Recipe for success: Caherbeg Free Range Pork keeps things real

AgriLand talks with Avril of Caherbeg Free Range Pork and wonders how she packs so much into a day. 

In 1994 Willie and Avril Allshire purchased 17 acres in Caherbeg, West Cork, with the intention of leasing 14 of them and keeping the house as a holiday home. The pair spent their honeymoon in Caherbeg and subsequently never left!

The first of Cahergbeg’s free range pigs was bought in 1996 and within three months the herd had blossomed to 20.

Currently Caherbeg Free Range Pork produces top-quality dry cure products and the Allshire’s also purchased a second brand, Rosscarbery Recipes in 2001. The latter uses locally sourced, 12 miles away, Irish meat to create award-winning pork products such as sausages and black and white pudding.

The journey to success has been a learning curve for the Allshires as Avril explained to AgriLand.

“Willie began wholesaling the pork to Drinagh Superstore in Skibbereen in 1996 and the first recognition for our product quality was from John and Sally McKenna, then of the Bridgestone Guides. In 2000 Willie met Paddy Ward who taught him to make sausages and dry cure. We assumed at that stage, that ‘free range’ meant that the animals were free to roam outdoors with no indoor facilities and that’s the way we’ve continued, so all Caherbeg Free Range Pork products are sourced from our own herd of free range outdoor pigs.”

Avril has connections with the Celtic Cook Off that facilitated a number of export opportunities and she feels this may lead to further possibilities down the line.

“At the moment we supply to  SuperValu and a number of independent shops in West Cork, Cork City, Waterford and Dublin as well as some hotels and restaurants,” she said.

Freshness is key to the success of Caherbeg and Rosscarbery products and as a result Avril said farmers’ markets do not suit their offerings. Instead she gets out and about as often as she can.

“Currently I do many one-day events such as in-store tastings, speaking with second and third-level students at schools and colleges and cookery demonstrations to various groups. Recently I was honoured to be asked to speak at the Cork Innovates Forum – In Business In Cork. It’s varied but really enjoyably.

With time a rare luxury for the family the West Cork woman has used social media to build connections with potential customers.

“Social media has a very important place in our business. It’s allowed us to connect to potential customers as well as current. It’s great for engagement but it also allows me to speak from the perspective of a small food business in rural Ireland. We have two Facebook pages – one for each brand; I have a Twitter account: @rosscarberyreci; and I write a blog:”

When initially set up the couple received support from Teagasc and the West Cork Enterprise Board. With plenty of worthwhile events, conferences and workshops to guide agri-businesses, she noted that finding time is the issue.

“Bord Bia has been very helpful with ongoing marketing support and I’ve been able to attend a few conferences, but we’re a small company, doing most of the production and deliveries ourselves, so it can be difficult to attend everything”.

The company managed to weather the storm of the Recession, however, the economic downturn led it to withdraw its award-winning pork pâté.

“When the time is right I can see Willie relaunching it. He’s always got his eye on new products that will fit into our current setup” she added.

Recipe for Sucess is a food series where AgriLand has linked up with Bord Bia to showcase an agri-food business every week