Thursday, May 28, 2009

Soft Bellies are Back

There's an article in Missouri Farmer about how soft pork is becoming a critical problem again. Finishing pigs on spent grains causes trouble with the fat. It is a known problem - e.g. here's a Purdue paper on it.

Right now, there's a lot of distillers grains, due to ethanol production. As a result of people fattening their pigs on the stuff, there are a lot of soft bellies. As Missouri Farmer says:
With soft bellies, a processor spends energy to chill that belly before running it through large, high-speed, slicing equipment. Plus, there is a potential decrease in pork yield of pork with soft fat.
There's other impacts: the fat doesn't look or taste as good, and it doesn't keep as long. That's why you feed pigs differently if you want to make cured products like bacon.

I don't think their proposed solution is optimal for taste:
By feeding CLA at .6 of a percent for 30 days, producers can gain 5 to 7 points on iodine value...“We know that feeding CLA increased the degree of saturation, so we end up with firmer fat,” he stressed...Wiegand said the change in firmness comes at the expense of mono-saturated fats. So, the poly- saturated fats — those deemed heart healthy — are not lost in the pork fat profile.
The problem with the PUFA is that it is the stuff that goes rancid and make stuff taste "off". In contrast, the high levels of monounsaturated fat explain why people love Mangalitsa fat so much.

Of course, it is OK to feed the pigs pretty much anything, so long as you carefully control what they eat at the end of their lives to produce the best fat. The problem with commercial hogs is that they are feeding that stuff to them to the very end.

Given the focus of Wooly Pigs, I'm happy to see any attention given to the fat quality issue. The more people look at fat quality, the more they understand that Wooly Pigs sells a unique product that some people really love.

Traditionally, America hasn't had very good fat quality - we produce for price-sensitive consumers. We don't have, as in Italy, a standard for pork that gets cured and made into products.

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