Thursday, September 30, 2010

660# Mangalitsa Pig

A guy is selling a Mangalitsa he says is 300kg (660 pounds).

The photos of it are really funny.

I'm reminded of some of the morbidly obese people I've seen on the Jerry Springer Show. But these pigs are a lot healthier than the obese humans. They can run, play and fight viciously over food just like regular pigs.

It is interesting to think that it is entirely normal for Mangalitsa pigs to get this fat. Other pig breeds don't do it as easily or naturally, and their fat doesn't taste as light or clean.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Very Special Private Dinner Includes Mangalitsa

A private dinner at the James Beard house got auctioned off to raise money.

The dinner was prepared by some very well-known chefs - Emeril Lagasse and some of his chefs from his restaurants. When a single dinner raises tens of thousands of dollars, they use the best ingredients.

I was happy to note that Mangalitsa was the 3rd course.

I didn't pay them for this sort of positioning. I didn't twist anyone's arm to get my product in there.

When you've got the very best, the best people choose it.

I'm very happy to see this. I'm sure people will read about the dinner, see that funny word "Mangalitsa" in there. They'll go google it and then they'll learn about what we sell.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blade Steaks

This photo illustrates one of the reasons why it is so hard for a small farmer to make money selling meat in the USA.

A customer that buys pigs from me and fattens them sent me this photo of some meat he got back from his processor. They were labeled "blade steaks".

Look at the photo carefully. Click on it to get a bigger version. They way the steaks are cut, they really do highlight the shoulder blade! Imagine getting one of those in a restaurant. Wouldn't that look great as an entrée, right in the center of the plate?

Blade steaks normally look different than this, because there's neck meat attached to the shoulder blade. That's been taken off, making these blade steaks laughably bad. The way this has been cut, it is pretty much worthless. It would be better if it came as boneless trim - at least that wouldn't require removing the bone before chopping, grinding or braising this stuff.

It is a shame too - the meat itself is dark red and has nice intramuscular fat. This meat will taste really good.

My customer and I laughed about how awful this was done. When he picked up his meat, they didn't tell him what they'd done. When he saw what they'd done, he felt very sore.

This pictured meat, minus the blade, makes up what the Spanish call a paleta. Cut that way, it is a very valuable cut. I've been eating some cured paleta (aka "cured shoulder") from Johnston County Hams. It's been a treat.

The farmer is in a jam. He's left with scraps. There's no way the processor will pay for the damage he's done. There's few USDA-inspected processing options where the farmer lives, so he'll probably get his meat cut there again. He can't afford to burn his bridges with the plant that did this.

It is ridiculously common for small meat plants to make mistakes like this. Obviously, in a big plant, things are planned out very carefully, because mistakes add up, and cost the big plant - which is normally part of a vertically-integrated food company - a lot of money. In a small plant, the loss goes to the farmer getting his meat cut.

I've talked to several people raising Mangalitsa pigs across the USA. Pretty much all of them have run into problems like this. When someone says, "we've got a really great butcher here who's been cutting meat for years," I think, "and he probably will disappoint you, like the other great butchers I've heard about."

This really hurts anyone raising valuable animals. Obviously, with cheap animals, suboptimal processing doesn't hurt as much. Of course, anyone raising Mangalitsa pigs is raising the most expensive pigs in the USA - "blade steaks" like these can drive you out of business.

This photo illustrates why for the last few months, I've been saying positive things about Swiss Meat and Sausage Company - they really are America's extreme lard-type hog experts. They do a very good job cutting pigs with Austrian seam butchery techniques. Rather than winding up with scraps, I get cuts that I can sell at a good price. It took a lot to get to this point, but now there's one plant in the USA that cuts Mangalitsa pigs properly.

If you'd like to learn how to cut pigs up, taking a class from these guys would be one way to do it, or taking a class at Swiss Meat, like Josh Galliano and Kevin Nashan, two successful St. Louis chefs.

Johnston County Hams Shipping USA's First Mangalitsa Hams

Ellen Malloy at the Restaurant Intelligence Agency helped me to put the press release below together. Restaurant Intelligence Agency is an online alternative to traditional restaurant public relations.

I got in touch with Ellen after I saw this post, which mentions Mangalitsa pork in passing. It turns out she's a Mangalitsa fan!

Johnston County Hams Shipping USA's First Mangalitsa Hams

Johnston County Hams is proud to present America's first ham from heirloom Mangalitsa pigs, now available for purchase direct from the producer and in fine restaurants throughout the country. Previously only available imported from Spain, Magalista ham is unique among hams for its strong meaty taste and unctuous mouthfeel, hallmarks of the Mangalitsa breed. These Johnston County Hams are dry-cured using simple ingredients like salt and sugar and aged for 7 months in special ham-aging rooms. The cost of the American-made Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Ham is $22 per pound.

Johnston County Hams is producing the Mangalitsa hams and shoulders. Johnston County Hams has produced hams for over 60 years. The curemaster, Rufus Brown, has 3 decades of ham-making experience and is the son of the former curemaster.

"This is the best pork in America, from being bred and raised by people who know and care about doing things the right way. Our bacon and ham products from Johnston County Hams are some of the best I've tasted period," says John Besh, executive chef and co-owner of the Besh Restaurant Group.

Unlike all common pig breeds in the USA, the Mangalitsa is an extreme lard-type breed. Its genetics make it meat especially flavorful and its fat famously creamy. In Europe, breeds like the Iberico compete with the Mangalitsa. In America, there are no similar breeds, so the Mangalitsa is the USA's only super-premium pig breed.

Famous restaurants across the USA, including Per Se (NY), Corton (NY), Charlie Trotter's (IL), Michael Mina (CA), Craft (CA) and the Besh Restuarant Group's (all LA) August, La Provence, Lüke, Besh Steak, Domenica and The American Sector regularly use Mangalitsa pork.

In 2008, The French Laundry, widely thought of as America's best restaurant, bought 10% of America's entire Mangalitsa production.

New York Cit's Per Se, a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars, and sister restaurant to The French Laundry, uses the Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Hams. Craft in Los Angeles and Louisiana's Besh Restaurant Group likewise use Mangalitsa bacon and ham from Johnston County Hams. Besh's La Provence also fattens its own Mangalitsa pigs, on its attached farm.

Johnston County Hams is the only domestic producer of cured Mangalitsa hams and shoulders, purchasing its Mangalitsa pork from Heath Putnam Farms.

In America, Mangalitsa pork is produced in extremely limited quantity, primarily by Heath Putnam Farms, the first company to import Mangalitsa pigs and the European method of raising them to the western hemisphere. The pigs are finished on expensive grains like barley and wheat, giving the fat a light and clean taste. They are also raised extra old and heavy, making them taste more flavorful than typical American pigs.

John Besh continues, "... it has everything to do with the entire process of the barley-based diet, the pristine conditions the pigs are raised in to the time-honored seam butchery to the curemasters that are the true masters of their craft. Just one look at the velvety soft fat of the cured fatback which truly does melt in your mouth and you'll begin to understand why the bacon and hams set the benchmark for other artisans to follow."

Mangalitsa ham is availbale to the trade through distributors such as Foods in Season ( and DeBragga and Spitler (

If you would like to receive a sample for your consideration, please email [obviously this is for journalists, not the multitudes who want free samples of Mangalitsa ham]

Relevant websites:

Johnston County Hams:
Heath Putnam Farms:

Johnston County Hams contact info:
Rufus Brown

Heath Putnam Farms contact info:
Heath Putnam

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Mangalitsa, not Mangalista

A lot of people who like Mangalitsa pork or pigs have trouble spelling M-A-N-G-A-L-I-T-S-A.

There is no L-I-S-T in Mangalitsa. Mangalitsa rhymes with "pizza". It does not rhyme with "Sandinista".

In German, it sounds something like "Man-ga-leet-za". In Hungarian, something like "Mon-ga-leet-sa", as in the video above (roughly 42 seconds in).

Negro Lampino - Wu-Tang Pigs

The picture above shows a Negro Lampino. That is the most Mangalitsa-like Iberico breed. Of the various Iberico breeds, it is the most fat-prone, tasty, slow-growing and least profligate.

Here's a Negro lampino from a Spanish website, that shows the different breeds that can be called "Iberico" - in the sense of jamon Iberico.

Wu-Tang Pig

The question - what is this pig here? It is a youngish pig. It is all black, almost hairless. It is very lardy. It looks an awful lot like the Negro Lampino in the middle. Hopefully one day it will look like the ridiculously fat one above.

Did someone import Iberian Black swine? Sure, Wooly Pigs imported Mangalitsa pigs and produces them in the Western Hemisphere. Wooly Pigs has what it takes to import Iberian Black pigs - and could conceivably make money doing it - suddenly we'd be your one-stop shop for super-premium Europigs.

But did Wooly Pigs actually do it?

Let's see if anyone figures it out.


The bottom pig is a Mangalitsa x Meishan F1. They are 100% lard-type, so their meat will be excellent. The F1 Mangalitsa x Meishan sows ought to produce many more pigs than Mangalitsa sows. Bred to a Mangalitsa boar, they will produce 75% mangalitsa (25% Meishan) market hogs, which ought to keep our customers happy while allowing us to reduce costs.

Finally, Wu-Tang Pigs are a reality. There's even a web domain - - but for now, it is the same as, and

Austrian Diner

New York, Austrian, gourmet Bratwurst, Mangalitsa, duck, shrimp, etc. -- I was not surprised to see Daniel Angerer at it again.

Riley Starks,Willows Inn, Blaine Wetzel

Riley's pig grown up - approx 400 pounds. Photo by Joe Ray, from his blog.

I just got back from meeting Riley Starks in Seattle. We met in a parking lot. He brought the money, I brought the goods - Mangalitsa pork and some belly speck.

I haven't seen him since I delivered a pig up to his place. His business, Willows Inn is doing well. There's been a big change - he's got an incredible resident chef, Blaine Wetzel, former sous chef at Copenhagen's Noma. Noma is one of the best restaurants in the world.

In many great restaurants, it is the sous chefs or the chef de cuisine - not the executive chef - who actually makes the food. That's because the executive chef is normally busy running the business of the kitchen - e.g. finding/buying stuff, managing the schedule, etc. So if nothing else, you know that Blaine Wetzel can cook.

Riley said that after only 3 weeks, it is clear they've got better food than ever before. He's got to do it that way; his place is so remote, you need a reason (e.g. great food) to go there.

I'm happy to sell him Mangalitsa pork. Obviously, if he needs to impress his guests, its the right thing to buy. Typical example - gourmet bratwurst.

I told him he needs to call our mutual friend, Chris Weber (at the Herbfarm), and have Chris explain to him how to make those 2-month hams, because I had some frozen hams for him.

The video shows his pig when she was still young. As the picture at top shows, she's now ridiculously big and fat. That's how they get.

I asked Riley if maybe he'd keep her alive, as a pet and something for his guests to look at, but that's not in the cards. She's going to be food.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Suisun Valley Farm's Pigs

Photo by Shane Petersen

Shane Petersen and his wife (Suisun Valley Farm) sell Mangalitsa pigs to The French Laundry and other high-end Bay Area restaurants.* Heath Putnam Farms sells them feeder pigs, which they fatten on their farm.

They are hobby farmers - but very serious about their hobbies.

In addition to making his own beer, lardo and pancetta, Shane makes his own saucisson sec. His wife is expert at cutting up pigs - she cuts up pigs better (less waste) than most "artisanal" butchers. They cook sous vide, in a sous vide rig that Shane built himself.

Photo by Shane Petersen

If you are a professional who has ever dreamed of being a farmer, cook, brewer, etc. producing really great food & drink -- well, they are doing it right now, because they like doing that sort of thing.

Finally, in addition to being ridiculously competent, they are very nice people.

* Call Shane at 707-815-0039 to order your Mangalitsa now.

5-State Wiesner Tour

The Wiesners are going on a 5-state tour. I previously reported they'd be going on a 4-state tour, but I decided it would be good if they visited Missouri.

There'll be a one-day event in St. Louis. If you've got ideas, please let me know. Do you want to see how to cut up a pig? Or do you want him and his wife to show you how to cook something yummy out of pig parts that you don't normally eat? Show you how to make speck?

Please let me know - you can email me at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mangalitsa Pork Belly Waffle -- A REMINDER

As reported on this Capitol Hill web site, the Mangalitsa pork belly waffle debuts next weekend (September 25-26) at Monsoon.

I wrote all about it here.

I'll be going there Sunday (26th).

If you've ever needed an excuse to enjoy Monsoon's famously excellent brunch, this is it.

Italian Gourmands on Mangalitsa Cured Products

I found this Italian web page discussing Mangalitsa ham. It says in translation (according to Google):
Salumi di Mangalica: Speck, Ossocollo e Spalletta affumicata Salami Mangalica: The breed of pig Mangalica originated in Hungary and has the characteristic of living in the wild and to be fed exclusively with sunflower seeds and tubers, and acorns. The ham Mangalitsa, is produced with meticulous care by a small artisan in San Daniele and is really special! The meat melts in your mouth and is unsaturated fat, like olive oil and is a great help to combat cholesterol Ham ... that competes with the Pata negra!
It is neat to see Italians saying Mangalitsa products are great, seeing as they've got their own Italian products to be proud of. Their own pigs have genetics that target the bottom and middle of the market, not the high end - which the Iberico and Mangalitsa dominate.

You can order your domestic Mangalitsa hams here - on the Johnston County Hams website.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mangalitsa Chef's Pizza Dough

Bryce Lamba, aka Mangalitsa Chef gave me his Mangalitsa lard-based pizza dough recipe. It is similar to Jimmy Fiala's focccacia recipe, in that it uses Mangalitsa lard.

Actually, he didn't "give" me the recipe. He sent it to me, and then the next time he saw me, he essentially coerced me into giving him a packet of Rufus's excellent Mangalitsa ham. It was my last packet, which (like the last stick of gum) is worth 5x every previous packet.

Foodista Recipes (with photos) are here:
Mangalitsa Speck Pizza
Mangalitsa Speck and Chanterelle Pizza
Fig and Mangalitsa Speck Pizza

Pizza Dough

1 1/4 C warm water or beer
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 pinch sugar (1/4 tsp)
1 C all purpose flour

Mix above ingredients and place in warm spot in kitchen for thirty

2 C all purpose flour
4 Tbl Mangalitsa lard
1/4 tsp salt or more if desired

1) Mix all ingredients together and form into a ball. Place in non reactive container.

2) Pour 1 Tbl olive oil on top to cover dough.

3) Wrap container in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

4) Remove dough from cooler 30 minutes to one hour before using and bring up to room temperature.

5) Punch down and divide into for equal parts. Roll into a dough
ball. Using a little extra flour roll out into pizza skins and grill
or BBQ until skins set up.

6) Top with favorite ingredients and finish in oven or grill.
Alternately bake on pizza stone in oven.

7) Enjoy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sept 25 & 26 - Mangalitsa Pork Belly Waffle Debuts at Monsoon (SEA)

On September 25 & 26, you'll be able to get a Mangalitsa pork belly waffle at Monsoon on Seattle's Capitol Hill, made with pork from Heath Putnam Farms.

It is a waffle with braised pork belly - essentially, a super-premium version of a McGriddles, a dish that McDonald's invented for breakfast.

By combining salty, sweet, fatty and meaty flavors - there may even be something sour in there - the Mangalitsa pork belly waffle delivers extraordinary satisfaction.

Chef Josh at Monsoon woke up from a dream with the idea of a pork belly waffle.*

He first executed it with their non-Mangalitsa pork. I delivered some Mangalitsa the day they debuted it, and there was a receipt from a table where four of four guests had ordered it, leaving a note like, "best idea ever! Really, we are serious!"

Ever since then, I've been angling to get a Mangalitsa pork belly waffle at Monsoon, and it's finally happening - September 25 & 26.

I've been pushing and pushing for this because I want to be able to eat the thing - and I know it will be a hit with people. Monsoon already has fantastic waffles, thanks to some culinary collaboration between Eric Banh and William Belikis. The thought of adding Mangalitsa pork belly to those waffles is just too much.

* Perhaps he ate a few McGriddles and then took a nap.

Mangalitsa Sirloins - Shortage - Economics

There's a cut we sell that corresponds to a "striploin" on a beef.

We call it a boneless sirloin - although it is a lot smaller than the "sirloin" on a pig, because ours is just the meat of the pig's lower back, without any of the pelvic meat.

It's very popular with fine dining. The typical customer is Corton, 2 michelin stars, in New York City. We produce enough for them and a few other restaurants.

Why is it so popular? For instance, from the top of the pig, I'll eat the "Schopf" - aka Heath Putnam Farms Austrian Pig Neck every time. That's the cut most Mangalitsa farmers will eat, including my friends at the Herbfarm.

I think the boneless sirloin is popular because it doesn't have big veins of fat. It is a block of (hopefully) very marbled meat. Fat phobic people eat it without feeling guilty or nervous.

Anyway, there's not enough of that to go around right now - from coast to coast. Foods in Season is out until next week, and DeBragga is out. The next best substitute is from Spanish Iberico pigs (assuming they are labeled properly).

I just got a call today from a chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant. He knows that I know where all the sirloins are.

The guy is very busy. He isn't calling me to be friendly - although he was very polite and friendly. He's just exhaustively searching for what he wants.* The fact that he's calling me is a sure sign that there's a shortage!

What does this tell me? It tells me the price is too low. We need increase the price on that stuff. We also need to produce more - but in the short term, all we can do to allocate the parts to avoid a shortage is to increase the price.

Why won't I raise the price immediately? Because it will irritate my distributors and customers. I promised them we'd hold prices at certain levels for a while, to get demand increasing, in preparation for the bigger kills in the Fall.

If we set the price at the level where the market cleared, people - customers and distributors - would be maximally irritated. So long as I'm in this business, I need to have good relationships with my customers, because it is a small world. Also, if I set the prices too high, I'd have inventory building up, which is expensive and hurts cashflow - and it stops people from eating the stuff.

This illustrates something about economics that many economists don't understand - consumers (distributors & chefs) bear grudges, and they hate price volatility and especially price increases. As much as I love liquid markets, most markets aren't liquid and impersonal. It means you need to be very careful whenever you quote prices - if you quote too low and then have to raise them, people will scream.

* I've seen pigs do this - they'll go over to the feeder and look under the lids, to see if there's any feed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thomas Keller, Johnston County Hams, Suisun Valley Farm

Suisun Valley Farm's Mangalitsa Pigs

I've got Thomas Keller on the brain tonight, for a few reasons:

1) Per Se is buying Mangalitsa hams from Johnston County Hams. Month ago, I sold the fresh hams to Johnston County Hams. They paid a small fortune for those hams. Rufus Brown cured them into their current form. Now Rufus is selling them to the best restaurants in the USA.

2) Per Se's sister restaurant, The French Laundry, is buying five ridiculously fat (approx. 285# carcass) Mangalitsa pigs from Suisun Valley Farm. I bred those pigs and sold them to Suisun Valley Farm. My first Mangalitsa pig that I killed went to The French Laundry. Several years later, they keep buying Mangalitsa pigs. Despite them being ridiculously ugly and fat, they keep buying them - because they taste the best.

3) Per Se regularly buys our Mangalitsa loins from DeBragga.

Basically, Keller's staff loves Mangalitsa pork. The fact that they buy all this stuff tells everyone that Mangalitsa pork and Mangalitsa hams (from Johnston County Hams) are the best. Why do people think that?

Because of things like this article on Thomas Keller. There were a few parts that had special meaning for me:
He weighed out and smelled Australian winter truffles the size of softballs, each worth approximately $1,100. "You see how this smells a little off?" he asked me, holding one up to my nose. I didn't. "I'm going to send it back."
Ouch! What are those guys going to do when the truffles come back in? Is an imperfect truffle worth even a few hundred bucks? Someone is about to lose their shirt.

Heath Putnam Farms (aka "Wooly Pigs") produces great stuff. But sometimes, for one reason or another, the stuff isn't as good as it should be. When someone working for Keller or Paul Liebrandt sends something back, you pay attention. You give them a credit. You apologize for wasting their time - and you try to make sure it never happens again.

What I've learned:

1) As much as possible, avoid mistakes. Part of always being the best is avoiding unnecessary mistakes.

2) As long as you make the very best, you are in a strong position, because there's always some people who want the best, and have the money to pay for it. As soon as you aren't the very best, it isn't any fun.

3) Develop markets for the less-than-perfect stuff. Prepare yourself for the pain of discounting the stuff to clear it out. As you are selling it off and feeling the pain, figure out how to avoid ever being in that situation ever again.

Here's another quote from the article:

I remembered what Keller had told me the previous night: "I don't discuss price with my suppliers." If you want quality, you pay. And if you're Thomas Keller, you can. Unlike most restaurateurs, Keller doesn't struggle to keep his restaurant afloat: dinner service at the French Laundry stays at a "predictable 74 each night," said Keller - in the height of summer, in the dead of winter, always filled to capacity.

Keller will pay the most for the very best stuff. The fact that he'll pay what it costs doesn't mean you can ream him - because it isn't like you can sell him and someone else the same thing, but charge Keller more just because he'll spend more money.

If you produce a luxury good, there's some price at which all the stuff will get sold. That's approximately what you'll sell it for (maybe a bit less, so you don't get stuck with inventory). It is no fun when you produce too much of a super-premium product and have to discount it deeply to sell it all. Among other things, as your circle of customers widens, you deal with increasingly unpleasant people, whose checks are more likely to bounce.

Keller likewise limits supply to get his desired outcome. His dining room is purposefully small (or, you could likewise say, his prices are purposefully low).

Were the room bigger (or were his prices higher), he might not sell out all nights. That would make it difficult for him to run the restaurant, because he'd have to increase/decrease staff accordingly, and he'd have more wasted food. Most importantly, on emptier nights, guests wouldn't feel so lucky and special to have a spot in the dining room.

Bauchspeck Recipe

Here's our Mangalitsa speck recipe. It is the same for bellies or jowls:
100# de-ribbed & beveled Mangalitsa bellies
2.5 lbs salt + 4oz Sure Cure (6.25%nitrite)
12 oz brown sugar
4 oz #14 Black Pepper
4 oz Ground Corriander
4 oz Ground Ginger
2 oz Granulated Garlic
2 oz Crushed Juniper berries

1. Rub both sides of each belly, stack in vat meat to meat, skin to skin for 3 to 4 weeks (10 days if bellies are previously frozen).

2. Brush off excess cure mixture.

3. Hang on smoke racks and cold smoke for 6 hours. We use applewood.

4. Let hang to dry age.

As I mentioned before, the details of the speck process don't really matter. I really might as well have said (as I explained in previous posts):

1. Make a cold-smoked, dry-cured bacon, with pepper, ginger, coriander, garlic and juniper.

2. Dry it until it is shelf-stable.

The key to this is using the bellies of old Mangalitsa pigs that have eaten the right feed. Unless you get that right, your speck will be mediocre, because your meat will be relatively flavorless, and your fat will be heavy and probably rancid.

That's why so many of the best restaurants in the USA buy our stuff; we optimize the variables that matter, consistently producing the best.

Why give away the recipe? There's two reasons:

1. We sell the bellies. Giving away the recipe helps to sell the bellies.

2. It hammers home the fact that the quality of the raw material is so important.

Typical Mangalitsa Experience

I found this quote in a chatroom:

I met up with a friend for dessert at one of the best restaurants in town. It turns out she knew the chef, and we ended up with 5 courses and three desserts, including some off-menu stuff and my first taste of mangalitsa pork.

It was amazing, but I had already eaten dinner because I had only planned on having dessert out. Then I thought of you, and I finished every delicious bite. I hurt all the next day, but it was worth it.

The incredible quality of Mangalitsa pork sells itself.

Dining in Budapest

A quote from a website about Mangalitsa pigs in Hungary:

Speaking of mangalica pork, I will end this post by saying that that meat is unlike anything I have ever seen. The flesh of this Hungarian breed is dark rosy, verging on red. The meat is well-marbled and boasts at least four inches of fat on the back and belly. I’d say it’s worth traveling six thousand miles for that pig alone.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Upcoming Four-State Wiesner Tour

The Wiesners are touring the USA soon. They'll visit New Jersey, Texas, Michigan and California.

The events held in New Jersey in January 2010 at Mosefund farm attracted a neat bunch of people, who went out to New Jersey for three days so that they could learn how to kill, cut up, cure and cook Mangalitsa pigs.

In early 2009, there was a small class in Woodinville on similar topics. One student from that class is now building a USDA-inspected plant in his house's basement. This is one instance of a general phenomenon - the people with the interest and ability to pay to learn how to kill and process the best-tasting pigs known to mankind are often able to do things that normal people can't.

If you read his blog, he's saying he'll start with sausage. Sure - that's how he'll start. Then he'll add more HACCP plans and more products. It is a big deal just to get up and running. It isn't so hard to add more products later.

That illustrates what I'm talking about - the guy is building a USDA-inspected plant in his basement, on a shoestring. If I didn't know that David was doing it, I might think it was impossible. That fact that David says he'll do it tells me that not only is it possible, but that he'll almost certainly get it done.

At the Mosefund class in January (held on the farm of a famous Wall Street investment banker), besides an artist (with work hanging at the NY Met), there was a doctor, several guys who run meat processing operations and many respected chefs.

I don't know much about the various classes that will take place later this year, but I do have some advice for people:
  • If you want to attend any Mangalitsa class, you need to send the organizers your money to reserve a spot. A lot of people say they'll attend. The ones who pay first are the ones who get what they want.

Nipples & Udders, Deadhead Boars

A bunch of sows got culled for damaging their nipples. They probably stepped on them or snagged them. Obviously, if they don't have nipples, they can't feed their pigs.

Others are getting culled for drying up. It is terrible when a sow dries up and can't feed her pigs naturally.

These sows that have the problems have particularly short legs and low-hanging bellies. They have some of the best bodies, but if they can't do their job, they get culled.

There's a boar who is getting culled for not being able to consistently get his penis into a sow's vagina. The guy has one job to do - breed the sows - and he can't do it competently.

It is tough on the pig breeder - he hand mates the sows, so he has to watch the trainwreck unfold every time he tries to use this boar.

If the boar lived in the wild, he'd have it a lot tougher. He'd have to spend most of his time proving to the other boars that he was the toughest. We take all that pressure away - all he has to do is breed those sows. He's one of the best looking boars we've got - but if he can't do his job, he's got to go.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Raw Meat vs Cured Products

I saw a blog entry about a Chicago food business by Andrew Huff. He writes:
City Provisions' meats are all from farms within 200 miles of the store, and are butchered and cured on site, such as wonderfully smoky pastrami (which I had on dark rye with mustard), bacon and lardo.
Yet if you look at their sign, they've got meat products from La Quercia and Fra Mani. Those are both 200+ miles from Chicago - and one assumes their meat comes from farther than 200 miles from Chicago.

I found where the author might have got the 200-mile fact:
The raw meat case--with made to order cuts of meat (smoked on site)--contains meat raised from within a 200 mile radius of Chicago, and butchered on site.

"I believe it is important to know where your food comes from and what goes into getting it to your plate," said owner, Cleetus Friedman. "We want to be a focal point for the community and be a source for education about the local food movement."

So apparently they are just claiming the raw stuff comes from 200 or fewer miles away.

One thing I've noticed about people who buy cured products is that they'll make up reasons to buy and eat things if they taste good enough while ignoring reasons to not buy. You see people do that with Italian products, Spanish products, etc.

I think the tendency of people to break the rules on cured products, but not raw meat, is directly related to how addictive the products are. When the products are exceptionally good - e.g. Mangalitsa or Iberico - people don't demand that the stuff be local, sustainable, organic, humane, raised by macrobiotic Zen Buddhists, etc. If they bring that stuff up, its after deciding to purchase.

For instance, I've seen people eat Mangalitsa speck, decide to buy and then ask, offhandedly, ".. and the pigs are naturally & sustainably & organically raised and all that, right?"

I would presume that most drug dealers, even in Berkeley California, don't ever hear, "and this is organic, right?" or "was the crack made from fair trade ingredients, cooked up by staff given full health benefits and pensions?"

I've noticed similar attitudes in Trader Joe's customers. From what I've seen, their most important concerns are taste and price. They don't dig much deeper than that - perhaps because it might things more difficult. For example, from this article:
Some of that may be because Trader Joe's business tactics are often very much at odds with its image as the funky shop around the corner that sources its wares from local farms and food artisans. Sometimes it does, but big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe's products. Those Trader Joe's pita chips? Made by Stacy's, a division of PepsiCo's Frito-Lay. On the East Coast much of its yogurt is supplied by Danone's Stonyfield Farm. And finicky foodies probably don't like to think about how Trader Joe's scale enables the chain to sell a pound of organic lemons for $2.
By no means am I attacking Trader Joe's or its customers. Trader Joe's does a great job giving its customers what they want. Trader Joe's customers are practical, which is good.

What's great about Mangalitsa is that the stuff tastes wonderful enough - and truly different - that most customers stay focused on things like price, availability and other practical matters. That's even more the case with cured products, like these cured Mangalitsa hams and shoulders.