Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eden Farms Selling Some of Our Pigs, Humans are Heedless

Eden Farms bought some pigs from Heath Putnam Farms. Their pigs are fat now and they'll sell them all soon.

They've sold some wholes and halves to chefs across the USA, so in a few weeks, many will get their first ever Mangalitsa pig half or whole.

I'm a little nervous about this because many chefs have a tough time with their Mangalitsa pigs. As I wrote here:
Unfortunately, very few chefs (or even meat processors) can buy a half a Mangalitsa, butcher it and process the meat into usable products - and make all that work pay. Even chefs who regularly use meat-type pigs in their restaurants can't typically do it, because Mangalitsa pigs are so different.
I gave the Eden guys this guide to pass on to their customers - my hope being that they'll cut the pigs in a way that allows them to make money on them, so that they'll want to buy them again.

Why that method works well:
1) Minimal trim

2) Separation of meat and fat into particularly usable pieces

A bunch of chefs will probably ignore our advice. They will have bad experiences. They'll blame the pig. There's nothing I can do to stop that.

I was reminded of this when I saw some Mangalitsa bellies, that had been cut at a typical American plant. When they took the skin off, they removed a lot of fat attached to the skin. They also cut out the spareribs, removing most of the meat:

In the end, the belly looked like a piece of fatback. The customer who got it said he couldn't use it the way he uses his normal bellies; he'll have to grind it up and use it as fat.

I tried to tell everyone involved about this risk. It didn't work. In the end someone - in this case the guy trying to sell that as a belly - is going to lose unnecessarily.

Our bellies

If you look at our bellies, you'll see we derib them. Leaving that minimal amount of meat on the belly increases its value tremendously. One looks like a slab of fat. The other has little red lines of meat in it. A world of difference to the customer!

Most of the customers who buy pigs from Eden Farms will probably cut the spareribs out from their sides, producing bellies like the sorry one shown above. Those chefs will probably like the ribs (super tasty) but they won't know what to do with the fat, which makes up most of the belly.

The fact that Mangalitsa spareribs aren't worth their weight in gold explains why we de-rib the bellies.

I suggested that Eden might as well give all the customers rib pullers (complimentary) - but even that wouldn't work. Most chefs won't listen. They'll probably cut the spareribs out. Many of them probably won't figure out after the fact that when they did that, they ruined their chance of making money on the bellies.

Hopefully the chefs who get the pigs will either want more pigs or some of our boneless ribloins, boneless sirloins, necks, de-ribbed bellies, etc.

Cut up jowls

Here's another sad picture. That's how your jowls turn out if you send them to a plant that skins (not scalds) the pigs and has a busy inspector who slashes the jowls. The result is a bunch of cut up, fairly worthless jowls. You can't make speck from those jowls, so they are worth a lot less than intact, skin-on jowls.

Our Missouri jowls (done at Swiss Meat) are big triangular slabs, not slashed, and people buy them again and again. I can sell them wholesale, to customers like Salumeria Biellese. It is great to have a product that people want, instead of something that you have to grind up or throw away.

I don't think anyone else produces such a stream of high quality jowls. Our Washington processor produces jowls like the cut up ones in the picture, explaining why Heath Putnam Farms conducts most of its processing as Swiss Meat now.

A lot of people are getting into the lard-type pig game, and they think its some kind of joke. They think they can just do whatever it is they do with regular pigs and make a lot of money.

For example, many chefs think they can buy a Mangalitsa pig, do whatever it is they do to regular pigs to it, and have it turn out great. It does not work that way. Typical mistakes:

1) Cutting the pigs in a way that's wasteful.

2) Not making money off the fat.

3) Overspicing the pork.

4) Grinding the fat at too high a temperature, leading to smearing of sauages or salami.

5) Rendering your lard suboptimally. Look - you'll have a lot of lard. You'd better do it right or you'll pay.

If you want to make the best, you need to do things properly. I listen to the guy who sold me my pigs, taught me how to fatten them and taught my processor how to kill, cut and process the pigs. If I do anything different than what he told me, I know I'm doing it at my own peril.

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