THE aroma of delicious pork chops being cooked to perfection, waft from the kitchen of the homestead at Esperance Berkshire Pork.
A smell that is guaranteed to get your mouth watering, your stomach rumbling and tempt any meat lover.
Tender and full of flavour, this scrumptious pork has been recognised as some of Australia's finest when Esperance Berkshire Pork recently received the accolade of a gold medal award, at the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia (RASWA) 2019 Perth Royal Food Awards for the open pork category.
Josh and Emma Lay established Esperance Berkshire Pork three years ago and are astounded at the success that they have achieved so far.
"We knew that our Berkshire pigs have very tasty and tender meat, but to win a gold medal award, judged by well respected judges with such tough criteria is a great achievement for us," Mr Lay said.
The RASWA Perth Royal Food Awards is Western Australia's premier and most prestigious food and drink competition.
With a stringent and thorough judging process, a panel of specialist judges consisting of restaurateurs and hospitality industry experts, butchers, industry trainers and mentors, put the entries through a rigorous testing procedure.
The RASWA Perth Royal Food Awards are judged slightly differently to many other food industry awards as, depending on the category, the entries are judged against set criteria in both the raw and cooked state.
The food is critiqued in its raw state in areas such as shape, uniformity, fat content and if it looks appetising and appealing.
The entries are then judged in their cooked form in areas such as tenderness, juiciness, flavour and the judges overall liking.
"The judging has really high standards and is tough, entries are judged 'blind'," Mr Lay said.
"So the judges don't know where the entries originate from and the entries are judged fairly and on their quality."
To achieve a gold, silver or bronze medal, the entries are required to reach a certain score. The judging criteria is rigorous, with gold medal winners needing to reach a score of 90 points or over out of 100.
In some years, there are no gold medal winners, as the entries have not reached the required amount of points.
The judging panel bestowed many positive remarks on the Esperance Berkshire Pork entry in the awards.
The cut of meat, a loin chop, received comments such as;
"Good colour. Good appearance. Juicy. Tender. Eats well".
"Firm. Good colour. Good fat content and distribution raw. Eats well. Good fat content cooked. Good aroma".
As they were celebrating their gold medal win, the Lays were astonished when they were then announced as winners of the honourable award of Champion Heritage Pork during the RASWA 2019 Perth Royal Food Awards presentations.
"We didn't think we had much chance of achieving the championship award," Mr Lay said.
"We were so blown away with the gold medal that when they announced the championship, I wasn't really expecting it.
"Someone prompted me and said, you'd better go up and accept your award, and that's when I realised what we had achieved.
"We were shocked when they announced us as the winners," Mr Lay said.
"We were very surprised, but pleasantly surprised.
"It is a great achievement for us and has spurred us on for future developments.
"There were some very good producers in this year's awards.
"We had some good competition from some very good pork producers, so we are very honoured to have received the championship award."
The judging for the awards culminates on Friday, September 6, 2019 at the Perth Royal Food Awards Gala, where Esperance Berkshire Pork now has a crack at winning the title of Western Australian Branded Pork Champion.
To be held at the Crown Towers Ballroom, Perth, the gala evening will showcase the award-winning produce from the 2019 RASWA Perth Royal Food Awards.
Esperance Berkshire Pork is located at Coolindown, a 3000 hectare mixed farming enterprise at Neridup, 55 kilometres east of Esperance, where Josh and Emma Lay farm in partnership with Josh's dad and step mother, Deon and Belinda Lay.
The productive crop and sheep farm runs a rotation of barley, wheat and canola with oats and lupins being grown for hay and sheep feed.
The production of the pigs fits in well with the existing farming activity as the seconds and waste from the grain from the farm are used to feed the pigs.
The Berkshire pig is the oldest registered pig breed in the world, it is a heritage breed that is renowned for the premium quality of its meat which is juicy, tender and with a beautiful flavour.
The high level of intramuscular fat and marbling adds to its eating quality and mouth watering flavour.
Initially, a fascination with the heritage and history of the Berkshire saw the Lays farming the pigs on a hobby basis.
They were impressed by the quality, tenderness and flavour of the meat, the temperament of the pigs, which made them a pleasure to handle and care for, and their dark skin colour, which made the breed suitable for farming outdoors in the often-harsh WA climate.
They investigated the breed further and with guidance and mentoring from established industry experts such as Linton Batt, Black Label Berkshire, the Lays developed their passion for the Berkshire into a commercial enterprise and established the brand of Esperance Berkshire Pigs.
The contented pigs on the Lay's farm enjoy an idyllic lifestyle.
The pigs love a scratch and are very friendly and relaxed.
They are raised outdoors and can roam around, wallow in mud, scratch and nibble on grass.
The pigs are part of the Lay family and are cared for very well.
The Lay's two children, Dakota, 8 and Toby, 5, love interacting with the pigs.
Dakota has a favourite sow which she has named Pretzel, because of the sow's fondness for the salty biscuit.
Pretzel also adores a back scratch and having her stomach rubbed by the children.
Farrowing time is a particularly favourite occasion for Dakota and Toby who love to interact with the piglets, with the quiet sows passing on their quiet nature to their offspring.
The Berkshires are nourished on a specially-developed grain mix which ensures the ideal needs of the pigs are met in terms of nutrients and energy requirements.
This mix, together with the appropriate and careful husbandry that the pigs are given, ensures that the meat produced is full of flavour, tender and with just the right amount of marbled fat to ensure a great taste and texture.
Plans for the future development of Esperance Berkshire Pork brand include improving the genetics of the stud boars and sows and increasing the number of pigs that are produced commercially, ensuring that the enterprise remains commercially viable and that quality genetics of the breed are improved and preserved in the future.
A fundamental part of this plan includes showcasing their stud stock at key industry shows such as the Royal Adelaide Show.
Held from August 30 to September 8, the show is one of the few Royal Shows that continue to hold competitions for stud pigs.
The Berkshire is highlighted as the feature breed of pig at the show, making it the perfect opportunity for the Lays to showcase their quality stock.
They will be making the journey to the show with three of their own stud bred pigs, two gilts and one boar.
"The Royal Adelaide Show is reputed to be the biggest pig show in Australia," Mr Lay said.
"It is a great chance for us to showcase the quality of our own pigs.
"It is also a good chance to catch up with fellow breeders, source new genetics and support the development of the breed.
"We had some good success at the 2018 Adelaide Show, where our own sow, Anchordown Star, won the junior champion Berkshire sow as well as overall champion Berkshire sow, so we are hoping to build on that success this year."
Additional plans include developing the marketing of the business brand and promoting the quality product that is offered to consumers.
This will include leveraging off their success at the RASWA 2019 Perth Royal Food Awards, to improve their business profile to positively impact sales and increasing brand recognition among consumers.
"Looking to the future, we also have some improvements to make with our on-farm facilities to make our management easier and better," Mr Lay said.
"We are committed to preserving the heritage of the Berkshire and ensuring that the quality meat that these pigs produce is around for future generations of pork lovers to enjoy."