I was wondering if Brian and I could come up sometime and visit the farm? I'd love to see your operation first hand!
Yeah man....let me know when....did you want to go over to Dwayne’s as well? I get the lawn cut on fridays....so don’t come on thursdays! Haha
And so Brian and I made the plan to go up to visit Murray Thunberg’s farm last Friday. Like any day I decide to leave the city, there were problems at the shop; someone went home sick so we were short staffed, plus one of our sausage machines went down. I knew Chris and the rest of the butchers could take care of everything, but I hate leaving when there’s even an inkling that they could be in the juice. But I had also put off visiting Murray’s farm for too long. So we escaped, heading east through the rain to see some pigs.
The highway turned to side roads, turning eventually to dirt roads. We made a right onto Murray’s drive, and were inspected by a mob of sheep that were giving us cut-eye from behind their wire barrier. The drive gave way to a nice country house, with a very well mowed lawn. Stepping out of the car, we were welcomed by three dogs, each jumping and clamoring for our attention. The air had that post-rain smell, mixed with the scent of animal husbandry. Murray came out of the house and shook our hands. “You made it!”
Murray took over the farm a few years back and spent the time cultivating both the land and relationships with chefs, butchers, and his customers at the farmers markets. His original specialties were eggs laid by heritage species of chickens – his cartons are a rainbow of different specimens, all delicious and unique. He soon began raising heritage breeds of pigs with his friend Dwayne. Money was tight, so he built the pig houses using plywood from the dump and filling them with straw, allowing for comfortable farrowing. What he lacked in money though he made up for with passion and space – these animals had more open space to run, eat, and wallow than most urban condo dwellers. I could tell how well cared for these animals were as I walked amongst them, scratching them behind the ears. One boar kept rubbing up against my leg like a cat would, which sounds super cute until you realize that the hog is 750 lbs and almost flipped me like a rag doll. “He likes you!” Murray laughed as I steadied myself and quickly got out of the way. Brian intelligently stood back the whole time, just taking it in. Murray told us about the different pigs; he is trying to carry some of the lesser-known breeds such as Hereford and Auld Spot. His latest passion is bringing Saddlebacks in from the States – they’re in quarantine right now. It’s all a project to protect these lines of pigs from disappearing, and this is exactly the type of thing we support at the shop. As a total side benefit – they taste amazing.
Heritage pork has a much more robust flavour than commodity pork, which is insipid in comparison. It has more fat, due to age and natural breed characteristics, which is used for sausages and is excellent in charcuterie. The uncontested agreement around the shop is the heritage pork – Murray’s especially – are some of the tastiest grilling chops we’ve ever had. The sausages we make with the meat are the juiciest, and the shoulder has the darkest, most rich meat. Heritage pork is a little bit more expensive than traditional pork, but given its upbringing, it’s a small price to pay. We support what Murray does, and we hope that you do too. And who knows, eventually we might see this type of pork in your local grocery store. I love that people come to our little butcher shop for all the good stuff, but guys like Murray really need more exposure so people in all corners of the province have access to their wonderful offerings. Fingers crossed that when I'm all old and grey (er), my grandkids will see heritage pork bacon in their school cafeteria.