Monday, May 25, 2009

Canadian Pork and Fat Quality

Canadian Hog Barn

I've noticed that Canadian pork (in the form of salami) that I've bought at the supermarket tastes better than stuff from American pigs. The Canadian supermarket stuff generally comes from intensive hog farms - there's no other way for them to raise them economically or humanely, given the terrible Canadian weather.

I always figured their pork was better because of the feed - given that they raise lean pigs indoors. The big difference is that Canadians generally don't feed their hogs corn. They feed them things like wheat and barley. Because their diets are generally more PUFA-restricted, they get better fat and flavor automatically. I was interested to see this research showing that some American consumers (Asians) recognize the general superior quality of Canadian pork.

For instance, these guys have salami with good hard fat. Their salami doesn't have enough flavor (to my taste), but at least it doesn't have the fat quality problems that come from feeding pigs too much PUFA.

When I was younger, I remember wondering why it was that the bread, milk, cheese, beer, meat, chocolate, eggs, marzipan and so on were all so much better in Munich than in the Bay Area. Many Americans who travel in Europe likewise notice that the food tastes better. E.g. whether in Germany or a poor country like Slovakia, the cheese generally tastes better than in America (and is a better value). Even if some don't like to admit it, if you insist on buying food locally, you'll necessarily shut out some higher quality alternatives - because the best isn't always the closest.

Live Mangalitsa flow from the Midwest to the Coasts

That's why people buy and transport our live pigs great distances; there are no higher quality pig genetics in America. Pigs recently moved from the Midwest to New Jersey, and then to Massachusetts. That only makes economic sense because Mangalitsa pigs are fantastic.

Unfortunately, many Americans probably leap to illogical reasons for the overall quality differences between European and American food. For example, Spanish hams don't generally taste better than American versions because their producers are more "artisanal" than ours; their stuff tastes better because they optimize their systems for quality and efficiency, not cheapness.

Hence, it is important to remember that Canadian pork generally tastes better not because they are more polite and have more socialism. It just comes down to the meat science and chemistry. For example, in Spain, they move the acorns (from Turkey) to the pigs - because that's what it takes to produce high-quality pork. That's not "local", "natural" or "sustainable" - but it does produce great food at a price people can afford. Similarly, Wooly Pigs will produce excellent pork in Iowa. It will require extra effort and expense - but when you do things with economies of scale, it can work.

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