Zed & Co Free Range Farms
“The pigs were squealing, the kids were squealing, my husband was squealing at me to watch the road!”
Marnie Zielinski’s journey as a local meat producer didn’t start out auspiciously. Ballarat born and bred, she and her husband Nick had bought 18 acres near Gordon, and were hoping that their young kids would have the chance to learn where their food came from. They hadn’t expected to come home with pigs when they visited a breeder at Ballarto, as there was a 6 month waiting list. But they got lucky, and wound up bringing home two piglets in a cardboard box that same day.
After destroying the cardboard box they came home in, the pigs proceeded to destroy the veggie patch until Marnie and Nick managed to build them a proper enclosure.
Seven years later, Zed & Co Free Range Farms is a popular sight at farmers markets around Ballarat. They sell various cuts of pork and beef, and Nick can often be found behind the grill turning sausages or putting together pork buns for the punters.
The farm now has 18 breeding sows, each producing two or three litters a year. Some are sold as piglets while the rest are raised on pasture supplemented by vegetables, barley, and whey from a local dairy. They’re outdoors at all times, with access to mud to roll around in and huts for shelter when needed.
Marnie tells me that while there is a certification for free range pork, you don’t have to be certified to call yourself free range. Many producers prefer to skip the bureaucracy, which means you need to trust what they’re saying. I asked Marnie how people could tell that Zed & Co’s pork is free range, and she pointed out that you can see the pigs in the paddocks. “We used to lease the farm next door, and people could see them from the Ballarat train.”
You can also tell from the quality of the meat. Marnie explained to me that her pastured, heritage breed pigs (Wessex Saddlebacks and Berkshires) grow more slowly which means that their meat is darker in colour. “They used to call pork the other white meat, but if you cut up one of our pigs you might think it’s beef, it’s so dark,” she says. The darker meat certainly tastes better, and pastured meat also has health benefits like higher quantities of omega-3 fatty acids and certain vitamins.
Despite this, Marnie points out that Zed & Co’s meat is often price-competitive with factory-farmed supermarket pork. She says that their market stall stocks much the same range available as what you’d find at the supermarket, including nitrate-free bacon and a couple of different sausages. They even have some of the less common cuts, like heads and trotters, but they’re kept to the side – if you want them, just ask. They also stock a smaller amount of beef, which is also raised on their farm at Gordon.
Where to buy Zed & Co’s free range meat
- Ready-to-cook pork and beef at Bridge Mall, Creswick and Talbot Farmers Markets (see our Ballarat farmers market guide).
- Cooked food (bacon and eggs, slow cooked pork rolls, sausages) at Creswick and Talbot farmers markets, and events such as the Begonia Festival, Rural Lifestyle Expo, and the upcoming Sheepvention in Hamilton in August.
- Although they have no retailers at present, they are working on a couple of options. Meanwhile, Marnie says she’s happy to home-deliver in Ballarat: just call or drop her a line on Facebook.
Where to find them
Phone: 0417 146 695