Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Mosefund Gallery, Traditional Fattening Methods, Mangalitsa as a Brand

Mosefund has a new gallery of pig photos up, showing their New Jersey farm. Mosefund is the farm that will have the incredible slaughter class this January.

Currently, their pigs have access to a mountain until the last few months, when they go into a pen and eat a lot of barley and wheat. That feeding program ensures their fat is of consistently high quality: hard, white and neutral flavored.

Basically, they've got a yard for the pigs, where they sleep and eat. They can go out a door and up the mountain, to dig for stuff and play. Here's their home base:

Unsurprisingly, they've destroyed their home base.

Some pigs are lazy, so they stay near the feeder and hut for sleeping. Mangalitsa pigs are typically quite active, so most of them head out up the mountain to root. Michael says they generally come and go on schedule:

Pigs heading up the mountain.
Photo by Bob del Grosso

And up top they have fun:

The book "The Mangalica Pig", describes how the Hungarians, the creators of the "mangalica" breed, fattened them:
In the case of the nomadic type of keeping, the animal searched for its own food, and it did not get any supplemental fodder. the natural nourishment was usually enough for the fattening of the animals. Sometimes it happened that the animals' meat had an unpleasant by-flavour [sic] and had a fishy or swampy taste to it. The farmers tried to fend themselves against such a possibility by bringing in the animals two months earlier off the fields before slaughtering and they continued to fatten the pigs on wheat: barley and maize. The pork then was strongly spiced in order to conceal any unpleasant by-flavours [sic]. This is one of hte rasons why the custom of strongly spieced Hungarian dishes dates back to this time.
This is something I've written about previously; if you let the pigs out, they'll eat what they like the most. It may or may not be good for the pigs' fat quality. E.g.if there's a bunch of moldy dead gophers, the pigs will probably like that the most, so they'll eat them and taste bad. At another time of year, they might eat a bunch of acorns and taste better as a result.

Mosefund and Wooly Pigs take the approach we do to ensure that customers never feel regrets. The easy way to do that is to try to keep the product as consistent as possible. With our superior genetics, just finishing them consistently suffices, because of the determinants of meat quality.

Variation works against customer loyalty. E.g. imagine in the Fall, the pigs taste great, because they come off a lot of acorns, but that in the Spring, some of the pigs (but not all) have a mild swampy taste. I see a few scenarios, all illustrating the dangers of variation:

  • Customer buys swampy pig first. Doesn't buy again, tells everybody it was expensive and swampy.
  • Customers buys great pig first. He tells everyone how great it is. He and his friends all buy pigs - and they all get swampy pigs.
  • Customer buys great pig. Then he gets a good, but not great pig. He tells everybody that quality is inconsistent.
Mosefund's pigs are run by a chef - Michael Clampffer. As a chef, he knows inconsistency is unacceptable. E.g. Michael wants to produce meat that looks like this, every time, and it needs to taste as good as it looks:

Hence, here are some of Michael's pigs, living out their last 60 days, eating a carefully formulated finishing ration:

It doesn't as pretty as the outdoor setting, but it works - their pigs can't eat any dead gophers, rotten vegetation, etc.

Wooly Pigs likewise finishes its pigs on a carefully formulated ration. Here's our first batch of Mangalitsa, before they became food for the San Francisco Bay Area:

There's not much difference between the two sets of pigs - they are all eating low-PUFA feed, getting ready for slaughter. They aren't eating swampy-tasting carrion. Ours might eat a dead bird or two, but as far as controlling diet, a dirt lot and concrete are fairly similar.

For comparison, here's some of Christoph Wiesner's pigs, in Austria:

Austrian Mangalitsa Pigs.

Wooly Pigs, my company, is the only breeder of commercially viable lard-type hogs in the Western Hemisphere. Besides fattening our own hogs, we provide feeder pigs (neutered) to other producers.

Farms with Mangalitsa feeder pigs.

Our mission to introduce a new product, lard-type pork, to the Western Hemisphere. Although Europeans kill 2 million head of lard-type or mostly lard-type pigs a year, America's actual production (projected) is (will be) like so:

3 purebred Mangalitsa pigs - all produced by Wooly Pigs

50 or so Mangalitsa pigs - all bred by Wooly Pigs

600 or so Mangalitsa pigs - all bred by Wooly Pigs.

2400 or so Mangalitsa pigs - all bred by Wooly Pigs

Given our superior genetics and America's competitive landscape, selling these many pigs so quickly requires avoiding mistakes. So we play it safe and finish our Mangalitsa on a controlled finishing ration (like Mosefund), maximizing our chances for success.

Wooly Pigs has been selling Mangalitsa pork, in one form or another, since the end of 2007, starting with the French Laundry. Now that we've finally got some regular pigflow, thanks to some of the USA's best pig breeders, Michael Mina, a 2-Michelin star restaurant is going to feature Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa pork on their menu.

We've done such a good job building "Mangalitsa" (the breed) into a brand that Michael Mina has announced, via twitter:

If you can't read that, it says:
Currently one of a select few restaurants to be featuring Mangalitsa Pork on the menu!! What an incredible flavor experience!
Obviously Mangalitsa pork has intrinsic merits; you can't bribe companies like Michael Mina into bragging that they serve your product.

It helps that the Mangalitsa is an extreme lard-type hog; it defines the lardiest (and tastiest) end of the spectrum. If you want the best-tasting, there's nothing better, even in Europe, where they've got other breeds similar to the Mangalitsa.

As Wooly Pigs hasn't spent anything on PR since the end of 2007, the press and attention we've received in 2008 and 2009 has been due to providing customers with a superior eating experience. A key part of that has been finishing the pigs consistently and conservatively - in keeping with Austrian methods.

The result of consistently providing a very superior product, over a relatively short period of time, is that some of the most quality-sensitive consumers in the USA trumpet the fact they use our product.

No comments: