When we decided to get ourselves a couple of hogs over at Virginia Park Lodge, there was only one man to call: Michael Maguire is the absolute titan of Irish pig farming.
As the resident keeper of our Oxford Sandy & Blacks, he taught us a thing or two last time we caught up. He and The Boss go way back - although it's best not to ask them what they thought of each other to begin with... A traditional rare breed of pig brought back from the brink of extinction; we're thrilled to be rearing some of these Plum Pudding beauties on the farm. The treatment they've been getting at The Lodge - extremely spoiled if you're asking - means they are wonderfully juicy and flavoursome with a distinct Virginia taste. Their meat is darker than standard pork, commonly described as being halfway between beef and pork. They're eating around 4kg of food a day - including a delicious speciality feed of blended maize, barley and soya as well as fresh greens from the farm's gardens and apples from the orchard. This care and variety of diet comes through in the final result and can be sampled across The Park Cafes' breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
Michael's been involved in the pig industry for donkey's years, going from Cavan to Uganda and back again, sharing his knowledge. The industry has been through some tough times along the road, and he's glad to see the return of small-scale farming - such as the operation run at Virginia Park Lodge. Rearing and breeding pigs is no mean feat, but with Michael's help, we're confident we won't make a pig's ear of it.