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Acorns - A Meal for the Pigs

The pigs at Tablehurst farm have been enjoying a treat from our community. We have been receiving sacks of acorns delivered to the farm to feed to our pigs. Thank you to all the people who have kindly brought them to the farm.

The acorns are mixed with Tablehurst beans and other food and fed to the pigs to provide a good mixed diet full of nutrients. There is a strong history for using acorns to feed pigs in the UK. Historically common land was used for pannage. The practice of pannage is an ancient practice where pigs are taken into the Forest for around 60 days to be able to feast on the acorns. The pannage season traditionally begins on 19 September until 9 December 2022.

The practice of feeding acorns to pigs is also important in providing a complex and heritage taste to the meat. In Spain and Portugal a type of high quality ham known as ‘jamón ibérico’ or Iberico Ham is produced from a traditional practice of feeding acorns to the pigs, this can sometimes be an exclusive diet of acorns. A diet of acorns can lead to a very well marbled and deep red meat, try to forget the marketing phrase of pork being ‘the other white meat’…pork should not be white, it should be vibrant and red. An acorn heavy diet has been shown to lend itself to pig fat that is high in unsaturated fat, high in omega 3’s and high in oleic acid, creating a healthier meat product for the shopping basket.

Other benefits of acorns in a pigs diet include it being a sustainable food source. The Oak trees are unlikely to be sprayed with chemicals when collected in the woodlands or private gardens or land. They provide an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that the pigs benefit from. Acorns are also low in sugar, high in minerals, vitamins and fiber. Depending on the oak tree variety, the acorns may have high levels of tannins. Tannins themselves may have a bitter flavour, but the pigs sure do not mind and the bitterness does not come through in.

As a biodynamic farm Tablehurst works with the aim of producing a whole system of faming where the Pigs should ideally eat food produced on the farm. This can be produce that would otherwise go to waste like Potatoes. These are cooked and fed to the pigs which they love and enables the farm supplement by feeding Tablehurst beans or peas, barley or wheat,

oats and rye. The acorns provide a wonderful complement to this diet.

If you would like to know more about the biodynamic rearing of pigs, please follow a link to the Biodynamic Association website with an article by Tablehurst Farmer, Peter Brown titled 'Rooting for Change' on caring for pigs using biodynamic principles.

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