Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork

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Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig
Old Spot sausages

The TSG Gloucestershire Old Spot was developed in Gloucestershire in the Berkeley Vale. It was found around the valley of the River Severn, where for many years it was kept traditionally as cottager’s pig. The breed is believed to have evolved from the unimproved Berkshire and the original Gloucester pig. Writing in the 1780’s, William Marshall in ‘The Rural Economy of Gloucestershire’ describes pigs he found in the Vale of Gloucester as ‘the tall, long, white breed, which was formerly, perhaps, the prevailing breed of this island, is here still considered as the “true Gloucestershire breed”. They grow to a great size. At present, the Berkshire and a cross between these two breeds, are the prevailing species.’ There is evidence that some additional breeding was done with the Old English Bacon Pig (now the British Saddleback). H. D. Richardson writing in ‘The Pig, Its Origins and Varieties’ describes the Gloucester pig as being ‘hardy in constitution, and very prolific, and are profitable pigs for pork — more so than for bacon. They make good store pigs, and their pork is also said to be of prime quality.’

Gloucestershire was famous for cheese making and apple orchards. The Gloucestershire Old Spot pig thrived on the by products of these and converted this into valuable protein. Local folklore says that the black spots are the bruises from the windfall apples hitting the pigs. In celebration of the success of this breed, and its endearing qualities, there are public houses, inns and even a beer named after it.

Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork is characterised by the following qualities:

  • greater fat thickness
  • smaller muscle dimensions
  • less pale (darker) muscle colour
  • greater retention of moisture in the muscle structure during freezing and cooking
  • higher tenderness and juiciness
  • and a different flavour profile

when compared to conventionally produced pork.

Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork must come from pedigree Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. These pigs must be registered as purebred by the British Pig Association or any other pig breeders’ organisation keeping a Gloucestershire Old Spot herd book and licensed by a public authority in accordance with the relevant legislation. In order to meet the specification ‘Traditionally Farmed’ producers and processors must adhere to the following requirements:


The definition of ‘Traditionally Farmed’ is that the pigs have been reared from birth to slaughter in an environment that enables them to grow at a natural rate. As a result, Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG) is reduced and the number of days to slaughter is increased. To achieve this, a lower protein feed (15-18% protein with essential Fatty Acids including Lysine) supplemented as necessary with fruit and vegetables, sugarbeet pulp etc. is fed from weaning to finishing in such a managed way so as to avoid excessive backfat levels. GOS pigs managed in such a way should produce backfat levels of 12-16 mm measured at P2. Commercially raised pigs would normally be fed on a mix of between 18 and 22 % protein and be expected to have lower backfat levels of 5-8 mm. Following this regime, the average age to pork weight (55-61 kg dead weight) is 180 days (minimum 160), as opposed to commercial 140-165 days. The longer period to finished weight is part of the reason for the increased flavour and succulence found in the pork.


The environment in which pigs are kept also influences the eating quality. Pigs may be reared outdoors or indoors provided the following requirements are complied with:

Outdoor rearing

The GOS pigs shall be kept at a stocking rate of 15-20 sows per hectare. All litters to be kept separate with their dam until they have been marked for identification purposes in accordance with the rules laid down by the British Pig Association or their equivalent. Such C 238/10 EN Official Journal of the European Union 3.10.2009 rules state that both parents must be registered pedigree Gloucestershire Old Spots and that by eight weeks of age or before the pigs are mixed with others, they must be ‘Birth Notified’ (first stage of the registration process) and permanently marked in the ears with their registered numbers. Store pigs between weaning and finishing to be kept at a stocking rate of a maximum 100 pigs to the hectare. All pigs kept outdoors must have access to adequate shelter/shade as well as wallows, dips or showers. In winter, pigs must have access to dry ground within their enclosure.

Indoor rearing

Buildings must be well ventilated and can have sides open to the elements providing that pigs kept in them can enjoy shelter from adverse weather conditions. Ample daylight must be available so that all pigs can be observed without difficulty. Slatted floors are not permitted for animal comfort and welfare. Ample clean bedding and access to clean water must always be available.


Application of medication should be kept to a minimum and avoided unless absolutely necessary. The only exception is the use of medication for parasitic pest control. Routine tail docking and teeth clipping are not permitted. Weaning — in normal circumstances, a minimum of 42 days, recommended 56 days.

Transport The pigs have to be transported to slaughter direct from the farm and not transported with pigs from other holdings. Finished pigs being transported to the abattoir must be transported at 200 kg/m 2 .

From slaughter to retail Slaughter takes place in small-scale abattoirs to minimise stress. The carcases must be ‘hung’ on the bone for a period of three to four days from slaughter. Breaking down the carcase before this period tends to cause distortion of the muscles. This may result in poor butchery technique and possibly a false sensation of toughness in the final product. The pork suitable for traditional handling methods and butchery. There may be considerable variation in carcase conformation and fat levels mainly due to the individual breeding lines and the way in which different producers finish their stock.

The butcher needs to make judgements when determining cutting lines in order to get the best presentation and value from the meat. As an example the size of the belly pork in relation to the loin can vary considerably, as can the proportions of meat from the shoulder. The final cuts from Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots are the same as commercial pigs (loins and small cuts thereof e.g. chops, legs, shoulders, spare ribs and belly) but the judgement by the butcher will make a lot of difference in terms of the presentation quality. As such Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots are not to be processed on industrial-type production lines. The sale of the pork is best achieved within a period from four days to nine days post slaughter.

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