Dingley Dell’s unique pig breed leads to charcuterie gold
There is usually a story behind an award-winning producer. That of Suffolk’s Dingley Dell Cured can be traced back nearly a decade to the very rawest of charcuterie ingredients – the pigs themselves. Having just picked up the Champion of Champions producer title at the British Charcuterie Live Awards, FFD takes a look at what sets the brand out from the competition.
Suffolk farmers Mark and Paul Hayward were already supplying pork to high-end foodservice customers but they decided that they could make their meat even better.
“The more marbling you have, the more intra-muscular fat – those little white lines running through the meat – the better the taste and tenderness,” Mark Hayward tells FFD. “It’s well understood in the beef industry, hence the different Wagyus and price points.
Whereas beef’s marbling can be adjusted through both breeding and feed, only the former option is available to pig farmers. So the Haywards drafted in scientist Caroline Mitchell and set up a breeding program to create better-tasting pork – not exactly the direction that most farming operations have been taking.
“People that produce commercial breeding animals for farmers have been concentrating on speed of growth, efficiency of feed usage – all the kind of variables that make a farm more cost-effective.”
Having started with Durocs, Dingley Dell developed the Suffolk Red, now a registered breed with higher marbling and it continues to work on upping the level of intramuscular fat.
“We knew that if we could improve the level of marbling, it would be beneficial to any cut from that pig.”
So, two years ago the Haywards set up a joint venture with Direct Meats, called Dingley Dell Cured. They imported and installed ageing rooms from Italy and hired charcutier Thomas Hempstead to develop its range.
“What we set out to do was to make charcuterie and keep it simple,” says Hayward. “We didn’t want to be clever with it, we just wanted to produce great things in the way the Italians do.”
The resulting 12-strong range, tweaked for the British palate by Hempstead, includes Iceni – the Felino-style salami that won a Gold in this year’s awards – and Albion, another of this year’s medal-winners that is based on coppa.
Despite being inspired by Continental products, the whole Dingley Dell range has historically British names. Iceni was an Iron Age tribe, while its lomo is named Gullinbursti (‘Golden Bristles’, which a boar from Norse mythology that resembles Dingley Dell’s own stock) and its version of Milano salami is called Moccus (after the Celtic swine god).
“Why should we name these things after Italy?,” says Hayward. “We’ve produced the pigs in the UK, we’re proud to be British and farm the way we do, connected to the land, so we thought: ‘Let’s put our own stamp on it’.”
Currently, Dingley Dell’s core market is foodservice but Hayward says he and his business partners in the charcuterie operation very much see increasing retail listings as the next goal.
“We mainly want Dingley Dell Pork to keep going into foodservice and charcuterie is much more viable for retail.
“It has phenomenal shelf life and transport is virtually ambient, so for us to supply it nationally is not a problem.”
With whole muscles and salamis, 75g retail packs and 200g catering packs all available, Dingley Dell Cured can cover any deli or farm shop’s requirements.
And, with that all-important marbling on the rise in its pigs, the charcuterie is only going to keep on tasting better.