Friday, June 4, 2010

Chefs on Pork Fat Chemical Composition and Aninal Importation

While reading about Cochon 555 in SF, I saw this:
Morgan Maki, Bi-Rite Market

Pig: Mangalitsa from Suisun Valley Farm

QK: Tell me about the Mangalitsa.

...MM: The texture would be different, and the proportion of fat to meat would be different. The reason why Mangalista is a cool pig is because they store a lot of back-fat, two to three inches. It's poly-unsaturated fat, which has a lower melting point and creamier consistency.

Actually, the pig tends to store unsaturated fat (typically monounsaturated). If you want a pig to have lots of polyunsaturated fat, you can do that to pretty much any pig, by feeding it things like corn oil, corn or rapeseed oil. That will make the pig fat rancid.

QK: Now, Mangalitsa is hard-to-find. Why?

MM: It's a specialty product and more expensive because there's not a lot of them being grown in this country. Only one or two people have breeding stock. There's a fellow in Washington state who breeds the pig, but he'll castrate the piglet before he sells it to you.

QK: Because he doesn't want you to breed it?

MM: Yeah, you can't import a live pig into the country anymore but he had his pig before the USDA made the rule.

To date, nobody has offered much money for breeding stock. People prefer to buy relatively cheaper feeder pigs (neutered) - so that's what the company sells them.

It is inaccurate to say that you can't import a live pig into the USA.

Why do I bother making these corrections?

I mention this because news media are in the habit of asking chefs questions and repeating their answers as if the chefs are authoritative.

Chefs are generally not authoritative about pig lipid chemical composition and animal importation. Unless a chef raises pigs to make cured products that rival those of Europe's best, or has experience importing animals, he probably doesn't know much about this stuff.

I've got no beef with Chef Maki. Maybe he's a nice guy. I'd like to sell him a bunch of pork, or a bunch of pigs. But let's get real here: I know a lot more about availability of Mangalitsa breeding stock, how to import pigs into the USA and the chemical composition of pig fat.

I wish journalists would stop repeating what chefs say about things outside their purview as gospel - because too many readers are incapable of critical thinking.

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