The Herbfarm's Keith Luce visiting our farm.
Mangalitsa pigs in background looking on.
Mangalitsa pigs in background looking on.
The Herbfarm has been one of our best customers since we started selling pigs.
With the arrival of the new Executive Chef Keith Luce, they started using whole pigs. That's great for small farmers like us, because we can't easily sell pork in smaller portions - the complexities of distributing pork and processing the unsold parts (and selling them later) would be too great.
Keith Luce has a lot of goodwill with us. One night, due to miscommunication with another chef, we had an extra Mangalitsa carcass. Chef Luce bought it from us, paying full price. Given that a Mangalitsa carcass is an expensive perishable, that really helped us out of a bad situation!
Chef Luce has also given us feedback that we've pased on to our slaughterhouse, helping to improve the quality of all the meat that we sell. Very few customers take their meat so seriously.
Their approach already so hands-on, I suggested to them, back in January, that they should buy their own Mangalitsa pigs, fatten them and slaughter them. I figured that they'd get a number of advantages:
- By raising their own animals, they directly control the quality of the raw material.
- They can fatten their few pigs at a higher standard than ours, by feeding them special food - e.g. acorns, or olein-rich feed like hazelnuts. They'll also feed them antioxidant-rich herbs, which are known to produce better pork for cured products.
- By choosing when to slaughter, they get them exactly as fat as they want.
- If they need to, they can kill pigs and have them in their kitchen on short notice.
- It is a lot cheaper to move a trailer of live pigs than many chilled carcasses on many different days. Buying a bunch of live pigs saves them money.
- By owning Mangalitsa, they ensure they've got them handy when they need them. Rather than talking to us and trying to get a delivery - perhaps finding out that we don't have any pigs available - they just have to call the slaughterhouse and run one of their pigs in.
Loading the pigs was uneventful. We backed our trailer up to theirs and moved the big pigs from one to the other. I carried the two piglets myself to their section in the trailer.
We visited their farm a few days later. One of the pigs had already been moved to a different farm, the Willows Inn in Bellevue, but we could see all the other pigs and their new home. They looked settled in, and already very spoiled.
My wife and I were both struck at how much the farm looked like the small ones we saw in Austria. Woodinville is a very beautiful place.
They ignored our bread that we brought for them. We found out their feeder was full of very high-protein feed, so they weren't looking for a handout. Chef Luce told us that, somewhat ridiculously, the pigs are eating organic feed.
We were very impressed with their little pigpen, which looked as new as can be. We laughed at how they'd already muddied up their hut and dug up a bunch of the grass.
Of course, if the pigs ever decide to bust out of their pen, it won't keep them. They can leap over it if they want, they've got all day to short out the hotwire by shoving something against it, and once they get big enough, they can just bust through by pushing on it hard enough.
The only thing that's going to keep those pigs in that pen is a feeder full of tasty food.
The pigs looked at home:
They'd already done quite a bit of rooting, which you can see in this next photo. Their yard will be all dirt in a few days. The damage they do to a pasture is astounding.
We threw in some food to lure some over:
We thought the piglets were particularly cute.
My wife tried to be nice to them. They were wary though, like most piglets:
My wife tried to interest a Mangalitsa in a flower.
Another Mangalitsa looked prehistoric:
Knowing the story of these pigs, it was just amazing to see them in Woodinville at The Herbfarm. The Mangalitsa pigs were conceived in Austria, born in the USDA's quarantine center in NY, trucked to eastern WA and finally brought, by Keith Luce to The Herbfarm.
They'll live for quite a while at the Herbfarm. When their time comes, they'll get processed by Keith Luce and his staff into things like cured products.
Seeing the pigs in their new home, knowing that they'll be getting treated so lovingly and processed with so much care by Keith Luce and his staff really made our day.