We take animal welfare very seriously. We believe that the meat we use should be ethically and humanely produced and killed, and that the best hams come from happy pigs.
We work with several great suppliers who we believe share our commitment to responsible and sustainable farming. Dukeshill has grown considerably over the years; we are still very much a “small family business”, but we have grown beyond the point where we can work with just one supplier. We are predominately a ham producer and whilst we have added other products like bacon and sausage to our portfolio, we still use a lot more “back legs” than we do the rest of the pig.
This means that we are not the ideal customer for farms who are in the business of selling whole animals. That said, we do work closely with farms, and visit them regularly to verify that our welfare standards are met. Much of the meat we use comes from a local farm who produce excellent meat, 100% Free Range, to excellent welfare standards. However, we also buy from local slaughterhouses and cutting plants, but again we only specify the highest standards available. One of our main suppliers is still relatively small and the meat we buy from them is exclusively produced to the RSPCA Freedom Food standard. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” that we can state for every ham we make, but in each case the standards are as high as we can achieve.
The only unequivocal line in the sand that we specify is that all our meat is British Farm Assured. We do not consider this the highest or best welfare standard, but it does give us the safety net, as our resources are not huge, that all our pork is British, well treated, and most importantly that every stage of the supply chain is regularly audited by vets and inspectors. Is all our pork free range? In a word, no. In general, we're big advocates of pork that is free range; that said, we are seeing much stronger demand for leaner pork (“my ham is too fat!” is one of our most common complaints).
The old fashioned, traditional British Rare Breeds are fantastic but they tend to have a thick layer of fat to keep them warm outside in all weathers, but some of the more modern cross-bred pigs don’t have this insulation. It’s only a personal view, but I do question whether a lean pig standing in a field in winter is actually happier than one being responsibly and humanely looked after in a low-intensity barn filled with dry straw! We take the sourcing of all our other meats just as seriously. For instance, our poultry is all produced to the highest levels of free range standards - there is never an excuse for distressing, intensive or inhumane farming methods that cause animals to suffer.