Friday, July 30, 2010

Foods in Season - Mangalitsa Promotion

Mangalitsa hams by Johnston County Hams

Starting next week, Foods in Season is going to promote our Mangalitsa pork, products and those of Johnston County Hams.

Price reductions ought to allow chefs to buy most of our fresh Mangalitsa cuts at under $9.99/lb. Chefs in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and St. Louis can already acquire our pork for even less.

Stuff that costs more than $10/lb feels a lot more expensive than stuff that costs $9.99/lb or less. Foods in Season expects to sell a lot of this stuff quickly.

Mangalitsa Bacon by Johnston County Hams

Johnston County Hams is the first American ham company to make a serious investment in Mangalitsa pork, and their products are only now ready. They haven't just bought the raw material and made the products. They sent their curemaster Rufus Brown all the way from North Carolina to rural New Jersey to learn directly from Christoph Wiesner.

That's a real investment of time and money.

Hence, I want to see Johnston County Hams do well selling products made from our raw material. I want to see people raving about their wonderful Mangalitsa products. Besides helping me financially, I'll feel like I haven't wasted nearly four years on something completely ridiculous: the fattest, ugliest and hairiest pigs known to man.

Mangalitsa Shoulder by Johnston County Hams

I've devoted a huge amount of effort to this project. A few years later, my company produces (and distributes across the USA) the best-tasting stuff in wholesale quantities, and it costs the most. If people are willing to buy the stuff at a high enough price, then I've bet correctly.

Ugly Piglet Tastes Great

If people don't like our stuff enough to pay for it, we don't have anything to fall back on. We aren't certified this-or-that. Our pigs aren't pretty. We just produce stuff that tastes great, like the producers in Spain and Hungary.

Wooly Pigs is the first company to systematically produce super-premium pork in America, starting with the pigs' genetics.

Ugly yet delicious!

Various American companies have aped the best practices of European producers, but inevitably they have chosen to cut corners or (likely out of ignorance) they've done things that work against meat and fat quality.

I can't get more specific or I'll come off as catty. As pretty much every Mangalitsa producer in the USA has learned, it is very easy to produce outstanding pork by raising pigs with substantial Mangalitsa genetics the way we do.

Anyway, all we claim to have is the best-tasting stuff, and so far - when we get everything right - some of the most demanding customers agree that we're the best.

That doesn't mean there's any point to producing the best. If people only want to eat cheap mediocre stuff, or are only willing to pay a premium for pigs labeled "certified organic", "certified humane" or "naturally raised", there is no super-premium pork niche.

The business depends on people acting like pigs, and voting with their stomachs.

Mangalitsa fans may be surprised to hear that I ever doubt the viability of the lard-type pork market. Yet, when I see people who know better and have the resources choosing to buy mediocre meat-type pigs, I figure they are doing it for a reason; fundamentally, either they or their customers are not quality-sensitive enough.

Anyway, back to the products!

If you look at the products Johnston County Hams and Heath Putnam Farms are selling, you might think we are competing. We make speck, while they make country bacon. Both are dry-cured and smoked bellies.

I think they are very different products, because most people use them differently. E.g. I like to slice my speck thin and eat it without heating it much. Most consumers will fry up Johnston County Hams's bacon and eat it.

I hope that chefs will buy the speck AND the bacon. Certainly, if I ran a restaurant and could use both, I'd buy both.

Mangalitsa neck by Heath Putnam Farms

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Hopefully we'll see chefs across the USA featuring Mangalitsa on their menus, and raving about how great the cured Mangalitsa products are, whether they come from Johnston County Hams or Heath Putnam Farms.

If we get some traction with the fresh meat and the hams, maybe we can sell Mangalitsa lardo to a large number of high-end chefs, at which point I'll feel super-clever - because no other pigs in the USA produce the quality and quantity of lardo that Mangalitsa pigs produce.

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