Bringing home the bacon at Havoc
Business reporter Emma Bailey talks to Havoc Pork co-owner Linda McCallum-Jackson about the business of bacon.
How did Havoc Pork come about?
When I met Ian he was producing weaner pigs outdoors and selling them to a grower who grew them on in a concrete shed.
When I saw this I just knew there was a better way of farming pigs and I was sure consumers would want to buy meat with our pedigree. Ian agreed and so we set about getting the farm in order and growing our own pigs, which took us four years.
In 2003 we set off to the Otago Farmers' Market with one pig in the truck and we sold it all - Havoc Pork was born.
Early the next year we purchased the old Belt St Butchery in Waimate and employed a butcher to process our pigs into what has become our award-winning bacon, ham, sausages and pork cuts.
What in practical terms does being free-range mean?
It means our pigs are free to exhibit their natural behaviour at all times and also means a lot more work on the farm. We are out in all weather, yes the pigs have huts but Ian and his team just have rainwear, gumboots, a tractor and buckets for feed.
What sort of training do you and your staff have?
I had no background in the pig or meat industry, in fact the closest I had come to a pig was a pork chop in a supermarket. However, what knowledge I lack is made up for by Ian's serious pig industry credentials and knowledge.
On the farm we prefer to foster our own talent and have Ian train our staff. This in practical terms means they do not come with any bad habits formed on other pig farms. The major criteria we have on the farm is that our people must have an affinity with pigs.
At the factory we employ fully trained butchers and we also have an apprentice. All our staff have food safety handling certificates and we encourage ongoing learning about the industry.
Where are the majority of your customers based?
Our business has three parts. The farmers' markets in Dunedin and Timaru; our website with the online shop; and our wholesale business which supplies delicatessens, restaurants and cafes.
Where else have you worked?
I had lived and worked most of my life in Auckland. I worked in the advertising industry and the computer industry before becoming partner in a human-resources consultancy. This changed when I met Ian and became a pig farmer.
What are the toughest aspects of your business?
Balancing the supply from the farm with demand from customers - sometimes this can be tough.
What have been the challenges?
Doing business in a small town like Waimate has its challenges, the two major ones being availability of suitable staff and freight.
What have been the highlights?
Definitely 2011 when we won the Supreme Artisan Award at the beginning of the year and later that year we won an Aoraki Business Development Award. Winning the business development award really meant so much to us as we believe this was our community saying "Hey, you are doing something right" - it has made all the hard work worthwhile.
How many staff do you employ?
On the farm there is Ian and three staff. At the factory there is myself and seven staff. At the shop in Dunedin there is two staff. At the market in Dunedin there is myself and two part-timers. At the market in Timaru there is Ian and myself.
How many hours a week do you work?
Golly, I don't know, I'm having too much fun to count.
Where to from here?
Well, I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to live long enough to take all the opportunities that are out there so I am in the process of growing talent to take over from me when I have to let go.
What is your age?
I will be 63 on January 3.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Auckland and grew up there.
What is your favourite food?
Roast Havoc pork and roast vegetables.
What is your favourite song?
If the world ended tomorrow, what in your life so far would you be proudest of?
My Havoc bacon.
Who is someone who has inspired or mentored you?
I have been inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage books and mentored by my brother, Robert McCallum.
The Timaru Herald