A Perthshire farmer is carving out a niche as a producer of wild boar.
Andrew Johnston, of Hilton Wild Boar, Craigend, Bridge of Earn, has developed 50 different product lines, including bacon, salami, chops, diced cuts, five different flavours of sausages, rolled shoulder and gigot.
He is now also looking at expanding the range into ready-made meals and charcuterie products.
Mr Johnston, who farms with his cousin, William, and father, Douglas, started in 1995 with a herd of 10 wild boar as a sideline to their 350-acre cereal farm.
They now have 30 sows and four boars and expect this year to finish upwards of 350 pigs. Wild boar production is now a mainstay of the farming enterprise, which previously specialised in cereal seed production.
Mr Johnston said farmers' markets had proved to be his most successful outlet for wild boar meat products.
He was a founder member of the Perth market and now also sells in Edinburgh.
Wild boar meat had captured the public imagination, and Mr Johnston now sells up to seven pigs at each market he attends.
Mr Johnston said: "Wild boar is distinctive in its appearance. Much darker than pork, similar to venison, but not nearly as gamey in flavour and definitely not an acquired taste.
"We describe it as tasting the way pork tasted in the old days. It's just so damn tasty."
Mr Johnston said he was out to capture as big as slice as he could of the available market.
He does not supply to supermarkets, opting instead to sell his product through independent retailers.
Meanwhile, Britain's Wild Boar Association has launched a new quality assurance scheme which has the backing of the Meat and Livestock Commission.
It sets minimum quality standards, with those producers signing up able to use a British Meat Quality Standard Mark on their products.
Chris Lukehurst, the MLC's pigmeat quality marketing manager, said: "Wild boar meat is increasing in popularity and customers, including restaurateurs, want to be assured the animals are properly reared and looked after."
John Godman, the chairman of the British Wild Boar Association, said production was profitable.
In Scotland, the association is looking to applying to the Scottish Executive for a three-year marketing development grant to help expand markets.
Mr Johnston is not yet a member of the quality assurance scheme, but said he was already fulfilling many of its guidelines.
© Press & Journal, December 9 th 2000
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