EU regulations allow processors to market as "Mangalica" pigs that have a minimum of 50% Mangalitsa genetics. That means you'd typically find "Mangalica" pork that was 50% or 75% Mangalitsa, because purebreds are a lot more expensive to produce (and they have less lean meat).
Breed is the most important factor determining meat quality. If I bought a Jamon Mangalica from LaTienda, I'd be hoping to get at least a 75% Mangalitsa product. The 50% stuff tastes very good - but I know from my own experience (and that of my customers) that the purebreds can taste better.
Finally, the Hungarians typically feed their pigs a diet with more PUFA than American Mangalitsa producers, which results in softer pork. So although I've not eaten the Spanish/Hungarian products, I'm skeptical that it would be as good as the Mangalitsa products I've eaten in Austria and America.
The Spanish producers explained to me that the Manglaitsa hybrids produce the optimal raw material for hams. My Austrian friends (who ony do purebreds) would say these guys are cutting corners on breed and feed; the hybrids just don't taste as good. The Spanish are right, in the sense that hybrids offer the right price/performance ratio. If you ignore cost and percentage of fat, I think the Austrians are right.
The La Tienda website has information about Mangalitsa and Iberico that seems wrong. That's to be expected: LaTienda's job is to sell the stuff that comes in from Spain. They don't breed, fatten and process pigs. I don't think they even know what Iberico piglets look like (see below).
I don't have any problems with how Olmos es Toth raises their pigs (I think they've done great things) - but I do have issues with how LaTienda describes what they do.
For example, they write:
Because of industrialization, and the ravages of war, this big hearty pig could only be found on a few farms in the remote steppes of Hungary.That doesn't fit with the statements of the producer, nor the pictures of their main farms, Emőd and Nyíribrony. They raise their pigs "industrially", and it works, just as it worked in the old days (when the Mangalista was Hungary's first industrial pig). It is humane and efficient (aka "industrial"), all at the same time, and has been that way for more than 150 years.
Their other statements about how the pigs live could easily confuse most of their customers, who probably know little about pig production.
To this day the Mangalica sows freely roam vast rolling meadows.When I looked at the photos of their farms, it looked like it was a big dirt lot (in the case of Emőd) or something similar at Nyíribrony. According to information from the producer:
They aren't using gestation crates, like Spain's iberico producers, but other than that, they are doing pretty much all they can to reduce unnecessary mortality and morbidity. I think that's a good thing - more Mangalita is better. I'd sleep easier if they ran some of the nucleus herd entirely indoors to keep them safe from awful diseases. The fact that I mention gestation crates doesn't mean I'm against them - the topic is a very complex one.
Farrowing in Emőd-Istvánmajor is performed in traditional farrowing pens, while Nyíribrony utilizes a modern automated facility.
Piglet breeding is attended with modern, intensive, industrial technologies in both plants.
So even if some of sows use to produce LaTienda's products are roaming some meadows (some of the time), people should keep in mind that their nucleus farms are optimizing the environment to make their sows as efficient as possible. Sows roaming meadows would be the first thing you'd change, if it reduced expenses, biosecurity risks, etc. - as they've done in Spain.
During their lifetime the pigs are given plenty of exercise, unlike ordinary commercial pigs of today.
There's two points there I disagree with:
2) The hams Latienda is marketing aren't produced so differently from"industrial" pigs. They don't seem to use gestation crates (like so many iberico producers), and they don't fatten their finishers indoors - but other than that, it looks like a modern "industrial" farm. It is simultaneously a traditional Mangalitsa farm.
The nurseries are designed to allow great movement for the comfort of the sows and their nursing piglets. The newly born animals have separate feeders, watering troughs, and a heated resting room.I'm very impressed with their system. It probably looks too sterile to most consumers, but you have to consider the alternative - a bunch of unnecessarily dead pigs.
The marbled fat is integrated into their muscles, which makes the meat taste especially moist and flavorful, in some ways similar to the Ibérico, but with a sweeter flavor and more supple texture.Although the Mangalitsa has better-tasting genetics than the Iberico, if you feed them the way the Hungarians do, they probably won't reach their full potential. In America, Mangalitsa producers are generally feeding their pigs special low-PUFA diets, designed to produce extremely high quality fat.
Limited supplies of whole bone-in Mangalica dry cured hams are now available exclusively from La Tienda in the United States.LaTienda isn't the only source of Mangalitsa products in the USA (although they are the only importer).
LaTienda: Mangalica sows raised small litters and their piglets had the same chipmunk-like stripes of black and brown fur that are typical of the Cerdo Ibérico and wild boars.I've never seen Iberico piglets with stripes. The ones I've seen look like these:
Mangalitsas look different:Remarks like those make me wonder how much the LaTienda staff know about the pigs that pay the bills.
LaTienda: While there are pockets in Europe where traditional pigs survived, Spain particularly cherished this tradition by preserving the venerable Cerdo Iberico. They still roam the ancient forests and meadows of western and southern Spain, especially dining on acorns.It looks like the Iberico mostly roam around their clean, modern barns:
In modern times, the production of food and particularly meat has become industrialized to the point that the individual animal is often thought of as nothing but an inanimate source of protein, rather than a living creature.I'm pretty sure the Spanish and Hungarians view the Mangalitsa and Iberico as sources of very high quality raw material. That's how lard-type pig farmers view their pigs, and how Wagyu beef producers view their cows. You can't produce 2 million head of lard-type hogs (the way Spain does) and have each of them be individuals.
The perceptive Spaniard and his associates have raised the animals the healthy and humane way, and through LaTienda.com are introducing to America a new ham from a venerable breed. It is guaranteed to cause quite a stir among connoisseurs of Spanish ham.To the extent that their animals aren't purebred, I can't see how they are introducing Americans to the "venerable breed". They are introducing Americans to a unique, high quality food - but not the breed. I sell Mangalitsa hybrids too - but I try to be very clear with people about what I'm selling, because the pigs with different genetics taste so differently.
Even if their pigs aren't fed as well as Mangalitsa produced in America, it probably is an excellent product that will cause quite a stir. Because even Manglaitsa hybrids, fed less than optimal food, taste great. I'm confident what LaTienda is selling will taste better than any non-Mangalitsa products produced in America.