Bringing home the bacon: Yukon pig farmer sees growing demand for local pork
Collin Remillard's pork products are popping up in Whitehorse stores, and some say buying local has benefits
People in Whitehorse are seeing something new in some grocery stores — locally-raised pork.
It's from Collin Remillard's Fox Ridge Farm, just north of Whitehorse.
For the last few years, he has been breeding pigs and selling the weaned piglets to other farmers around the Yukon, to raise for livestock. He started out with seven breeding sows and a boar.
But Remillard wanted to expand his farm and bring fresh pork products to Whitehorse grocery stores.
"So this winter we did grow 50 hogs to do a test market ... and the success of that test market is very encouraging," said Remillard. "It's been well received."
He said having two abattoirs in Yukon makes a big difference in getting his product to market.
One is a government-owned mobile abattoir that allows farmers to slaughter livestock right on their farms.
A trained animal health technician inspects the animals before the meat can be legally sold in retail food stores.
If you ask Remillard about his pork products, he's excited to talk about why he thinks his bacon and pork chops are better than what's typically found at the store.
"The meat is actually incredibly better-tasting, in my opinion," he said.
'Open air, free range'
Remillard believes one key difference is that his products are raised ethically. During the day the animals are outside, and during the night they have shelters, he said.
"They see the daylight. It's definitely an open farm concept — open air, free range," he said.
So far, his free-range, antibiotic-free pork is available at Bigway Foods in Whitehorse. He's working on getting it into more local stores.
But it hasn't been easy.
"Some of the challenges we faced were contacting the stores, and their ability as a corporation or as a business to engage with us to carry ... our pork," said Remillard.
Another challenge in selling fresh pork in local stores is ensuring a steady supply, he said.
Benefits to supporting local industry
According to the Yukon government's agriculture development officer, there are a lot of Yukon-grown products being sold in local stores.
But it might not always be obvious.
"Some of them are being processed at those locations and being sold as smokies, and hamburgers, and Yukon-raised burger," said Jesse Walchuk.
He said there are a lot of benefits to supporting Yukon's livestock industry.
"Whenever you want to buy locally-raised meat products, you are supporting local business and you are building self-sustainability within the Yukon community," he said.
"But there are other benefits as well. When animals are raised in the Yukon, we can control what feed goes into them, how they are processed, what additives or preservatives go in, as well."
Remillard hopes Yukoners will support local farmers by buying their products in stores.
"That's going to support the industry," Remillard said. "We have a lower carbon footprint. We source our feed from Yukon Grain Farm as much as possible — and a lot of that grain is grown here in the Yukon."
He said it's also about food security.
"We have a certainty to our food," Remillard said. "By having animals up here, we are able to supply the market."