With meat consumers across the nation becoming more interested in how the animals they eat were raised, students at one South Australian school know all about the life of the pig that became their Christmas ham.

Key points:

  • Lucindale Area School raises piglets each year to slaughter and sell the meat in the community
  • Students say they learn a lot in the process
  • A butcher says pigs that have lived a low-stress life and been fed well usually taste better

Each term, about 10 piglets arrive at Lucindale Area School, in South Australia’s south-east, and grow from 18 kilograms to 90 before being sent away to be slaughtered and returned as pork.

“It’s sort of cool to see these pigs that you’ve helped … grow and make them nice and big, and then seeing them come back and be sold to the community,” year 9 student Hannah Kiefel said.

“You know exactly where they’re come from.”

Carol Hille with year 9 students Aden Carter and Hannah Kiefel at the pig pen.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

Agriculture teacher Carol Hille said families particularly looked forward to the end of term four when, instead of chops and roasts, the pigs came back as hams and bacon.

“We get lots of great feedback on how tasty the pork is, especially the Christmas ham and the bacon — it’s always really popular this time of year,” Ms Hille said.

The pigs live in a covered pen known as an eco-shelter.

It is divided in two so students can test out different hypotheses on the pigs that live in either side of the shelter.

“They thought gender would have a massive difference,” Ms Hille said.

“It actually hasn’t had a massive difference when we’ve done it, there’s only been a couple of kilograms difference in it.”

Better meat and cheaper too

The pigs are usually processed by Shaun Watson’s team at the Tender Cuts butchery in Naracoorte.

“I’m a firm believer in the two key factors to the eating quality of any meat is nutrition prior to slaughter and stress prior to slaughter,” Mr Watson said.

“So if you’re looking after your animals, they’re living well, they’re living healthy, plenty to eat, stress-free is the key to any processing of meat, so living in a school environment getting cared for by students would definitely be a good thing.”

Shaun Watson turns the pigs into chops, roasts, ham and bacon.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

The pork produced by the school is also cheaper than usual, a cost saving appreciated by families like 15-year-old Aden Carter’s.

“I’ve got a big family, so buying ham from school makes it easier to feed the lot of them,” he said.

“It does make you feel a bit better than not knowing what’s happened to the other meat in the stores so that’s good.

“If all pigs are looked after the way we look after them here, I think that would be good.”

All the hams and bacon for the year have already been sold and picked up.

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