Offaly pork farmers Fergus and Sandra Dunne were among the winners at the annual EirGrid Euro-Toques Food Awards. They were Joint Award winners for free range pork.
This year the awards were held at Ballymaloe House as part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of Euro-Toques Ireland, to honour its founder Myrtle Allen.
Fergus and Sandra Dunne work on every aspect of the farm, from rearing and breeding 100 pigs, working the land and producing the final products, which include sausages, dry cured rashers, pork loins, chops and slippers of ham.
Unlike many other farms, which rear pigs indoors, Pigs on the Green specialise in rearing outdoor pigs, which produce a more succulent and better-flavoured meat.
"It's a premium product and we work with a butcher to hand make rashers and sausages in a variety of flavours," says Fergus, which are supplied to retail and some of the best restaurants in Ireland.
"Being hands on stretches the imagination, we are constantly creating new recipes and coming up with new ideas for chefs to use. There’s always a thrill tasting new-flavoured sausages,” he added.
Speaking about the awards, Euro-Toques Ireland Commissioner General Graham Neville said: “The artisan sector in Ireland has grown so much in the last 10 years, there’s almost nothing Irish artisans can’t produce at this stage. We are proud to be able to recognise their achievements and promote their huge value to our industry.”
Fintan Slye Chief Executive from awards sponsor EirGrid, commented: “In our business we come into contact with every sector but we’re especially proud to support these awards. Small business owners are the lifeblood of the local economy and small producers in particular are the lifeblood of the rural community. They truly are amazing people in what they contribute to food, the economy, the environment and life in Ireland and we’re delighted to be able to recognise their enormous achievements, as individuals and as a sector.”
This year’s winners were (see below for more details):
Joint award for free range pork- Fergus & Sandra Dunne, Pigs on the Green, Offaly, and Dave & Diana Milestone, Andarl Farm, Co Mayo
For excellence and innovation in dairy- Aisling and Michael Flanagan, Velvet Cloud Irish Sheep's Milk Cheese, Co Mayo
For raw milk and raw milk cheese- James Gannon, Cloonconra Cheese, Co Roscommon (his own herd of Irish moiled cattle)
For excellence in aquaculture- Hugh O'Malley, Achill Oysters, Co Mayo
For excellence in baking and collaboration to educate- The Founders of Real Bread Ireland
And Special Commendation for their support of Irish artisan producers- Ardkeen Quality Food Stores, Waterford
There are currently over 3,500 small to medium sized food businesses operating in Ireland. Euro-Toques chefs work directly with the small producers and credit this produce that comes through their kitchen doors every day with the success of their award-winning restaurants. Furthermore, supporting small local food businesses benefits the local economy too.
A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every €14 spent at a local food business is worth €35 for the local area, compared with just €20 when the same amount is spent in a supermarket or wholesaler.