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Dingley Dell Cured

English Producer based in Suffolk

Henrietta finds out from Mark Hayward, farmer & partner and Thomas Hempstead, charcuterie-maker at Dingley Dell Cured the effort and attention to detail it takes to be crowned Industry Champion and Champion of Champions Producer 2020/21.
Dingley Dell Cured - Mark Hayward
Mark Hayward

Starting with the pig…..what is so special about yours?

I’m a third-generation farmer and set up Dingley Dell Pork 17 years ago. The vision was to sustainably produce welfare-friendly outdoor-reared pork with great taste and so, working with food scientist Caroline Mitchell began a breeding programme based on taste.

Without going into too much detail of the “how”, we focused on improving the intra-muscular fat – or marbling as that is where the flavour lies. We started with the Duroc and over the years developed the Suffolk Red, now a registered breed with its higher marbling that really delivers on taste. We supply the meat to a wide range of top-class restaurants and so far, only about 5% of our pig production goes into charcuterie – but it’s growing.

As well as taste and welfare standards, how important is sustainability?

Farming, for us, is not just about us maximising our output. Rather than push nature out, we embrace it as central to our eco- and food systems. As every third bite of food you eat can be attributed to pollinators, we created the Million Bee Project to boost their numbers.

We plant acres of nectar-rich mixes around the farm – the equivalent of 83 football pitches and run a rotational system where we move the pigs onto land where the flowers have just died off and then drill the mix in behind where the pigs have just moved from. Last summer we did a bee count to see how successful the project has been and found that we had over a million bees on the site in one day!

Why Charcuterie?

Over the years, I have been working with Direct Meats supplying them with pork for their food service customers and for curing various traditional products – hams, bacons and so on. But I’ve always loved Charcuterie – Continental-style – as has Direct Meats’ owner Martin Blackwell. Finally, about five years ago, we decided that’s what we wanted to develop and explore and so Dingley Dell Cured was formed with us as equal partners and Thomas as a Charcuterie maker.

Where did you learn to make Charcuterie?

I’m a Michelin-star chef but am self-taught charcuterie-wise. Read lots of books, listened to lots of people, travelled a bit and had huge help, support, and even recipes from our Italian equipment manufacturer Travaglini. The English palate is different from the Italian – they like their charcuterie a lot saltier and with a higher percentage of fat so I’ve made adjustments.

What makes your Charcuterie special?

Every great product starts with fantastic raw materials – and that’s what we’ve got at Dingley Dell Cured. It’s a huge given advantage, the flavour of our pork. I’ve also had the luxury of time for trial and error, now I like to think that I’m making Mediterranean-style products from English pork.

…and your favourite?

From the range of our 12 products, it’s probably the Iceni – a felino-style salami, the first Charcuterie I ever made and I still love it.


Thank You to Mark & Thomas

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