Sustainability was the winning theme at last night’s New Zealand Food Awards gala dinner, with free-range pork company Poaka taking 3 awards for its Whole Chorizo salami product, including Supreme Winner and both the Primary Sector and Cuisine Artisan Awards.
New Zealand Food Safety sponsored the Primary Sector category and Food Safety Minister Meka Whaitiri presented at the event in Palmerston North.
New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle says the high quality of entrants was a good illustration of the quality and innovation driving the food sector.
"We have an excellent food system in New Zealand, driven by passionate, hard-working New Zealanders. These awards are an excellent opportunity to recognise some of that talent.
"I’d like to particularly congratulate Poaka for taking out the supreme award. It’s well-deserved recognition for the talent and persistence of its people to bring its vision of handcrafted artisan chorizo."
Other finalists in the category, which showcases how producers support businesses to thrive while producing safe and suitable food, included Hawkes Bay-based Beard Brothers, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, Bellefield Butter Co and Bostock Brothers, which runs New Zealand’s only commercial organic chicken farm.
The New Zealand Food Awards is run by leading food-related education and research institution Massey University, to recognise and reward excellence in the sector. New Zealand Food Safety and the Ministry for Primary Industries have been involved with the Awards for over 19 years and a major sponsor since 2008.
The winning product is a result of the unique vision of Poaka founder Josh Hill, who is raising and farming pigs in a way that is quite rare and unconventional, here in New Zealand.
The 36-year-old entrepreneur set up the 'paddock-to-plate' operation on his parent’s orchard in Aylesbury, west of Christchurch, in 2016. Josh previously worked as a helicopter pilot, general engineer, carpenter, welder and tractor driver, and fell in love with watching animals grow and thrive after a short stint on a Southland farm.
He returned home with a plan to utilise his parent’s unused orchard to raise the happiest, heritage pigs in order to make the best salami through traditional methods, and knowledge that a nut-fed diet will enhance the meat flavour.
Josh is hands-on throughout the processes, including working with specialist butchers, fermenting the pork as traditionally as possible, whilst remaining with the framework of food safety, as well as selling the products directly to the public at the Christchurch farmer’s market.
His heritage breed, pasture-raised pigs graze and grow slowly on a diet of acorns and sweet chestnuts, to make not just a way of living that meets high animal welfare and food safety standards but also creates intensely flavoured, world-class salami, bacon, sausages and whole muscle products.