Listening to: Can't think what Don Revie would have made of this
Two more porkers are off to fulfil their destiny in the morning. The trailer is ready and as soon as it gets light they will be loaded up and taken down to the ferry.
After an hour-and-a-half we'll get off at Kirkwall and the five minute drive to the slaughterhouse where they should be "dealt with" swiftly and quietly - it'll be over before they have any idea what's happening.
That and most of the rest is out of my hands. The butcher picks up the carcasses which are hung for a few days and then cut, packed and shipped back to Westray. I'll collect the meat and deliver it to "my customers" who (bless 'em) are buying the stuff from me.
It hasn't been difficult to sell so far. These two are all accounted for, while all but one-and-a-quarter of the remaining three porkers is sold.
Some financial return would be more than welcome, but we're not quite ready to be sausage millionaires just yet.
I worked out a few weeks ago that each of the porkers will have eaten about £150-worth of feed in its lifetime. Add to that the cost of the ferry (£45 for me and the trailer so £22.50 per pig), the slaughterhouse fee (£32) and the butcher's - ahem - slice (£35-50) and there ain't much left for the "farmer". I also have to think about electricity to the sheds, water pump and fences, straw for bedding, not to mention the feed for the four female breeding pigs and all the start-up costs.
I'm charging £310 for a whole pig (bear in mind this is cut, packed and ready for the freezer), £160 for half and £85 for a quarter. At an optimistic estimate I reckon I'll have £80-90 in my pocket at the end of it which will be just enough to pay for next month's feed bill.
I don't mean to complain because few things in life have given me as much pleasure as working with the animals, but the reality is that there's precious little money in this pig "farming" lark unless people start to pay a realistic price for their meat.
The pork from my pigs is worth at least twice what I am charging for it and there's no chance that properly-reared meat will become the norm unless the farmer/crofter/"farmer" is given a chance to do his/her job without having to cut corners and resort to intensive methods or just treat it as a glorified hobby.
** Channel 4's food season offering tomorrow night should be interesting, focusing on the true cost of cheap food in the supermarkets. Next week Jamie Oliver (who I know a lot of people don't like, but he's welcome at our house for tea any day) is looking at the pork industry.
UPDATE: The morning ferry to Kirkwall was cancelled because of strong south-easterly winds, so we'll do the whole thing next week.