The ginger haired Tamworth is a rare pig that is slowly beginning to gain recognition as having the tastiest meat of all the porcine breeds. The Tamworth stands apart from other pigs, with its long neck and legs, and characteristic ginger hair, this is a pig that has more in common with wild boar as opposed to most other farmed pigs. The exceptional quality of the meat comes from the fact that the Tamworth is able to achieve a high body mass, without too much fat, that makes this breed a good 'dual purpose' pig, one that is ideal for pork meat and good bacon.
The name comes from the town of Tamworth in Staffordshire, where Sir Robert Peel began cross breeding his Tamworth stock with some pigs called Irish Grazers that he brought in from Ireland. Despite the obvious commercial quality of Tamworth meant, it is surprising to learn that the breed is classified as rare and critical. There are numbers of Tamworth in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, but they are still given a high priority of conservation by breeding societies in each country.
Tamworth pigs are not only known for their good meat however, in 1998 they were at the centre of a media circus that lasted for a week. Showing their boisterous, playful nature, two young Tamworth pigs escaped from an lorry as it was being unloaded by squeezing through a fence, and subsequently swimming across the River Avon before escaping into the undergrowth. They evaded their pursuers for a week, and in doing so they captured the hearts of the country, and in the end the pigs were saved from the slaughterhouse by a national newspaper, who paid off their owner in return for exclusive rights to the story. Such was the interest in this case that the BBC decided to dramatise the events, and it eventually became a 60 minute movie that premièred in April 2004.
Despite this brief foray into the entertainment industry, possibly the most coveted pigs in England are bred at a farm in Levisham, North Yorshire . The owner is Timothy Wilson, who co-owns the company Ginger Pig, one of the most well respected meat producers in Britain. He began breeding Tamworth pigs in the early 90s, and soon found himself with more meat than he really cared for, and so he got a butcher to teach him sausage making, read some cookery books and began making and selling his own meat products. He favours Tamworths because he 'likes big things, and the Tamworth is the biggest', and because of the quality of this meat he is now the primary supplier of meat to the River Café.
The Ginger Pig initially started selling their sausages at the Borough Market in London, and after their sausages proved an instant hit they eventually set up a stand at the market. Once joined by chef Paul Hughes, the Ginger Pig soon became recognised throughout the land as an producer of the finest meat products, and they now have their own butchers shop to accompany their market stand.
Despite the small numbers of the ginger Tamworth, there seems to be a genuine love for this breed of pig. They are friendly animals to keep, showing a good nature towards humans, and they are also excellent grazing animals are are very efficient at clearing overgrown land. The added bonus of their excellent meat makes them a good breed of pig to rear, and hopefully in the future more farmers will realise the various benefits that owning Tamworths can have. The ginger pig is considered to be the 'aristocrat' of the porcine world, and it would be a great loss to farming and agriculture if this breed were allowed to slowly die out.