Denver established the business Grainpork NZ Ltd in 1990 before the name was changed to Freshpork NZ Ltd in 1996 after the sale of the smallgoods side of the business, to concentrate on fresh meat.
Freshpork is a Canterbury based specialist pork meat wholesaler, which has grown significantly over the years and now has key sites in Auckland, Levin, Burnham and Timaru.
The Perfect Pork brand and range of pork cuts were developed by Freshpork through extensive consumer research, and will form an integral part of the company’s growth – from farming right through to the consumer.
As Managing Director Lynden Glass says,
“Perfect Pork is a premium fresh meat that is quick and easy to cook, tender, juicy and full of flavour.“
“We believe the provenance of where our pork comes from needs to be clear. The consumer can be provided the comfort of knowing exactly which New Zealand farm provided their pack of meat.”
“We have selected New Zealand farmers who will provide the optimum growing conditions for their pigs to produce the product we want for Perfect Pork. Rob & Kim Turney are our first accredited farmers. They grow grain that they are feeding their pigs. It is a level of vertical integration that is going to help our company take a lead on sustainability. It will become an increasingly important part of our business model”, says Lynden.
To learn more about the people behind Perfect Pork, clink on the links below.
Taking the opportunities creates crackling good success
Tenacity, resilience and perseverance are the hallmarks that have marked 40 years of successful business for Fresh Pork NZ founder Denver Glass.
“There are plenty of opportunities around, you’ve just got to be ready to take them,” he says.
Mr Glass arrived in Christchurch from Ireland with his family in 1956. He was only 16 but had already had worked for several years, part-time, during school year in his parents Northern Ireland country store, and had left school before aged 15 to work as a full time grocer for his parents. Up to the age of 10, Denver had learned from duties shared with nine siblings on the family farm.
“My father wanted to give his children a shot at a better life and believed that New Zealand would be a place of opportunity,” says Mr Glass. “It was exciting coming here with the whole family. It wasn’t quite as easy as we were led to believe, but there were always opportunities.”
Opportunity presented itself for Denver in purchasing a milk run when he was 20. Although it meant 1am starts it was a good earner and eventually allowed him to buy a small property at Yalhurst. Debating what to do with the land, his sister Doris, who was farming pigs outside of Ashburton suggested pigs and delivered three sows and a boar to his door.
“Every one laughed about my three little pigs,” says Denver, “but they became the start of my breeding herd.”
Despite knowing nothing about farming pigs, Denver set about learning everything he could. He started however with the basic premise to respect the animals.
“I grew up on a farm, so I’m a farmer through and through and a stock man at heart identifies totally with his animals. If you identify in sympathetic terms with the animals you’ll always do right by them.”
Within a year Denver had over 20 pigs and knew that to begin farming commercially he would need a bigger property and, preferably somewhere not quite so close to town. At that time opportunity knocked again, and Denver found himself the apprehensive owner of a bankrupt pig farm near Burnham. “It was dreadful so the challenge was to make it work.”
Over the next ten years Denver grew his farm and stock numbers through instinct and empathy with the animals, but mostly through sheer hard work. “I just kept trying to do it better,” he says. Looking for improvements included spending two separate weeks at Massey University learning the latest information in pig nutrition.
“Although compared to what is available now, it was very elementary back then,” he laughs. Forget computers he had to use a pocket calculator to work out the different components of the feed, whether it was protein, energy or fats and figure out where the balance was off and what he would have to supplement that with. It was a learning experience that enthused Denver with a life-long interest in the economics and logistics of feed.
It was knowledge he put to good use as well. He set up a feed mill on the Burnham farm and moved into live carcass trading while at the same time shrinking his breeding stock. “The idea was to supply feed to and then buy other people’s pigs and transport them to Wellington as a brokerage. Initially we started with live animals and then we contracted processing services from the abattoir in Timaru and started to move chilled carcasses. The price of South Island pigs was more competitive than those from the North Island so there was a big market for them.”
Denver became one of the first pig producers to experiment with chilled transport in New Zealand.
The business developed steadily and Denver soon owned a cutting plant in Levin giving him the ability to respond promptly to orders around the country.
So while he’s grown the company into New Zealand’s biggest pork producer, he says you can never stay still, but always have to be looking for the next opportunity.
“New Zealand can’t compete internationally with countries like Canada who not only have massive grain production but also have a subsidised base to their production. Small industries like ours will always get squeezed by the bigger players,” he says.
Opportunities abound however. The company is investigating the possibility of using a low cost pig feed that has a high nutritional value, and they are setting the pace developing a premium pork product for consumers.
“Forget the old wives tales of cooking pork until it’s shoe leather, these products are developed by chefs to deliver a restaurant experience in the home. It’s pork that cooks perfectly, every time.”
Denver says he is excited about the Perfect Pork venture as the company looks forward to the next 40 years in business.
Rob Turney – The Perfect Pork Farmer
It’s not every one who has a box full of sperm delivered to their door every Monday. But for Methven farmer Rob Turney it’s a delivery of quality genetic material that starts the cycle that produces premium quality New Zealand grain fed pork.
Rob is one of a select group of pig farmers chosen by Perfect Pork to produce pigs for its range of new consumer products. Rob, and his wife Kim, live just outside Methven on a 158 hectare farm where he grows wheat and barley and farms pigs. The Turneys met Perfect Pork’s stringent requirements for a well-managed farm that had a strong focus on animal welfare and sustainability. It also provides a vertically integrated model of farming where the grain grown on it is fed to the animals.
Rob introduced pigs onto the farm in 1994 and his initial 60 sows have steadily increased to 320. Going into pig farming was unexpected but something Rob has never regretted. “I didn’t know anything when I started so I bought a book and read about it. I knew I was going to do something intensive, either chickens or pigs, and I suppose because my parent’s farmed sheep and beef, I went with the four legged animal option.”
Rob says he finds the genetic side of the pig production one of the most interesting with research focused on growing pigs that have less outer fat layers and more intramuscular fat. “Leanness is important for today’s consumer,” he says.
Which is why Perfect Pork’s specialist pig nutritionist, Tony Edwards is such an important part of the process. The pigs eat a grain-based diet of wheat and barley that Rob grows on the farm but as they grow their nutritional needs change. “We have to ensure the pigs are receiving the appropriate nutrition for each stage of their development,” says Rob.
“It’s a balanced diet that’s all controlled with a significant amount of science behind it. Pigs need to have a lot of protein and the type changes as they get older. They can eat as much as they can, as often as they can, but we don’t want them eating bad stuff. There’s no backyard rubbish feeding here.“
“Our pigs are well looked after and fed a special diet, just like our young daughter,” laughs Kim. An embryologist by trade, Kim moved from Perth, Australia to join Rob on the farm after meeting him on a beach at Cottesloe and the couple married the day after the Prince William and Kate Middleton.
“I remember watching the wedding on TV thinking my wedding was not going to be that grand,” says Kim.
“You had a nicer dress though,” says Rob. The couple are parents to six month old Imogen and Kim says she hopes she’ll be able to transfer her embryologist skills into the agricultural industry one day. Which prompts a comment from Rob that shows, once a farmer, always a farmer. “Once you’re off lactation you’ll be able to do more around the farm,” he quips.
Rob says the relationship with Fresh Pork NZ Ltd has evolved over the last decade and this new Perfect Pork project will bring further investment in creating a healthy, sustainable environment for both his staff and the pigs and ensure the consistent supply of premium pork products to the market.
The Product Team
Developing a new product is usually the result of great teamwork and Perfect Pork has gathered together three of the country’s top foodies to create its new range.
Hugh Wall, senior tutor at the Christchurch Polytechnic’s School of Food and Hospitality, Amanda Cooper-Davies, recipe developer and stylist brainstormed the cuts of New Zealand grain-fed pork that would be suitable and the condiments that would enhance them. Food technologist Grant Titheridge turned the condiment recipes into sauces that are included with each cut in the packaging.
“We looked at the different cuts from a chef’s perspective and not a butcher’s,” says Hugh. “The basic premise was what would customers like to eat. Then we sat down with a blank sheet of paper and just brainstormed everything that we knew about those pork cuts and the flavour combinations that would work.”
Amanda’s role was to take the cuts and condiments and cook them so to be able to answer two simple questions. What do these taste like and how easy are they to prepare?
“Incredibly tender and flavoursome, and so easy,” was her finding. “I struggled sometimes to come up with three steps to cook the product. The sirloin steaks are a simple four by four by four – put steaks in a hot pan and sizzle for four minutes, turn over for another four minutes and then put on a plate and leave to stand for four minutes while you prepare some veggies and dinner’s done! Add the spiced plum and chilli sauce and you have a mouthful that bursts with flavour, is tender and juicy.
“The pork strips are literally a flash in the pan,” she says.
All eight cuts with the exception of the smoked sirloin steaks come with a sachet of condiment sauce that has been specially flavour matched to the cut’s taste and texture. The mini fillet roast that is wrapped in pork strips comes with a charred red pepper salsa while the sirloin roast comes with a cranberry and apple sauce, the schnitzels with cranberry and apple sauce, and the stir-fry strips come with soy and ginger stir fry sauce. Moroccan apricot and cinnamon paste flavour the shanks, while spice plum and chilli sauce goes with the belly and the Manuka wood-smoked sirloin steaks. The sirloin roast is finished off with an apple, brown sugar and thyme sauce.
“We took the traditional and gave it a twist,” says Hugh. “This is a premium product and it deserves something special.”
Both Hugh and Amanda agree that by bringing specialist foodies in at the beginning of the process, has enabled Perfect Pork to create a product that has the backing of experts and will ensure customers get a really good result with the minimum of effort.
“You want to be able to pick something up quickly off the supermarket shelf and get home and quickly feed the family, but you don’t want it to look as though you’ve just thrown it together. The Perfect Pork range lets you create a meal that is nutritious, flavourful and juicy and looks like it took a lot of effort, but really was incredibly simple and quick. You’ll feel like a chef in your own home,” says Amanda.
Owner of Gramart Foods and the food technologist behind creating the sauces from Hugh and Amanda’s recipes, Grant Titheridge says consumers want to know they are getting quality products and don’t want sauces bulked up with apple juice or laden with nasty chemicals.
“The sauces developed for the Perfect Pork range are made using New Zealand ingredients as much as possible. There are no artificial colourings or synthetic flavours and all the sauces, with the exception of the soya sauce, are gluten free.”
Challenges for him included getting things like the size of the flecks of dried thyme right. “They can’t be too big or the flavour over-powers the sauce and they can’t be too small or it’s ineffective. The red pepper salsa also needs to be diced the right size consistently so that visually it looks good.”
The Moroccan apricot and cinnamon paste paired with the pork shank provided the biggest surprise of the exercise because as it’s added at the beginning of the process so the flavours all combine during the slow cooking, the paste needed at least ten times more spices than the recipe originally specified. But the end result was all about the flavour.
“I was amazed that with each of these dishes, the pork was good on its own but with the sauces the flavours just exploded, says Grant.
With its set of clear step-by-step cooking on the packaging and sachets of specially flavour matched condiments, Perfect Pork has brought restaurant standard food in reach of everyone, serving up succulent, tasty dishes that will have everyone coming back for more.
The people involved:
Hugh Wall is a senior tutor at the Christchurch Polytechnic’s School of Food and Hospitality. As former chef at some of the greatest hotels around the world at exotic spots at Tehran and Bermuda and including the Hilton in London and a tutor for over 25 years, there isn’t much Hugh doesn’t know about flavours and food. “Pork is a lovely protein to work with it but it is easy to overcook it especially as people still persist with old wives tales about having to cook it for hours and then burn it to a lump of dry, hard and tasteless meat. Pork cooked quickly and that is lightly pink inside is tender and full of flavour, and perfectly safe.” Hugh says his life time in the industry has been driven by a fascination for food. “I think you would just run out of life before you could ever get around to tasting and learning about what is out there. There is always something new, some new ingredient, seasons change and bring new things.
“If you are in the food business, you are excited about the most simple of things by understanding the skill that grew or gathered the ingredient, and then showing respect by cooking it as well as you can,” he says.
Amanda Cooper-Davies had a catering business in Christchurch when a photographer friend complimented her on her presentation skills and suggested she become a food stylist. “I had no idea that there even was such a thing, so I researched it and found I could study the subject in New York at the Culinary Institute of Food,” says Amanda. That was the start of an 18-year career, including a five-year stint in Sydney, as a stylist that Amanda has since combined with the development of new products. “My life lives and breathes food,” she says. She says what she loves as a mum-of-two about the Perfect Pork products is how you don’t have to be an amazing cook to create an amazing dinner. “As an exercise we did everything wrong, put the steaks into a cold pan, overcooked everything, but still they tasted good. I love that you can throw out the old wives tales and embrace something modern that fits my busy lifestyle.”
Grant Titheridge owns a contract manufacturing business in Christchurch called Gramart Foods. Following an interest in food that began while he was at school, he headed to Massey University where he studied Food Technology. “I enjoy making things and then eating them afterwards,” he laughs. The challenge he faced with the Perfect Pork assignment was taking a flavour profile created from a chef’s point of view (the condiment recipes) and creating something accessible for consumers (packets of sauce to include in the Perfect Pork packaging). “You have to turn a small quantity of quality ingredients into a large volume of sauce that still tastes nice, looks good, is safe and can be packaged up into small sachets that lasts 12 months. While the chef is about flavour, mine is more the technical side.” Because of allergies in his family, Grant is very aware of how important it is now to make condiments that are gluten free. Five of the six condiment sachets used with the Perfect Pork range are gluten-free, the only exception being the Soy & Ginger sauce.
Using ingredients that were able to be sourced locally was also a key driver for him. “Almost all the ingredients we use for the Perfect Pork condiments are quality ingredients from New Zealand. For example, the Apricots in the Moroccan, Apricot & Cinnamon paste, and the Plums in the Plum & Chilli sauce come from Central Otago orchards; while the Apples used in the Apple sauce with Brown Sugar & Thyme are from Nelson orchards.”
Tracy Kirkcaldy is the lead nutrition provider with Netball NZ, has worked extensively in Super 15 rugby and is a High Performance Sport NZ approved nutrition provider. Along with professional teams she is a mother of healthy (and hungry) teenagers and understands the demands that a busy work and home life can bring.
As a nutritionist and a mother, it is important to me that I provide my family with both healthy and nutritious meals. Dinner meals can become tedious to prepare and boring to eat so it is important to have quick easy options that are tasty and interesting. Perfect Pork is a great alternative to add to everyday options and meets the demands of taste, convenience and nutrition when combined with a balanced diet.
Perfect Pork is a home grown NZ product which is a good source of protein and is nutrient dense. This means that a small serving offers a range of nutrients which are essential for a healthy diet without excessive calories and there is no compromise with taste and convenience.
Even when consumed in small amounts, protein rich foods such as Perfect Pork can make you feel full for longer, which may help with weight control by reducing total food intake.
Obesity is common in New Zealand and is associated with many health concerns such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. There are many factors which contribute to this and excessive fat intake is certainly one of these. Perfect Pork offers a range of low fat options which don’t compromise taste or convenience and provide a great addition to a healthy diet.
When selecting meat products it is advisable to choose lean cuts and remove any excess fat. Perfect Pork offers a range of ready trimmed and lean options which are high in nutrients and protein and full of flavor. Easy.
Energy needs differ for every age and activity level and as Perfect Pork is packed with nutrients and high in protein it is a good option for every age when incorporated into a healthy diet.
One of the biggest hurdles my clients have when trying to stick to a healthy diet is “what to choose”. Advertising can be misleading and confusing so it is important to check the labels to ensure you are buying products which meet healthy eating guidelines. Perfect Pork products include options which are high in protein, low in fat and nutrient dense, – important considerations for a healthy diet.
The Technical Team
What happens behind the scenes to ensure the continued success of its new product offering is as important to Perfect Pork, as how good it looks on the supermarket shelves. Based at its Burnham Feed mill the company has a team of experts who between them have over nine decades experience in the pig industry.
The Feed mill is the cornerstone of the farming company managed by Hamish Gerard, and provides feed to farmers throughout Canterbury and further afield. “It’s a fundamental part of the company because we believe independent farmers out there need the best quality feed at the best price to enable them to run a commercially viable pig farm,” he says. Forget the bucket of left over kitchen slops, today’s pigs are fed a highly nutritious grain based diet that is full of complex protein and energy sources, vitamins and minerals.
“We contract the best animal nutrionist in Australasia, Tony Edwards, to develop different nutritional strategies and formulas for the pigs at the various stages of their lifecycle from weaners through to finished animals,” says Hamish.
“The aim is to achieve optimum performance but not at the expense of the welfare of the pig or quality of the finished pork product.”
The man tasked with ensuring the feed meets the standard is technical manager, Ian McIntosh.
Ian is also very involved in maintaining the High Health status of the feed mill. “Increasingly our customers farms have high health standards and we want to keep it that way, but because pathogens are so easily spread, it’s vital that even the most basic rules are adhered to,” he says. That means no outside shoes allowed in the office or in the feed mill. Such strict protocols ensure the pigs at all the farms serviced by the feed mill stay parasite and pathogen free.
And always on hand to monitor herd health, Perfect Pork has its own veterinarian, Selwyn Dobbinson, who was the country’s first specialist pig vet.
“Pigs aren’t the indestructible animals they are often portrayed to be, but highly intelligent animals that are vulnerable to disease, and although we have high health herds we’d like to keep it that way, so it’s vital to always monitor health and welfare, and respond quickly to any concerns.”
The people involved:
Hamish Gerard is the General Manager of the Burnham farm and feed mill. After gaining a Diploma in Agriculture at Lincoln University and 10 years of farm management. He first became involved with pig production during the time he worked for the Department of Corrections – firstly managing its farm outside Christchurch prison and then becoming the South Island Regional Manager for Inmate Employment. The Canterbury born and bred manager says the strong family and ethical philosophy of the (Fresh Pork) company is what attracted him to the business. “It has those old fashioned family values that are so important. Those, and the combination of the intellectual side of managing the business combined with the practical side of farming make this an enjoyable environment to work in.”
Technical Manager Ian McIntosh was born in Fiji and grew up in the sugar industry in Northern Australia. He later completed a degree at Queensland Agricultural College in Applied Science in Rural Technology, specializing in pig production and meat science. “I like taking technology and translating it into dollars,” he says. The College was the first facility in Australia to set up a High Health Status herd free of the serious pig pathogens and parasites. Ian says his role in the company’s Technical Team often involves converting the production figures from farmers into financial data to help them decide where to direct their focus to maximize returns. “This is a stimulating and exciting industry to work in because there are always production challenges and new ideas from science to consider.
Selwyn Dobbinson was among the early New Zealanders to travel to Sydney as part of a government-bonded scheme to qualify as a vet. At that time there were only three veterinary schools in the southern hemisphere, one in Sydney, one in Brisbane and the other in Pretoria, South Africa. After completing his five year’ bonded service in Nelson he travelled south to Dunedin and ended spending nearly 20 years setting up a group of veterinary practices with five vets working with him. He also completed a diploma in Microbiology at Otago University. Taking a break from the business, Selwyn worked as a technical manager for Pfizer, who marketed vitamin and mineral supplements for the pig and poultry industries. “It was during this time I developed an interest in intensive farming practices. I was often called in to analyse and resolve problems which increased my expertise in both pigs and poultry.” Shortly afterwards an opportunity arose to work for Fresh Pork as a consulting vet. That was over 20 years ago and Selwyn says his role included building the farm’s nucleus breeding unit and ensuring a healthy environment for the pigs. “As vets you are taught to recognize sick animals but a lot of animal health depends on their environment so good ventilation, drainage, hygiene and infrastructure are all crucial to keeping the pigs healthy and happy.” Along the way he’s also completed his Masters degree in immunology at Lincoln University to support his microbiology interests. Selwyn has sat on the National Animal Welfare Committee when it developed the Animal Welfare Code for Pigs and was the Chair of the Otago SPCA for 18 years (he is a life-member).
Selwyn believes that ensuring an animal’s welfare is properly managed, will not only ensure the animal’s health is cared for, but the quality of the meat that results will be enhanced.