I awake each morning torn between a desire to save the world, and to savour the world. This makes it hard to plan my day. ~EB White
The Jonai (aka Tammi, Stuart, Oscar, Antigone & Atticus Jonas) tired of choosing between saving the world or savouring it, so figured out a way to do both.
In May 2011, we left our rather farm-like suburban Melbourne environs behind, took a shortcut across America to glean wisdom from a range of ethical farmers (including lunatic farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface), and landed some months later on Jonai Farms, just outside the beautiful town of Daylesford to raise happy, tasty, heritage-breed pastured pigs.
We now have a full herd (12 sows and 2 boars plus 100-120 growers at any one time) of heritage-breed Large Black pigs with 23 acres to themselves. We also run a small herd of Lowline cattle on the lush feed our volcanic soils produce, who are available as delicious grass-fed beef in our boxes. An ever growing, eclectic flock of chooks (Isa Browns, Araucanas, Speckled Sussex, Marans, Pekin Bantams, and Anconas), and a handful of rare breed Lincoln sheep round out the menagerie of critters on the farm.
In 2013 we were the first in Australia to successfully crowdfund major infrastructure for our farm, raising $27,570 on Pozible to construct a butcher’s shop right here on the property. Thanks to our very generous 166 supporters, we now do all our own butchering in the converted 40-foot refrigerated container that is now licensed as Jonai Meatsmiths. Tammi apprenticed with the fabulous Sal of Salvatore Regional Butcher in Ballan for six months, learning by helping to cut all of our carcasses each fortnight, and is now the Mistress of Meatsmithery here on the farm.
In 2014 we’ve introduced a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership model as well as continuing our ad hoc sales. You can read more about it and join to ensure you have a reliable source of ethically-raised meat!
You can continue to learn with us as the farm grows on The Hedonist Life Blog.
Some people (even smart ones) have asked: ‘but if you’re just going to kill it and eat it anyway, why does it matter what sort of life the pig had?’ We abhor cruelty to animals, and we believe they are a nutritious and delicious part of the human diet. As with many other free-range growers, our pigs should only have what our farming hero Joel Salatin calls ‘one bad day’, and they shouldn’t even know it’s coming.
In their daily lives, we respect what Salatin calls ‘the pigness of the pig’, and our animals are free to roam, root, and wallow as they would in the wild. We think it’s unconscionable to choose meat from an animal that has lived its life in pain and misery so it could end up on our plates, and if the ethics of the matter don’t win you over, the flavour will.
If you check out any of the Australian free-range pork producers listed on Tammi Jonas: Food Ethics, you’ll find far superior flavours to intensively-farmed pork. Hopefully as the number of pastured-pig farmers increases around Australia and the rest of the world we can all enjoy ethical, quality pork that has travelled few miles so that we also decrease our carbon footprints, all while supporting local farmers – everybody wins!
Our own decision to eat only meat from animals raised ethically is what ultimately led to our decision to join the growing movement of small farmers who place animal welfare first. We are grateful to those who’ve gone before us, and the generosity of the many small producers who have taught us so much as we embrace a life of farming. We feel honoured and privileged to be amongst their ranks in contributing positively to the world’s food systems.
What exactly are your pigs fed?
Our pigs enjoy somewhere between 10 and 20% of their diet by grazing and rooting in the soil in their paddocks. They’re also fed spent brewers’ grain from Holgate Brewery in Woodend, a half hour drive away from us. They further get about 50% of their diet from a crushed grain mix made for us by a local feed supplier, which consists of wheat, barley, peas, and maize – there are no GMO grains nor sub-therapeutic antibiotics in any of our pig feed. (Our cattle also enjoy occasional rations of the spent brewers’ grain, hence ‘beer-fed beef’.) We are working to grow more of their feed here on the farm, through planting fodder crops (such as root crops and brassicas) in paddocks that are resting, and they are also fed seconds and windfall from our region when available such as potatoes, strawberries, oats, apples, acorns, chestnuts, and early-season colostrum-rich milk from a neighbouring dairy.
Do you castrate your pigs?
Yes. After an initial year of choosing not to castrate, we faced issues with boars reaching sexual maturity early and impregnating their sisters, as well as some boar taint in the meat. As our pigs are a slow-growing rare breed, they don’t reach a good marketable size until 7 or 8 months, by which time they are well and truly sexually mature. As we prefer to keep our pigs in family groups from birth until slaughter (rather than separating the boars out by around 3 months old), we have chosen to castrate and keep them together in their litters. We administer a local anaesthetic before Stuart performs the castration, and he was trained first by an experienced free-range pig farmer and then by our vet to be deemed competent at the procedure. Our decision to castrate was documented by the series we did with Radio National Bush Telegraph if you’d like to learn more.
I’m worried about how animals are treated at abattoirs – can you please explain what happens to your pigs, and how you ensure they are subjected to minimal stress at the time of slaughter?
We take our pigs to an abattoir about an hour and a quarter from the farm in a trailer filled with hay, avoiding the hottest periods of the day during summer. As we only take between 4 and 6 pigs at a time, they are unloaded immediately through to the stunning chamber without being kept in the holding pens with any other pigs. Our abattoir uses CO2 for stunning, which is considered best practice as the pigs are rendered unconscious almost immediately, before being slaughtered by a cut to the neck. We have witnessed the entire process and are confident that this is the best method (so long as regulations don’t allow us to slaughter on farm).