Friday, April 16, 2010

British Media on Mangalitsa Pigs

Photo by B Baxter.

There's an article on the web about Mangalitsa pigs, from the British media. It has a number of inaccuracies. I'll try to deal with them here:
The curly coated Mangalitzas, which resemble sheep, are now a dying breed.
Hardly. Due to the efforts of Olmos es Toth, Mangalitsa production is booming in Hungary, after decades of decline.

Due to me, for the first time ever, Mangalitsa pigs are produced in the New World, and production is booming, because people want to eat them. If the British wanted to help, they'd be creating a market for the pork.

Also, there are 3 distinct Mangalitsa breeds - blondes, reds and swallow-bellies (see "Do Mangalica pigs of different colours really belong to different breeds?" by Zsolnai for more info).

In the early 1900s many Lincolnshire curly coats were sold to Austria and Hungary where they were crossed with the Mangalitza, creating the Lincolista.

Three years ago this cross-breed were found thriving in Austria and a small number were brought back to create a herd in Britain.

This makes it sound like "Lincolista" pigs were still around, and that somehow they rediscovered it in Central Europe - which is completely wrong.

If you read L. Gaal's "Animal Husbandry in Hungary in the 19th - 20th centuries" (page 274), you'll see the Lincolista pigs fell out of favor (and went extinct), because they got sick easily and didn't produce the sort of hams that people wanted.

Also, there's no reason to think that the swallow-belly breed or the red Mangalitsa breed carry any Lincolnshire genes, because the Lincolista crosses were done with blonde Mangalitsas.

It seems like the British want to lay claim to Hungarian accomplishments - namely, the creation of three very important pig breeds. How irritating. They might as well claim to have invented the internet or baseball too.

Now three offspring from this herd have gone to Tropical Wings to form part of a programme to prevent the breed from disappearing...
Blond-haired male Buddy, black-coated female Porsche and ginger Margot have already attracted lots of interest from visitors.

"Although there is a small amount of genetic DNA in there, they are in a small way linked to Lincolnshire curly coat," added Denise.

"We want to show people what these native woolly pigs used to look like and ensure the breed remains in this country and survives.

Of course, there's no reason to think the pigs have any Lincolnshire DNA. And breeding a swallow-belly Mangalitsa with a blonde produces mixed pigs, which doesn't help to preserve the blonde Mangalitsa breed, nor the swallow-belly Mangalitsa breed.

If they keep this up, they'll wind up with a synthetic Mangalitsa breed. It will taste good. It won't be one of the three existing Mangalitsa breeds. That's not a bad thing - but the people doing it shouldn't delude themselves.

They are lardier than most breeds, making them perfect for Parma ham-style cuts.

If I was Juan Vicente Olmos, I'd be pretty irritated to read that. He saves the Mangalitsa breeds, creates a worldwide market for their products, and yet still they insist on bringing up Italian "Parma ham"? Can't they talk about "jamon iberico" or "jamon serrano"? Mangalitsa tastes like Iberico, and Olmos makes jamon iberico and serrano - and that's the stuff that explains why the breeds exist and are thriving.[1]

Normally, the media make a big fuss about these pigs because of how they look. How they look is actually very problematic for those trying to make a living from them. The pigs have so much hair, that it causes a lot of problems at the slaughterhouse - either they have to do a lot of manual labor to remove the hair, or the use the hog scalder too much, damaging the hogs' skin. In any case, they charge more, because the hogs take so much longer to dehair.

If it was possible to produce Mangalitsa, equal in every way but their bristles, I'd approve.

When the article says,
"Hair from the pigs is particularly popular in the US as it retains air bubbles under water making it ideal for tying fishing flies."
I wonder - where are these people? Every time we kill pigs, there's a pile of bristles. I'm paying to have them disposed of. Yes, the hairs are great for making flies - but how many people make flies out of biodegradable materials these days?

[1] In America, it is processors like Johnston County Ham and Knight Salumi that are responsible for the Mangalitsa breeds thriving - they are the ones buying the pork wholesale.


susan said...

I would be interested in purchasing some of the hair for flytying :O) Would you be kind and let me know where I can do this?

Heath said...

Contact Swiss Meat and Sausage Company in Swiss, MO.

They kill my pigs.

Heath said...

Or I could sell you some pigs, you raise them and train them to stand still so you can clip the hairs. That's win-win.