine, and you’re known for your rare breeds of pigs, correct?
Peter started up with rare breeds. He was renowned for Cumberland ham, bacon and sausages – then his brother bought him a wild boar as a joke for his birthday, I think, and now he has about 50 wild boar. We have a real variety of pigs, including the Middle White, and some crosses as well, and Gloucester Old Spot. Middle white are quite an old, rare breed, and we have the old Cumberland Sow which you don’t see many of.

There’s been a huge change in Borough over recent years, a move away from fruit and vegetables wholesaling, towards takeaway food that people actually eat on the spot.
There’s definitely a drop [in non-takeaway], and a lot of takeaway food around the market. But we still have us regulars, who come week to week.

I’m guessing you had to come to Borough and sell direct to consumers, and restaurants, because British farms are under such pressure in terms of prices, is that correct?
It’s true, British pig farms are under pressure, what you find now with the supermarkets is that it’s all cheap, pumped with water. Whereas our stuff, especially pork and wild boar, the pigs are normally bred for a 36 week minimum, whereas for the supermarket they have just a 12 week cycle, fatten it up and it’s on the plate that soon. Whereas we have more passion in getting a nice bit of meat on the plate, it’s quality over quantity, completely different.

The Sillfield Farm Shop is at Borough Market, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 7.30am to 6pm.


Comments

One Response to “Alan Blackburn, Mr Pig”

  1. Katie Ingham on May 17th, 2012 12:07 pm

    Hi, We love markets and our site has now launched! http://www.ilovemarkets.com

    I love your blogs, maybe there is some way we can support/collaborate with eachother?

    Please email me.
    Best wishes,
    Katie