A SIDE of beef for a shoulder of pork.
That is the way the world of self sufficiency in the valleys of North East Victoria work.
It is bartering at its best and it is a win-win situation for all involved.
Five years ago Robin and Elizabeth Behrendt, of Oxley in the King Valley, had a vision to grow their own food and be totally self sufficient.
But what started off as a co-op with two rare black pigs, a few sheep and a cow has turned into King Valley Free Range Pork.
Mrs Behrendt said the couple now farms up to 50 of the large black pigs, which are a rare heritage breed renowned for their flavour.
“We started off just thinking we would farm enough for our family but we have ended up selling the meat,’’ she said.
She jokes that the family eats the free range pork almost every day.
“It is delicious, you never get sick of it,’’ she said.
The family breeds and raises the large black pigs on their property, Baringa Park.
The pigs are free to roam the valley, grazing on pasture and stands of lucerne.
They can wallow at their leisure and have shelter and water available at all times.
“They can have their babies when and where they choose,’’ Mrs Behrendt said.
The couple implement chemical free pasture management and lime minerals, seaweed brew and worm juice are used for optimum production.
“There is no human intervention,” she said.
“It is horrific what goes on in commercial piggeries.’’ Mrs Behrendt said in a commercial piggery, sows were often placed into stalls where they were unable to turn around.
“There is no mud, no dirt, no sunshine for them,’’ she said.
“When the breeder decides it is time for them to have their baby, they are given an injection and they are weaned according to a schedule.
“And all in all the pork is not very nice at all, they are grown fast and lean and there is not much flavour.’’ In contrast, her King Valley pigs have docile temperaments and a placid nature — their behaviour reflects the way they have been raised.
“Our pork is full of flavour and has more fat with a sweet, deep, rich taste,’’ she said.
“People can’t believe it when they taste it as it is so much different to commercial pork.’’
She said the old-fashioned breeds naturally carried more fat and the way they were raised complemented the flavour of the meat.
Slow cooking a pork roast or barbecuing a chop are some of the more popular ways to cook the meat.
Mrs Behrendt said the pigs are taken to the Wangaratta Abbatoir for slaughter and then to the Edwards Street Butcher in town to be butchered into specific cuts.
So how did the couple come to raise pigs in the King Valley?
Preceding their lives as pig farmers, the couple and two of their three children’s home was a Kombi van cruising the Australian outback.
Wangaratta was where they ended up, it is as simple as that.
Mrs Behrendt said while the pork was for sale over the internet, she loved attending local markets to meet the buyers.
“I love that face-to-face contact, that immediate feedback,’’ she said.
“There you can talk to people about how to cook it and then they can come back to you and tell you how nice it was,’’ she said.
Mrs Behrendt said being situated in the heart of the gourmet region of the King Valley was great for obtaining and growing local produce.
So that’s where the bartering system comes into play.
“It ended up that we didn’t have time to grow all our own vegies and tend to everything, the pigs have kind of taken over,’’ she said.
“So now we trade things at the markets with other producers and we know they will be quality products.’’
You can find King Valley Free Range Pork at local markets as well as at the Collingwood Animal Farm in Melbourne or go to kingvalleyfreerange.tripod.com/