Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Saving Rare Breeds - For Real

Emőd Mangalitsa farm

I wrote recently about "certified humane" and dead piglets. One thing that occurred to me is that that "certified humane" farm isn't economically sustainable, in the sense that a restaurant with 90% spoilage isn't sustainable, or a store with 90% shrinkage isn't sustainable. I'm not saying their average death rate is 90% (it probably isn't) - but in general, in a low-margin business, producers need to avoid gross inefficiencies or they'll go out of business.

Olmos es Toth's Mangalitsa farms (and Wooly Pigs's) are an example of how to preserve a breed, in a way that is economically sustainable. With their two major farms at Emőd (nucleus) and Nyíribrony (F1 multiplier), they've got a system that works: they are preserving the genetics, keeping the piglets safe and producing meat on a regular schedule. These farms work a lot like the original Mangalitsa farms, which were the "factory farms" of the 1800s - explaining why the Mangalitsa became so popular. The Mangalitsa fit the needs of a time: a lard-type hog that could grow quickly (compared to wild boar) on a "factory farm".

Jamon Mangalica - available in USA.

La Tienda is selling Mangalitsa ham (Jamon Mangalica). Some of the hams probably came from pigs produced on those farms. I'm curious to hear how people like it, and how it compares to other options.

If you read my previous post on their hams, you saw me point out how what the marketers say doesn't fit with what the producers show you (via photos). Some might think I don't approve of Olmos es Toth, their hams, etc. That's not true: I approve of Olmos es Toth. I think they've done a great thing saving the Mangalitsa genetics, and their pigs look healthy. Healthy piglets are better than dead piglets, even if the dead piglets are "certified humane".

My complaint was with LaTienda's marketing. To some extent, when they talk about Mangalitsa sows in Hungary running around rolling meadows, it creates problems for Olmos es Toth and anybody else who wants to preserve the Mangalitsa breed. It isn't good to create unreasonable expectations in the minds of consumers. In general, if sows run around unringed, you'll have dirt lots (like Olmos es Toth and Wooly Pigs) - that's how pigs are.

My other concern was the genetics of the pigs providing the hams, and what those pigs have eaten. The reasons are clear: people who like Mangalitsa prefer them a lot to the F1s (50% Mangalitsa) - yet the law in Hungary allows F1s to be sold as "mangalica". My concern is that if potential Mangalitsa customers buy and eat F1 Mangalitsa hams and they don't like them, that would be bad for America's Mangalitsa producers. If I knew they were selling pigs that had 75% or more Mangalitsa genetics, and if I knew they fed them the way my fellow Austrian Mangalitza breeders feed their Mangalitsa pigs, I'd have no reservations recommending them.

In any case, "jamon mangalica" is now available in the USA. Now you can order them.

No comments: