My wife and I went the U-District Farmers Market in Seattle yesterday. It was our first time. We received a very warm welcome, partly because we also got mentioned in the Seattle PI. We had a great time, and plan to be there all winter.
We sold a lot of bacon. It helped a lot that we had a grill with bacon on it, so people could smell our superior meat and fat quality. It will be great if we get some feedback from our customers next week when we are there.
Most people eat bacon, but they don't know that it comes from pork bellies. People make bacon by wet curing and cold smoking pork. That pork can be belly, in which case you get bacon. When done to the shoulder, you get shoulder bacon - aka "Kansas City bacon."
Shoulder bacon is leaner than bacon. It is a very nice product, and very pretty! When Sara Dickerman visited with us, she took away some jowl bacon and shoulder bacon. Sara is savvy about bacon! You can see the shoulder bacon here - it is the rectangular bacon at the top of the photo. Sara Dickerman visited our tent yesterday with her husband and son. Sadly, we didn't have any jowl bacon for her. And we won't have any next week, either - but we'll have shoulder bacon.
We bumped into Seth Caswell there. He got a pig from us a while back, which he's using at the Stumbling Goat. Although I was very tired (from getting up very early), it was great to see his photos of our pig done "four ways" - a dinner composed of 4 dishes from different parts of our pig. It really looked great.
Seth explained that he's been wet curing much of the meat, in several different brines - so only now (after several weeks) is he able to taste the stuff. He's very happy with it, of course.
I asked how our fat compares to that from pigs from other producers. He explained that much of theirs isn't usable. I understand exactly what he's talking about: yesterday some people came buy our stall, and they ate some bread dipped in our bacon grease. The fat from our hogs is so "light" and "clean" that it tastes delicious. I can't imagine doing that with any normal pork - it would just be gross.
The fact that other pigs don't have as good fat as ours (likely due the feed) is quite sad: there's a lot of fat on a pig, so if it is unusable, that's a lot of waste. Also, fat is more expensive to produce than protein, compounding the problem.
Like most chefs who buy our hogs, Seth also makes stock, reduces it and uses it like a sauce. It tastes great, and is very versatile in the kitchen. So he's using the meat, fat and bones. When you consider how much sweat and tears goes into each pig, it is disgustingly wasteful to transport a hog all the way to someone, only to have him throw away a bunch of it.
We were extremely happy to sell people leaf lard yesterday. We sold it how it came from the processor: 10 lbs, 10 lbs and a 6 lb package. I hope those guys are able to render their lard successfully. Sadly, small USDA plants won't typically render lard for small farmers. Too much hassle. The processor was actually suprised that we wanted the stuff - normally people just donate it to the processor, who turns it over to a renderer. I asked them to bag the stuff smaller for retail customers, but they made it clear that they absolutely didn't want to do it.
Heidi Broadhead of Edible Seattle also stopped by, along with her husband and son. Heidi was the first journalist to ever visit the farm, and the first American not associated with Wooly Pigs to ever try our Mangalitsa.
Other visitors included our publicist, Hsiao-Ching Chou, and Kim Prohaska, both of Suzuki + Chou Communimedia. Hsiao-Ching brought her daughter, who looked great ensconced in her baby carriage. It was fun to watch Hsiao-Ching feed her our bacon and sausage!