Free Range is not just a marketing term!

Did you know that the term ‘Free Range’ is not protected by law in New Zealand? Because of this it has simply become a marketing term which, for the most part, is not supported or promoted by the large meat industries. The reason for the lack of support is simply that Free Range is a costly form of farming, and is therefore not the preferred method in the industry, and the industry is focused on promoting the majority of their members not the minority.

For a long time this has been a bone of contention for us, mainly from an ethical standpoint, but as we grow it is also becoming a large financial issue. As I have mentioned in many of my previous blogs, growing a kilogram of free range pork will cost more than twice that of intensively reared pork (whether battery or free farmed). To offset this we have to increase our retail prices and hope that our consumers will be willing to spend the extra to support our goal of promoting the ethical treatment of animals.

The problem arises when customers are presented with options that appear to be the same but are in fact very different. Firstly, let’s be clear that Free Range means animals are born outdoors and live outdoors (with shelter, water, feed and a healthy environment) for the entirety of their lives. Free Range does NOT mean the animals are born outdoors and reared indoors from the age of 5 weeks (or in ‘eco’ shelters), which is what is known as Free Farmed or, as Freedom Farms call it, Freedom Farmed. The Free Range form of farming is labour intensive and costly on feed and infrastructure, because of this only about 1% of all pork in New Zealand is Free Range.

This brings me to you, the consumer! If only 1% of farming is Free Range, are you not a little surprised when many restaurants and cafes promote their products as Free Range? Or, when you go to the supermarket and see shelves of Freedom Farms bacon and believe it’s Free Range? The reason there seems to be a lot of Free Range bacon and pork around is because it’s probably NOT Free Range. In most cases, a restaurant or cafe may believe they are buying Free Range because they ask their wholesaler or butcher for Free Range, and the supplier then supplies them with Freedom Farmed pork because they can’t get Free Range. Or, they buy a little Free Range and make up the shortfall with non Free Range products. Perhaps this is the reason why many restaurants now write on their menu “We use Free Range products where available”. Free Range is available but it costs more, so if one item is in short supply (like pork belly), then why not look to use another part of the animal? I know of many companies that are saying Free Range but using ‘Freedom Farmed’ pork, especially food trucks.

When it comes to supermarket brands, they let you believe it’s Free Range and use marketing terms like Freedom and Happy. Leave a comment on their facebook pages saying “I only buy Free Range” and see if they correct you? Some bacon states Free Range on the packaging but if you look on the back, you will see it is from Denmark and Danish Free Range standards are what we would call Free Farmed, ie. the pigs are born outdoors, weaned at 4 weeks and then reared indoors .

So, I am going to ask you for a favour. The next time you have pork at a restaurant or bacon in a cafe and the menu says Free Range, please ask them what FARM it comes from, if they don’t know the farm or they say Freedom Farms then politely ask them to change their menu or source ethical meat. Likewise if you see a brand of sausages or meat or bacon in a shop which states Free Range please email or call the brand and ask what FARM it comes from.

If they cannot name the farm then it is NOT Free Range.
If you agree with me that Free Range should be a protected term, then please email the Commerce Commission on so that animals and consumers get treated ethically and fairly.

TFWF#48: I can buy pork shoulder for $6.99 at the Mad Butcher….

I know its been a long time between blog posts but so much has happened in the last year that something had to give and it just happened to be the blog. Thats said we are currently working on a BIG project to create a processing factory for all our meat(s) and products so expect to see more blogs soon (don’t worry I am taking lots of photos and notes as we progress) and you can follow our progress via our newsletter.

This blog entry is really a ‘SPECIAL ENTRY’ which came about when I read a recent report from NZ Pork and then saw an advert on TV for low cost pork sold by ‘New Zealand’s Butcher – The Mad Butcher.’

I am probably the last person to support intensive pork farms, where ever they are in the world, but I feel that there is a story that needs to be told and perhaps it will be more poignant coming from a farmer who is focused on animal welfare and higher quality meat.

The story starts at the abattoir last week. Whilst dropping off some of our pigs I was talking to the handler and he happened to mention how bad the market for pork was at the moment and how pig kill numbers were low because the company was overstocked with meat. Here at Woodys we can’t produce enough to meet demand so I asked him why they couldn’t see the meat and the response was blamed on foreign imports. I, like most people, thought this was just an excuse for poor sales practice and that it only affected ham, bacon, sausages and other processed meats but it turns out its ‘fresh’ meat too and its shamefully true. As it happens a few days later I received a report from NZ Pork (based on NZ Statistical data) showing the level of imports versus locally produced pork. Here is just a small section of the report showing that in 2014 imports exceeded local pork supply and this has subsequently caused local supply to shrink ever since.

Screenshot 2017-06-19 10.59.26

So what does this mean? It means that in our continued wish to buy cheaper meat we remove the viability of businesses in our own neighbourhood, the outcome is that businesses collapse (or can’t afford to improve) and jobs are lost, perpetuating the need for cheaper food. Over 33% of this pork comes from Spain, where they are heavily subsidised by the European Union and experience far low grain prices that we do (they also have questionable animal welfare beliefs). The total volume of pork imported to New Zealand in April 2017 was 4,303 tonne, up 4.31% from last month and up by 8.18% from the same month last year. Let me repeat 4303 tonnes of overseas pork landing in NZ when our local meat processors cannot sell what they have just killed. This is CRAZY behaviour and in many countries it would be stopped by anti dumping laws.

So is the $6.99 per kg pork in the Mad Butcher is from Spain? Not necessarily, it might be from NZ but it is only that price because of the flood of product from overseas. The point is that we should start to be more vigilant about where our food comes from and not just how much it costs. ALWAYS ask where does this meat come from, always look for the country of origin and if its not on the packaging DO NOT BUY IT. And if it says (as bacon often does) ‘made from local and imported

I want to make it clear that you should NOT be buying cheap pork from intensive farms (or freedom farms), we can only change the industry if we support free range farmers who are trying to put animal welfare first. But if you really feel the need to buy massive chunks of cheap protein then PLEASE buy NZ born and raised meat, not only will this help to reduce the imports it will create (or at least save) NZ jobs.


Sub note on pricing: Our grower pigs live for nine months outdoors, until they are about 65-70kg. Each day they are fed 1kg of specially formulated pig feed each feed (two feeds per day). Each kg of food is about $0.80. If you do the maths you will see that our pigs cost more that $6.99 per kg (not including all the other cost involved in running a farm and a business.) Intensive pigs are not able to move much so burn off very little food and subsequently gain weight faster, they therefore only live for 4-5 months. Regardless of this you can see that $6.99 per kg is NOT the real price of these animals.ingredients) then you can be damn sure that the meat is from overseas and the only local ingredient is probably the Manuka smoke.

TFWF#46: Bridge of Swines

It has been over a year since we were flooded by a very rapid two meter swell of the Waikawa stream which flows through the farm. That night the stream broke its banks and caused a flood throughout the lower paddocks. Myself and a number of very helpful neighbours spent the night catching black pigs in the darkness and bundling them into trailers and higher ground.

The very next day we fenced the only suitable piece of high ground that would hold the pigs, an old horse arena. Since that day the grower pigs have lived in and around the horse arena.

Keen not to be caught out again over the winter I decided to not let them back into the lower paddock until the threat of flood was over. The problem with the lower paddock is that the only road in and out of the paddock passes through a ditch that overflows during flood. What I needed was an emergency exit for the pigs and so the ‘Bridge of Swines’ was born.

Its taken me a few months to put the bridge together, mainly because of so many other things to take care of and the terribly wet winter that we have had. I wasn’t sure that the pigs would even use the bridge once built, they are not used to walking on solid ground. But I knew that if I needed too I would be able to herd them over a bridge with some encouragement. As the winter went by the horse arena (made of sand and designed to drain quickly) became too small and muddy for the pigs so we started to allow them access to the paddocks around the arena. This gave me an idea.

Behind the arena there is another gate into the lower paddock, but to access the paddock you have to cross through another section of the large drainage ditch, this would be perfect for a small bridge. This bridge would allow the pigs permanent access to the lower paddock and they would still be able to come back to the arena for feeding and sleeping. This meant that feeding would be quicker and easier as they are all in one area and I would also not have to worry about the pigs in the lower paddock at night.

Building a bridge.

It’s amazing what you can find online, in fact it’s daunting. The amount of images and videos and ideas about building farm bridges was simply too much to decipher so I reverted to an old farming book from the 1930’s. This book had simple line drawings of simple bridges that could be made simply by a simple person, me.

When we moved onto the farm most of the flotsam and jetsam that you normally find on a farm had been removed except for a few aluminium beams that used to be part of a lean too. Without the plans and the rest of the structure they have sat around unused for three years. At just over seven meters they were perfect for the structural beams of the bridge.

Having decided that the bridge would be 1.2m wide I calculated how many planks I would need for the span, how many cuts from 4.8m lenths and the total amount of wood required. After all that complicated maths I quickly learnt that pre cut 1.2m palings were actually cheaper that cutting my own (I can never understand the mind of the retailers), so I bought a whole bunch of them and got to work.

After bolting over 40 planks onto the metal frame we had a perfectly good bridge with no sides and a very serious bounce. Given that I already knew the pigs would be wary of crossing the bridge it was very clear that if the bridge was too bouncy a 60kg pig would never use it.

So after a bit of research I realised that I need to strengthen the bridge with either suspension or a simple handrail. Given that wood is so much easier to work with, the handrail structure was the answer.

So the final bridge looks like this, it is a bit rudimentary and still has a good bounce but the electric wires help to strengthen it and of course ensure the pigs don’t fall of the sides.

Yesterday was the opening ceremony and whilst a lot of pigs turned up for the show they were not too keen to cross the bridge. As always with pigs you always have one brave soul and getting that one over the bridge with a little bit of pig feed temptation would mean the rest would follow.

They have had access to the bridge for over 24 hours now and I am please to say that most of them are actually happy to cross the bridge (in both directions) giving them access to new pasture and their safe home. Its been a long time in the making but the pigs are back home in the paddocks and its good to see.

I will be moving this blog over to our website soon, so please make sure that you are registered for our newsletter so that you get updates on new blogs.

TFWF#45: Sharing the survey results

This particular blog is specifically to thank my loyal customers and to share some of the many excellent responses that we received from our recent customer survey, and if you have not yet taken the survey you can do so HERE.

Last week we sent out a survey mainly for two reasons. I have come to the conclusion that simply growing pigs and selling the meat is not a sustainable business, after fixed cost are deducted (almost 70% of which is pig feed) the rest of the money we receive from sales goes on farm and vehicle upkeep. To make it even worse I cannot run the farm, sales, website, marketing and meat production alone but finances mean that I can’t afford to hire anyone either, I believe this is called catch 22.

The answers are, of course, to reduce costs and/or increase sales revenue. Our main costs have reduced slightly as we have found a new feed supplier who has managed to get us down from 70c to 65c per kg, however to counter this the pigs have increased and we are now getting through 230kg per day, or nearly 7 tonnes per month. Butchery and processing costs vary but are mainly stable.

This leaves increasing our sales. To do this we either put the prices up (we are cheaper than most Freedom Farmed products), we start producing more artisan products like charcuterie or we find products that we can sell to complement our own products and meet our ethical standards. And it was with these questions in mind that I produced the survey.

We sent our survey out to our newsletter list, our Facebook friends and twitter followers and were very pleased that so many people took the time to answer the questions. I was even more please to see a lot of really excellent and useful comments (and some not so useful – luckily the survey is completely anonymous)

Having received these great responses I thought I would take some of the more regular questions and give you some answers. Once again thanks for the questions, ideas and comments. Here we go:


We want more frequent shipping days and not sold out so often?

Absolutely, so do I. The problem is that we don’t have enough pigs for that. Our pigs take eight months to grow to the right size (slower in winter) as opposed to intensive pigs that get to weight in just 5-6 months. We are now supplying over 600kg a month but we know we need more. Because of this I am soon starting an approval and audit scheme for other free range farmers to grow and fatten pigs for Woody’s Farm to sell. Don’t worry the pigs will have the same care and freedoms that ours have and will be processed by our butchers to ensure continuity.


We want to see your products at more famers markets or in retail?

I love going to the farmers markets and meeting customers but it takes a whole day and the farm suffers as a result of this, the reality is that when I am off the farm the pigs are not getting fed and the work not getting done. Because of this I have had to scale back the amount of markets to one per month however I have been considering employing someone to attend the markets fro me and this might be the answer for 2017. As for retail markets we have been talking to some big retailers, like Moore Wilson, but we will have to consider their margins and the quantities they need on a regular basis. At the moment I am considering a product range specifically just for them (and potentially others in the future).

Can we come and visit the farm?

When I started the farm I wanted everyone to be able to visit the farm, I wanted to show people how we farm and educate children on where bacon and sausages come from. The reality however has been that a lack of manpower and facilities (in case of rain) has made this very difficult to arrange. That said we are planning to have an open day later in the year when the weather is a bit dryer. This open day will be limited to a small number of visitors (as a trial) and we will be charging a small fee for the staffing and facilities I will need to hire for the day.

Additionally I will be holding a more detailed course for people who are interested in small scale pig farming. At this stage I hope to hold this late 2016 or early 2017 depending on when I can get the information together for the course.

Why can’t I buy individual items, not packs?

I do understand that this is frustrating but it is based on three major factors, the first is that my IT skills have not yet risen to the challenge, secondly the boxes that we use to despatch the goods need to be over 50% full and so we have calculated that their must be a minimum of 6 items in the box. Finally the reality is that all the meat we currently sell comes from a pig that we have slaughtered, unlike a butcher we can’t just buy a loin or a leg, we have to use the whole pig so by mixing the packs I can be sure that every bit of the pig gets sold. Supermarkets have made us think that we only have to eat what we want but we hate waste and so we have to sell the whole pig, its called sustainable eating.

All of that said, as we get bigger we will find that we can be more flexible and rest assured our website will become more flexible in the future, I’m working on it now.

Do you have a farm shop we can visit?

We do have a shop on site but we don’t have opening hours because I can’t guarantee when I will be available to take customers. At our shop all the stock is frozen and normally held for farmers markets. However if you do what to come to the shop email me on with your preferred day and if I can find enough customers for that day I will open the shop. If you have already ordered from the website and collected meat you will know that we are very flexible.

Can you give us advise on having our own pigs?

As per my blog I have enjoyed being very open about what I do and how. However as time has gone on the number of emails we get asking for help has increased and I am now unable to reply to them without incurring costs (lost time etc). In addition to this some of the help that we offered to others in the early days has been used to set up competing business which have copied us (even the format of their website). Therefore I have just started up a side business for consulting on matters related to pig farming, business start-up and even website management. If this is of interest to you then please email me for more details at


Finally we asked you what would you think about us supplying other products online and the answers were very interesting. During the last three years I have met and talked to lots of like minded farmers and producers and I think it would be great for me to share these suppliers products with my customers. I wanted to know wether you would be happy to buy other products that were not made/grown on Woody’s Farm, here was the response

I was really pleased that 65% of people would like us to produce Charcuterie and 28% wanted other pork based products, this is something that we can make out of our own meat and I have recently started to look into this side of the business. More to follow. What was even more interesting is that 37% of respondents would be happy buying other meat products from us, once again this is something I have been wanting to introduce and have started talking to specialist farmers about building this into our business.


Bye for now!

TFWF#44: Introducing Porky Points

As always it has been far too long since my last blog post. The unfortunate thing about blogs is that they are so exciting at the start of a journey, you just want to tell the world about your great idea and what you plan to do….then the reality sets in and the work piles on top of you and you realise that its not all roses and the hard work wears you down. You realise that you don’t want to tell the world how tough it is and how you just don’t have the time to sit at a computer and type something that reminds you of your struggles. Then the nail in the coffin comes when you realise that not only does your blog not provide an income it actively helps others to learn from your mistakes and create competing businesses.

All that aside, lets start with a thank you that I have been promising for years. I have been planning for a long time to implement a loyalty scheme and also to offer a reward for recommending a friend. Like everything it seemed simple but actually became very complicated to implement on the website. I am please to say that at long last perseverance has paid out and I am very pleased to announce the launch of the Woody’s Farm loyalty programme called Porky Points.

Woody’s Porky Points is our way of saying thank you for supporting our business and our ethical mission to encourage free range pig farming. All you have to do is click on the tab on the right hand side of the screen and join our loyalty program to start earning points. Once you have enough points you click on that same tab and start spending – its easy.
You can get rewarded for completing all the actions below and once you have amassed enough points you can spend them via the same tab.
Now please understand that the Porky Points is currently in a testing phase and we will have some problems along the way so if you have a problem using it or just can’t get started then please email me at and I will sort it out as soon as I can. I once again thank you for your support on this and everything else.
You can read more about our loyalty scheme HERE

TFWF#43: The great sales conundrum.

Its been busy on the farm since the flood. Not only has there been lots on fencing to be done we have also changed our structure for feeding, sorting and weaning the grower pigs, in addition to this we have also had eight litters in two months and increased the breeding herd to 22 sows.

Whilst we have been busy many of you might have also noticed that we have been absent from the markets, the cafes and the restaurants. Our disappearance from the outside world is due to, what I shall now call, the great sales conundrum (or GSC), brought about by a lack of good free range pork producers and a plethora of supportive customers.

The GSC is basically an over demand of product and whilst I know I am lucky to be in that situation I really don’t like letting people down, turning down opportunities or being sporadic in supply. In order to explain my conundrum in more detail I thought I might outline all the potential sales channels that we have, each with their own pros and cons and then I thought it might be nice for you all to give me some advice and feedback, via a comment on here or on Facebook.

Farmers Markets.

When we started the business we always planned to attend farmers markets, we chose Fielding and Thorndon because they appeared to be authentic grower markets. Unfortunately as time went on we found ourselves competing with a butcher from Wellington in Fielding and a general retailer selling meat from the store in Hawkes Bay at the Thorndon market. Despite this I really enjoy the markets, I get to meet a great deal of lovely customers and characters, I get direct feedback and its a great opportunity to grow business opportunities. I have also been able to try lots of different cuts of meat to see what sells best and showcase the quality of the meat. On the downside the markets take three days of valuable time on the farm, a day to prepare and two days at the markets, and the success of the day is very dependant on the weather. Financially the markets work for us because we sell direct to our customers and the only extra costs are the market fees and the fuel.

Hill St Farmers Market (Wellington)

Hill St Farmers Market (Wellington)

Online Sales.

We had always planned to sell product via the website but we never had enough stock to attend the markets and sell online. The flood changed all that when we were unable to get to the markets and had a trailer full of meat to sell. We thought it best to trial online sales and managed to sell out in 49 mins. After that first trial we continued attending the markets and also selling small quantities of meat packs online. In August we took a break from sales to focus on the farm and came back in September with a greater focus on the online side of the business. The packs have been selling very well, I have enjoyed the customer feedback from all over the country and without any middle men we make a full margin (less the costs of sales). Obviously it takes a day to prepare and pack and we worry about the delivery arriving fresh but so far all has gone well and we have successfully delivered over 800 packets of bacon and sausages. I do miss getting to meet my customers face to face but the gain in time on the farm is, at this point, much needed.


Restaurants and Cafes.

I love working with the owners and chefs of restaurant and cafes. These are the people that challenge the preparation of food and have the experience to truly grade the quality of our meat against others, it is their feedback that helps me to provide better quality product to everyone. I have been lucky to work with some excellent restaurants who have respected the way we grow our meat and promoted Woody’s to their customers. But, with only limited stocks at the moment, we have to manage our profitability and therefore we focus on our direct sales via the markets or online. This means that we are not able to supply the chefs on a regular enough basis, or large enough quality, and will often loose out on opportunities.  My goal is to be able to work regularly with a small number of restaurants around the country as soon as our stock levels rise.

Blank background square

Speciality retailers.

Without a doubt the best way to promote your product and your brand is to have product in front of customers all the time. Unfortunately markets are only once a week and selling online relies on customers to find you, not the other way around. Putting product on the shelves in speciality stores who promote quality, niche products associates our brand with theirs and  encourages sales on a daily basis. The downside is again that retailers also need to make money, to pay their associated costs, and with limited stock we simply cannot afford to be on too many of those shelves. Additionally, whilst speciality retailers are very good at explaining to their customers about the provenance of the food they sell we, as the grower, do not get to talk direct to our customers, something that I think is very important.


In my previous life as a consumer electronics executive I spent a lot of time selling to supermarkets. Unfortunately supermarkets have all of the bad elements of speciality retailers with none of the good elements. They are not willing to take the time to talk about provenance, they do not fairly share profitability and over time they gradually reduce the value of your product in the consumers eyes, normally by heavy and unwarranted discounting. Any farmer who works with the supermarkets knows that the vanity of a high turnover of stock is not a replacement for the low profitability. Of course nationwide exposure and a single point of delivery is attractive to some, but not us.

Having broken down the pros and cons of all our potential retail outlets I am keen to hear what you think we should do, and who we should focus on. At the moment our limited stocks means that we can only afford to concentrate on the markets and online store but we hope to be able to continue supporting the restaurants, cafes and small speciality stores that we currently sell too. Moreover the chiller trailer is currently out of action so we have to concentrate on online sales until some work has been carried out on the trailer, when that is fixed we intend to attend one market a months and sell online twice a month. Maybe one day we will have greater exposure across the country.