Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Heath Putnam Farms" is "Wooly Pigs"

She represents Wooly Pigs and Heath Putnam Farms.

Johnston County Hams is about to start marketing their first hams made from our pork. These will be the first batch of dry-cured hams from lard-type pigs produced in the USA that you can easily buy. Restaurants like The French Laundry and The Herbfarm have produced similar hams - but of course, the hams haven't been for sale.

The sale of these hams is a culinary milestone for America, and the culmination of a multi-year effort involving many people - farmers, slaughterhouse personnel, meat processors, etc.

Unfortunately, because of USDA issues[1] with the name "Wooly Pigs", the label on the hams will probably say that the pork was produced by "Heath Putnam Farms"[2], not Wooly Pigs.

Over the years, many have asked why the company name ("Wooly Pigs") doesn't have "farm" in its name. Others have asked why the company is named after the pigs, because it isn't normal to do this. Here's why:

Initially, I wanted to import Mangalitsa pigs so that I could eat them without traveling to Europe. There wasn't anything comparable in the USA already.

While looking into importing Mangalitsa pigs in 2006, I learned about European lard-type pork producers, who produce millions of lard-type pigs and export pork and products around the world. Meanwhile, in the Western Hemisphere, there wasn't any lard-type pork industry, or even much awareness of that industry.[3]

When I learned about the surprising gap, I decided that my goal was to establish America's first modern lard-type pork company, copying the methods of the Hungarian and Spanish producers.

It wasn't at all clear what to name such a company.

I considered something with "farm" in it, but look up the definition of "farm" and you'll see something like:
A farm is an area of land, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food (produce, grains, or livestock), fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production.
A farm isn't about creating new foods or a new agricultural sector. Nor is a farm about the distinctive animals involved. The word "farm" de-emphasizes all those things, while emphasizing things like the location, the location's dirt and its buildings.

From the beginning, the company has been about Mangalitsa pigs, super-premium pork, incredible products and introducing expertise to America. It isn't about a location, nor that location's dirt and buildings.

Pig Breeder #1

The people involved matter a lot more than the farms. E.g. the skill of the breeders and fatteners matter more than the locations where those people do their jobs. An expert like Pig Breeder #1 can do a great job breeding on any farm.

Besides the people involved in breeding, fattening, slaughtering and processing the pigs, there are the pigs themselves.

Without its Mangalitsa pigs, the company can't produce super-premium pork. The pigs are the basis of the company. In the big picture, the farms (the locations, land and buildings) that the pigs live on and in are not important, compared to things like the genetics, breeding, husbandry, diet, slaughter and processing.

My fundamentally anti-terroir approach led me to reject all potential names involving "farm", "ranch", "plantation", "estate", etc.

It seemed logical to name the company after its unique pigs, especially because they look so incredible. Also, I figured that "Wooly Pigs" was such a great name, if I didn't take it, the second, third or fourth competitor in America's lard-type hog sector would.

Unfortunately, the suggestive name was a bit too catchy. Without ever intending it to happen, we've reached the point where "Wooly Pig" is becoming synonymous with "Mangalitsa", if it isn't already.

Some woolly pigs, not some Wooly Pigs.

It has been frustrating for a while now to explain to people that Wooly Pigs is a company, not a kind of pig, but given that our most important customer can't put "Wooly Pigs" on his label, because the USDA says he'd have to prove the pork came from "Wooly Pigs" (meaning "Mangalitsa pigs"), we've got to pick a new name, if only for the label.

When selecting a new name, it is important that when people go online to find out more information, they find out about Wooly Pigs. Given that we can't put Wooly Pigs on the label, the next best thing is something with "Heath Putnam" in it. Of course, we've got the pigs on multiple farms now - so "Heath Putnam Farms" is our new secondary name for the company known as "Wooly Pigs".

I wish we could avoid this. The company isn't supposed to be about me, it is suposed to be about our pigs, their pork, the products we and others make from them, etc. Nevertheless, there's hams that need to get labeled (so they can be sold), so we are doing what we have to do.

Hopefully we won't have to rebrand the company. I intend to keep using the name Wooly Pigs as long as possible, and to use "Heath Putnam Farms" only in those contexts where Wooly Pigs can't be used.

[1] The USDA is claiming that "Wooly Pigs" means the same as "Mangalitsa breed pigs", despite the fact that no pig expert equates them. You won't find "Wooly Pig" or "woolly pig" mentioned as a synonym for "Mangalitsa" in any pig reference.

Unfortunately, there's lots of blog posts and news articles - arguably incorrect and sloppy - that equate "Wooly Pig" with Mangalitsa.

[2] In the legal sense, "Wooly Pigs" and "Heath Putnam Farms" are two trade names that refer to the same company.

[3] Imagine if there were no Wagyu cattle in the USA, nobody in the USA knew what they were or what they were good for, and you could be the first to bring them in and start producing and marketing them. That's how it looked to me in late 2006.

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