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Irish Farmers Journal – 20 minutes with Avril Allshire-Howe

April 18, 2019 Profiles and Interviews

Our biggest challenge is the lack of labour and we’re not the only business facing this issue

What is your background?
In the 1990s, my husband, Willie Allshire, and I bought a 17ac farm here in Rosscarbery and started keeping a herd
of free-range pigs. We probably have the oldest free-range pig herd in Ireland.

From 2000, we started producing our own range of free-range sausages and dry-cure bacon, which we sold under the Caherbeg brand name. Drinagh co-op was our fi rst customer. Then in 2001, we bought the Rosscarbery Recipes brand.

How has the business evolved?
Today we have 110 pigs in our herd, with 12 sows. We have our own processing facilities here on the farm, which allows us to really focus on quality. It’s something we’re obsessed with. All pork products that come from our own herd are still sold under the Caherbeg brand.

For the Rosscarbery Recipes brand we source pork cuts from Staunton Foods in Timoleague and some beef cuts from ABP in Bandon.
A member of Love Irish Food, we’re now selling (mostly direct) to customers in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, Cork and Kerry.

What is your flagship product?
Our range of Rosscarbery black and white pudding is very much our fl agship product and biggest seller. We also produce bacon, sausages and gluten-free pudding. Everything we do on  both brands is dry cure and the finished product is 98% pork. After completing
their Leaving Certifi cates, our two sons, William and Maurice, decided to join the business. Maurice developed our latest product, Rosscarbery Irish Biltong, which is a cured and air-dried beef snack. It’s a healthy snack, with 50% protein.

Is the “free-from” trend here to stay?

In my view the “free-from” trend is one that’s here to stay. I have mixed emotions on it, particularly when it comes to gluten-free because you have people who are genuinely diagnosed with coeliac disease and others who just go on a gluten-free diet. We launched our gluten-free pudding in response to demand from coeliacs, but since then, the “freefrom” section has grown considerably.

What is the biggest challenge for an SME artisan food business?
Our biggest challenge is the lack of labour and we’re not the only business facing this issue. By that I mean there
appears to be a serious shortage of people who are genuinely interested and passionate about working in an artisan food business like ours. We might start our day at 5am but a lot of people just aren’t interested in starting their day at that hour.

 

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