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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Raw Milk Cheese & Breeds

I try to keep the topic of this blog solely about Mangalitsa pigs, Mangalitsa pork and processing, but sometimes I write about other topics.

If you are someone thinking of building a raw milk dairy and making raw milk cheese (these sorts actually read this blog), what follows may interest you.

Jersey cows have a good reputation for producing fatty milk, and are relatively well-known, so some people think that getting a bunch of Jerseys and making cheese from their milk is automatically going to make their cheese the best.

It doesn't work that way.

I've got evidence (from some friends who produce some of the best cheese in the USA) that Normandes are probably better than Jerseys for cheese production. Do a little research and you'll see why.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Johnston County Hams - Photos

I just got these photos from Rufus Brown (at Johnston County Hams) of their hams (made from our pork). Although they aren't on their website yet, they've sold some to special customers who've called in (1-800-543-4267).
The top shows the ham. The middle shows the bacon and the next one is the shoulder, cut into a Spanish-style paletilla.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Corton & Heath Putnam Farms

Mangalitsa sirloin at Corton, NYC

I got a photo of our product at Corton, in New York City.

Corton is one of the 11 restaurants in New York City that have 2 or more Michelin stars. It is famous for only cooking sous vide. Supposedly it doesn't have a normal oven. The founder is Paul Liebrandt, a really nice guy. Here's me with Paul (seated):

Paul likes to buy the sirloin. It makes a nice pavé - unlike the neck, there's not big chunks of fat in there.*

Paul is our customer because DeBragga, our New York distributor, found him, figured out what he wanted and has been telling us what to do to keep him satisfied.

Customers like Paul are the best if you want to improve your product; they'll spot any flaws, call you up, and tell you to fix it. Other customers don't necessarily notice mistakes, or if they do, they don't care enough to call and tell you what they see. It isn't easy having customers like Paul, but if you can keep a guy like Paul happy, you've probably got a very high quality product that others want too.

* That isn't to say the neck isn't wonderful: customers like The Herbfarm and Per Se, based on their purchasing patterns, prefer the neck over the sirloin.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Customer Photos

The photos here are from a customer. He's a scientist. He cooks sous vide.

A lot of scientists and engineers are good at cooking, especially sous vide.

They gravitate to Mangalitsa, perhaps becuase of its interesting properties that make it so special.

Kids Visit The Herbfarm's Pigs

Bill Vingelen from the Herbfarm sent me this video of kids visiting The Herbfarm's pigs:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It Doesn't Pay to be the Biggest Pig

One thing I've learned from watching pigs is that the trusting pigs typically get slaughtered first. That's bothered me, because it seems so unfair - but it is how the world works, so there's an important lesson there.

I've got less concern about the following observation: it never pays to be the fastest growing pig that bullies the others and eats their feed. Such pigs generally get killed first.

I was reminded of that today because a feeder pig customer (John Besh's La Provence) said they were going to kill their biggest pig. They need some meat for an event on short notice, so rather than ordering in Mangalitsa, they'll just kill the biggest pig and take what they need.

Their plan was to grow their pigs out to full size - but circumstances intervened. The slower-growing pigs are likely to live the longest.

I don't know if they killed their biggest pig - but as a rule, when it is time to kill N pigs, you sort them and grab the N biggest pigs. Obviously the pigs that really stand out as big are most likely to go to slaughter.

Japanese Mangalitsa Marketing

Someone is marketing Mangalitsa in Japan, in a really neat way. I find the Hungarian images done Japanese-style very striking.

I imagine that the pig on the tote is saying, "Oh no! They are going to eat me!"

They've got a cute character to represent the Mangalitsa pig. It looks a shy.

They've got meat-porn photos.

They've got cured products. Using google translation, it seems they are say it "Mangarittsua pork pancetta"

If you look at their pancetta pictures closely, you can see they don't de-rib the bellies the way we do:

That stuff missing on the upper right piece of the pancetta is lean meat (and ribs) that probably got taken off as spareribs.

Heath Putnam Farms belly - deribbed, fat soft pounded out, trimmed for curing. No spareribs means there's maximal lean meat on the belly.

The result is that our speck is a bit more meaty than it would otherwise be. The top surface of the speck below is mostly lean.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lardo by Bob DelGrosso; Speck by Heath Putnam Farms - Foods in Season

Bob del Grosso's work.

Bob del Grosso, chef, CIA instructor and Mangalitsa fan, has a beautiful picture of some lardo he made from some of Mosefund's Mangalitsa pork.

Bob understands how to use Mangalitsa pigs - one slice at a time.

It is very difficult to sell fresh Mangalitsa bellies to individuals or restaurants, but if you make them into speck or other cured products, lots of people will buy small pieces of the stuff and wrap it around dry things, like bread, chicken or fish. They'll pay a lot per pound. So you can sell a lot of belly if you process and cut it up.

One thing I've noticed in the last year is that sophisticated restaurants that sell a lot of fish and make their own bacon like Mangalitsa bellies, because they can cure them and then have great bacon to put on their relatively dry fish.

So I've just started marketing the speck through Foods in Season. Foods in Season sells a lot of fish - several thousand pounds a week - so their customers need Mangalitsa speck to make the fish taste better. They don't know it now, but after they eat their way through their block of the stuff, they ought to know it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Herbfarm Visit & More on Simple Ham

Mangalitsa pigs at The Herbfarm, sporting huge jowls.*

I visited The Herbfarm yesterday. I dropped off some products for Ron, thanking him for helping to get the word out about the breeding stock sale. I brought him some lardo, belly speck and jowl speck.

I had the staff open up the speck and give me some feedback on it, making sure to leave plenty for Ron to eat.

Sous Chefs Chris Weber and Ben Smart have the most experience making cured Mangalitsa products there, so I definitely wanted to see what they thought. Everyone who ate it thought it was very good, including Chris & Ben.

Chris and Ben are pretty amazing; they can do the sorts of things that Mangalitsachef does.

eating some speck.

I don't think Chris and Ben have cold-smoked any Mangalitsa, so perhaps they'd never had Mangalitsa speck.

They definitely thought the jowl speck and belly speck would have different uses. It wasn't clear what those uses would be - they'd need to experiment.

Ben Smart holding belly speck and neck.

I brought a neck to show them, Ben took it an asked me to bring more next week. Ben likes to make cured Mangalitsa neck. Our Heath Putnam Farms Austrian Pig Neck - or a few cases of them - is what he needs.

Ben mentioned that they'd asked around to see if they could get some pig necks - but that nobody seemed to have them.** That's because in America, we don't typically make the most of our pigs' shoulders.

Chris gave me more info on his simple ham recipe, which I'll include here:

1) Take a frozen leg of Mangalitsa. Seam it out. Look here for more info (big PDF!).

2) Pack the meat in salt & sugar & herbs for 5 days. 3% salt by weight, 2% sugar by weight.

3) wipe/Knock the salt off. Hang the meat in a wine cellar (55F, approximately 70% humidity) for two months.

I'm thinking I want to make some of those. It tasted great considering it only took 65 or so days to make.

* One thing that impresses chefs is the size of Mangalitsa jowls. If you look at the pig up top, you'll see its jowl is huge, compared to my hand. Its jowls will probably weigh 6+ pounds each. The jowl is mostly fat. Meat-type pigs have very small jowls, and they don't taste as good.

** Although some sell a "pork collar" or CT Butt, it won't typically be as long and nice as ours. We break our pigs between ribs 5 and 6, because that's where we need to cut to get a paleta out of the pig. Most American butchers cut at rib 4, which destroys the shoulder muscles of the paleta, producing a relatively worthless picnic. You can cure picnics (as you can any piece of pork), but because of the cutting through the muscles, they dry out more than the paleta.

If you are reading this and want to learn how to cut pigs from our seam butchery experts, contact me; they get a lot of experience.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Italians Recognize the Superiority of Mangalitsa

Mangalitsa ham - made in Italy.

There's a small producer of hams in Italy using Mangalitsa hams. You can see it here (and read the Google translation here).

Although Italy makes a lot of hams, their typical pigs are quite lean, so they don't make as good cured products as Mangalitsas.*

Just as the Italians use Mangalitsa to make really special hams, Johnston County Hams is using our Mangalitsa pork to make the best made-in-USA hams for sale to the public.** They aren't using domestic American breeds to make their best.

Their first batch of hams is just about ready. Contact them directly to pre-order your Mangalitsa hams. As of today, you'll probably have to email or call and ask for the hams, because they aren't on the website yet.

Why do I mention this? Why does it matter what some obscure Italian "artisan" does?

I mention this because in the USA, Italians have a reputation for making cured products better than American ones. If an Italian artisan chooses to use Mangalitsa pigs to make products that are superior, what does that tell you?

I figure, either the guy is a crazy kook (and nobody will buy his overpriced hams for very long) or, more realistically, Mangalitsas make better cured products. When fussy Italians want to eat something great, like fussy pigs, they ignore the hams made from their own Italian pigs and go straight for the Mangalitsa.

* Most American pigs are lean like the Italian pigs, but producers typically cut corners on feed, resulting in pork unsuitable for making cured products. Of course, Wooly Pigs does things right.

** Restaurants like The French Laundry and The Herbfarm make Mangalitsa ham, but they won't sell you that ham.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Suisun Valley Farm's Mangalitsa Pigs

Shane of Suisun Valley Farm (Suisun, CA) sent me an email. It reminded me that it was about a year ago that he got his pigs.

Suisun Valley Farm (via Shane's wife Marie, an excellent butcher and saleswoman) recently sold a pig to The French Laundry, one of the best restaurants in the USA (and my first customer).

Soon they'll be breeding pigs.

Photo by Shane Petersen

Here's what the little guys looked like a few months ago. It is worth clicking on the photo to see the details, like the hair and curls.

Mangalitsa - the Healthy & Fatty Breed

There's a Hungarian article here about the Mangalitsa, the healthy & fatty pig. It makes the typical Mangalitsa-as-Wagyu comparison:
“So as “wagyu” beef could not be considered a real beef, the mangalitsa neither mangalica is a real pig, it is just an alternative for healthier diets. The meat of mangalitsa is shot* by grease; the spaces between cells are full of grease instead of water. When backing, it is not the water which comes out, but the grease, which means, that it is easier to roast throughout, the only difficulty is that we have to deal with the 70-72% of fat. What is noticeable before cooking is that the surface of the meat is fatter and more slippery, than the average meat.”

*shot by grease = supermarbled

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wooly Pigs Selling Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa Genetics

Swallow-belly Mangalitsa sow

I've always understood that in the end, if Wooly Pigs was successful, lots of people would want to own Mangalitsa pigs, and lots of people would have Mangalitsa pigs.

We brought the pigs to this hemisphere, built a production network, positioned Mangalitsa as America's super-premium pig breed, built a network of people across the USA fattening the pigs, brought Europeans to America to train our processor how to cut and process the pigs, got European experts to release a free (and the best book so far) on cutting pigs and so on.

The next step is to take it national (and counting Canada, international), which means selling breeding stock. This is going to be done in a way that maximizes the impact, just like we've done everything else. People who want to eat, cook, prepare or process Mangalitsa pork will be able to get it, because the pigs will be raised all over the USA* and perhaps Canada.

It has never been possible for Americans to easily acquire some of the best-tasting pigs in the world. Now it will be.

If you'd like to buy Mangalitsa breeding stock, please contact me -

* We've already got people raising them in Texas and Florida. They do just fine in the hot climate.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Request for Feedback on Selling Mangalitsa Breeding Stock

Swallow-belly Mangalitsa piglets, pork chop.

In 2007, I imported a herd of Swallow-belly Mangalitsa pigs. My business, Heath Putnam Farms, better known as Wooly Pigs, set out to be the first lard-type pork company in the USA. I have worked hard, achieving things I didn't think were possible.

At first few understood how unique Mangalitsa pigs are.

A few years later, it is clear that they are very special. Restaurants like Michael Mina, The French Laundry, The Herbfarm, Charlie Trotter's, Corton and Per Se buy Mangalitsa pork, either regularly or occasionally.

Just a few days ago, The New York Times wrote about Mangalitsa hams costing $79.99/lb. They cost that much for good reasons.

Had I not imported Mangalitsa pigs in 2007, there wouldn't be any American hams made from Mangalitsa pork. There wouldn't be any lardo as good as Europe's best, nor any speck. It is neat that I'm responsible for that.

Also, the business is economically significant. Two formerly underemployed pig breeders support themselves by breeding Mangalitsa pigs, and several farmers derive substantial income from fattening Mangalitsa pigs.

Because of Mangalitsa pigs, Swiss Meat and Sausage Company regularly employs seam butchery techniques. They cut pigs in special ways, and make products that other processors don't make.

Wooly Pigs, is considering offering Swallow-belly Mangalitsa breeding stock to the public. The business, besides selling feeder pigs and meat, would actively promote the sale of Swallow-belly Mangalitsa breed pigs.

In the beginning, it didn't make sense to sell breeding stock. There weren't that many to sell, and few knew about them. I was afraid people might keep them as pets or curiosities, not as food animals.

Now there are plenty of pigs to sell, and people understand their special culinary role. There's reason to think that we can establish the Swallow-belly Mangalitsa as our hemisphere's super-premium pig.

Feeder Pig Customers

As the map of feeder pig customers shows, farms from all over the USA have bought our pigs. There is a national market for Mangalitsa pigs and pork.

Mangalitsa has a great reputation because producers like Wooly Pigs, Red Mountain Farm, Mosefund, Suisun Valley Farm, Revival Meats (along with other farms that I haven't named) have maintained quality.

I've got a few concerns about opening things up:
  • I want people to breed the pigs and sell the offspring for meat, so that the Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed survives in the USA. It isn't about breeding pets, it is about making food.

It would be unfortunate if people started raising Mangalitsa pigs in such a way that they didn't taste much better than regular pigs. The most obvious concerns:
  • Corn-finished or slop-finished pigs.
  • Making cured products like bacon and ham from too-young animals.
  • The sale of crossbred animals with minimal Mangalitsa admixture as "Mangalitsa".

I am imagining the following sort of offer:
  • The first group of breeders has to promise to breed their gilts for a few turns, helping the goal of breed preservation.
  • They promise to fatten some of the offspring and sell them for meat. This works toward breed preservation, by building a market for the meat.
  • If people fatten them for cured products, they'll make sure the pigs are at least 9 months old before slaughter. Also, they'll promise to feed them low-PUFA feed (e.g. barley and/or wheat) for at least 60 days before slaughter. They won't feed the pigs corn, spent grains, slop, meat, etc. 60 days before slaughter.
  • If it isn't possible to follow the rules, they'll market the pork as "pork", without hurting the Mangalitsa reputation.
The first round of people are going to get them cheaper because they are going to behave in a way that is going to build the market for the pork, ensuring the survival of the breed.

This is a huge step for Wooly Pigs. We'll be giving up our monopoly on Swallow-belly genetics. The upside is that we are going to further cement the breed as America's super-pig, and build a much bigger market for Mangalitsa pork.

It would be neat if we got a bunch of Hungarian-Americans to raise "mangalica" pigs, and make traditional products from them.

I'm already on record as someone who has spent time and money to try to save rare breeds - particularly the ones that taste the best. I have told my putative competitors what genetics to acquire and how to feed their pigs to produce outstanding food - because I'd rather see more excellence in the world.

At the same time, my inability to help conserve Meishan genetics troubles me. Despite my best efforts, that breed is going extinct. That's really a shame.

It seems that with minimal effort, I can get others to help conserve the Swallow-belly Mangalitsa breed.

I would appreciate any feedback that readers of this blog have. Please just leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

James McWilliams on Vat Meat

This boar cart will seem primitive in a few decades.

James McWilliams has a thought-provoking article about vat-grown meat. Although he's a vegetarian (and many vegetarians strike me as irrational), he and I agree on many things.

I've thought about in vitro meat (and fat), and written about it previously. When we can produce meat (or tasty fat) in vitro, a number of interesting things will happen:
  • Battery chickens are going to be replaced. Pigs too. The bar to replace them is low.
  • We won't need as many pigs. They may get used in poor countries to dispose of waste, but in general, they won't have a place in our economy. The same thing that happened to horses and oxen will happen to cows, pigs and chickens.
My own feelings on vat-grown meat haven't changed, and are fairly similar to those of McWilliams: if it was possible to eat the food I want to eat without having to slaughter animals, I'd be happier. Of course, eating what I want to eat has required a lot more than just being willing to eat meat.[1]

The article mentions that some advocates of small agriculture are against vat meat. They fear that it will be worse for small farms. Perhaps it will - but is it really so great right now? Small farms producing commodities are always disadvantaged - because they aren't as efficient as their competitors.

It is hard to see that vat meat is more of a threat than Big Ag to small farms.

As I have written before, my focus has always been on the food and processing, the people and the live pigs, not the farm (physical location of agricultural activity). I care about the food, not whether or not it comes from a big or small farm, or a farm that is 61 versus 60 miles away.

[1] If it had been possible to eat the products I wanted to eat without importing pigs and setting up a breeding, fattening and processing network, that would have been a lot more convenient. Unfortunately, you can't have Mangalitsa products without the genetics (because they really are special), special fattening techniques and processing techniques.

Pigs are Always Growth Hormone Free

As mentioned in this article, pigs in the USA don't ever eat growth hormones.

Many consumers don't undestand this. It is routine to see otherwise educated people talking about chickens and pigs eating growth hormones, being full of growth hormones, etc.

If you are concerned about avoiding growth hormones, just skip all beef, hogget, lamb and mutton. You can eat pork all you want.

Of course, many pigs eat things that promote lean growth, like ractopamine (Paylean) and subtherapeutic antibiotics. Those are not growth hormones. Some people want to avoid eating animals that have eaten things that promote lean growth.

Wooly Pigs doesn't feed its pigs subtherapeutic antibiotics nor does it feed ractopamine, because doing so would work against our top priority - eating quality. Lean animals don't taste as good as fatty ones. Whether the chemicals are growth hormones or not, if they promote lean growth, Wooly Pigs doesn't feed them.

Per Se Orders our Mangalitsa

Per Se, one of the USA's best restaurants, just ordered a bunch of meat, including our speck. DeBragga will distribute it.

Devin Knell of the French Laundry - my first customer - told me to call them. It is great that years after getting his first Mangalitsa pig (and many pigs later), he still believes that Mangalitsa pigs taste the best.

The ability to provide chefs with never-frozen Mangalitsa, cut particularly well, makes it a lot easier to sell. I don't think Per Se would be buying if we only had frozen stuff to offer. Even though frozen Mangalitsa tastes a lot better than fresh meat from meat-type pigs, American chefs don't like to buy previously frozen stuff.

Kevin Nashan - Mangalitsa Processing Lessons

Chef Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe (St. Louis) is going to Swiss Meat & Sausage Company on 7/22 to learn how to kill and cut up Mangalitsa pigs - from the team that processes the most extreme lard-type pigs in the Western Hemisphere using European techniques.

He's the first chef to ever visit Swiss Meat to learn this stuff hands-on.

There have been classes held across the USA about this stuff - but this is the first class that will be taught at a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse.

Sending Whole/Half Pigs in NYC

This week, we are sending minimally broken pigs to DeBragga and Spitler (of New York City). The pigs and other meat will all leave Missouri chilled.

One pig is going to one of April Bloomfield's restaurants. The half pig is going to a fancy restaurant in New Jersey.

I hope they are ready to process their pigs. A lot of chefs aren't prepared to process a Mangalitsa pig, because it is so different. A lot of chefs buy once and then stop, because they don't have the skills to make money off a pig.

We're minimally breaking the pigs so that they can go into boxes. The boxes will be labeled so that on the other end, they can be reassembled. That's a bit how the internet works - information gets broken up into discrete pieces and reassembled.

What appears inefficient or fuel intensive isn't.

When a refrigerated truck moves down the road, carrying 40,000 pounds of food, it achieves spectacular efficiency.

In contrast, if a guy lives in New York state and fattens a pig for a New York restaurant, and had to take that one pig to slaughter, and then take the one carcass to the restaurant, keeping it cold the whole time, the cost , in fuel, time and money to distribute that one pig is a lot higher than if you take 20 pigs (or better yet, 150) in to a slaughterhouse in MO, get the pigs killed, cut up, boxed and distributed via less-than-truckload freight.

If you do things illegally - e.g. raise pigs out back the restaurant, kill them out back the restaurant and drag them into the kitchen for processing - you can be more efficient than using modern logistics. But that's impossible in New York City.

Thanks to working wtih DeBragga and Spitler - a company that can buy thousands of pounds of high-end meat at a time, it is possible to achieve some efficiency and reduce our prices, increasing demand.

This hints at why the meat business is so prone to consolidation. The bigger you can get, the more efficient you can be.

You see the same thing with meat distribution. Once you've got a sales, distribution and storage network, adding new products is no big deal. A small distributor, starting out with just a few products, is at a huge disadvantage - he's got to have a sales, distribution and storage system, yet he can only amortize it across a small volume. And some customers value convenience - e.g. being able to order everything from one vendor - which puts small distributors at a huge disadvantage.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New York Times on Mangalitsa Hams

The New York Times writes about imported Mangalitsa hams.

Although it doesn't mention Johnston County Hams's Mangalitsa Hams - made with pork from Heath Putnam Farms (aka "Wooly Pigs"), it does say:
The deep burgundy slices, streaked with mellow fat, are rich, salty and sweet, similar in color and flavor to Iberico ham from Pata Negra pigs, but more buttery, and half the price.
If anything, they sound better than Iberico hams. If you get the same flavor but they taste more buttery, and cost half the price, that's superb.

Similarly, our fresh meat in NYC costs half the price of iberico - and as far as I can tell, tastes the same.

There's another small victory for Heath Putnam Farms: the New York Times, when writing about the pigs, uses the spelling "Mangalitsa", and not "Mangalica", or any of the other spellings (e.g. Mangalitza). Of course, the people selling the imported hams would prefer that you spelled it "mangalica" - because that's how they label them in Spain.

This Mangalitsa spelling is the same as the previous article the New York Times wrote about the breed, from 2009. The spelling that I have promoted, "Mangalitsa" is, thanks to the New York Times, the official English spelling. That's good for Heath Putnam Farms - because Heath Putnam Farms comes up quite high when searching on the internet for "Mangalitsa", and Heath Putnam Farms owns the domain

When I talked to the reporter writing the article about Mangalitsa pigs, I had only two requests. The first - and really the only important one - was that he spell Mangalitsa correctly.

I (through the company Wooly Pigs) created the Mangalitsa phenomenon in the USA. The New York Times, even when talking about imported Mangalitsa products, helps me, because they pretty much have to use the word "Mangalitsa" to talk about the stuff.

Another thing - the New York times writes "woolly-haired Mangalitsa pigs". I completely approve of that. It doesn't create problems with our trademark, Wooly Pigs.

I just hope that one day they write about Johnston County Hams and their special hams, made from our pigs.

Fifth of July Mangalitsa Dinner

I got dinner at another customer's place tonight (read here about yesterday's). He bought a Mangalitsa shoulder from Bill the Butcher. I brought some jowl speck, which looked a lot like Rathbun's cured Mangalitsa jowl and a boneless rib-loin roast.

The cured jowl was a hit. The host served it on toast. He put it in the oven, so the speck cooked up a bit.

Rathbun's cured jowl, by the way, is mighty fine looking.

There was a 2-year old at the party. He really liked the speck. After he had his first toast, he just wanted to eat the speck, without the bread. His parents had to control him and stop him from just mowing his way through the speck.

The shoulder and rib-loins were a favorite too. The evidence: all the Mangalitsa that the host put down in front of the guests got eaten, and quite quickly. Meanwhile, at the end of the night, he was giving away racks of ribs. Yes, he did purchase a lot of ribs - but if they'd been Mangalitsa ribs, I don't think he'd have as many of them sitting in his fridge now.

Another sign that the 2-year old has good taste: his mom left him unattended. He went over to the Mangalitsa pork chops and started gnawing on them. He didn't gnaw on the raw beef patties at all - just the Mangalitsa chops.

I'm incredibly lucky to have such generous customers. Basically, they really appreciate great stuff. They like to share great stuff with others who appreciate it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July Mangalitsa Dinner

I celebrated the 4th of July with Bill Fleckenstein, Chris Carmarda and Chuck Miller and a few others. We ate Mangalitsa pork that Bill purchased from Bill the Butcher and some that I brought along, including some speck.

Chris Camarda makes some incredible wines. Chuck Miller runs a business that stores wines. Bill Fleckenstein is famous for running a contrarian investment fund and writes for MSNBC. There were other guests too - but those guys are the ones you can read about on the internet and in magazines. For example, here's a blurb about Chris:
Winemaker Chris Camarda has been named one of the 50 most influential winemakers in the world by Wine & Spirits and is considered to be among the pioneers who put Washington State on the map as a world class wine region.
If I keep doing what I'm doing, people may write the same stuff about me.

Pretty much all of them had, thanks to Bill Fleckenstein, already eaten Mangalitsa pork a bunch of times, either at Bill's house or at Monsoon. It was nice to share a Mangalitsa dinner with people who already know and like the product.

In fact, I suspect Nell's started buying Mangalitsa just for Bill and his friends. Now it is a different situation; it is selling well enough that it can't be just Bill and his friends buying.

On the way to the dinner, I stopped by Bill the Butcher in Madison Valley and had Bill (the butcher) slice my speck into lots of paper thin sheets. That was incredibly convenient for me.

Chris, Bill and Chuck liked the speck. Besides eating it straight, on bread, wrapped around crab, wrapped around figs or on top of some grilled loin, Chuck invented a something I'd never seen: he rubbed a piece of speck on a piece of corn, instead of putting butter on the corn.

That's one fun thing about introducing new foods to America - you get to see Americans create uses for the new product.

Bill and his wife served a ridiculous amount of excellent food and wine - a bunch of the wine was from France, and a bunch was made by Chris ('94 and '95). I'm not a wine person, so I felt totally in over my head.

Bill roasted a shoulder butt in his Green Egg. I brought some boneless loin roasts. I don't normally eat loin (I mostly sell it), so it was interesting. The loin was surprisingly juicy and fatty.

Anyway, Bill (Fleckenstein) said something interesting about Bill the Butcher (the business, not the person). He said he knew it existed for a while, but only recently went in. He'd heard they were organic, natural, grass-fed, local and so on - and to him, that implied it wasn't going to taste good. I suspect (but am not sure) that Bill is particularly dubious about grass-fed beef.

When he heard Bill the Butcher had bought some of my pigs, he went in to buy the pork, because he's a huge fan of Mangalitsa pork - because it tastes the best. Yet when he saw Bill the Butcher's wagyu, he could see that it was some really great beef - so he bought some. He didn't recall if it was organic, local, et cetera - he really doesn't care about that.

According to Bill Fleckenstein, he thinks Bill the Butcher should just emphasize that they've got the best-selection of best-tasting meat, and the best service - and forget about all that other intangible stuff. Because he doesn't care at all about that - as he put it - "hippy s--t" - and if anything, seems to think it gets in the way.

Later, his wife further mentioned that it would be really nice if Bill the Butcher had more vegetables, so she could make side dishes to go with the meat. She doesn't want to have to go to another store or farmers market just for good vegetables. Bill the Butcher already has eggs, which she appreciates.

In general, it was very interesting to hear them discuss this stuff. Although Bill routinely eats Mangalitsa at Monsoon Capitol Hill, Nell's and at home, he's not the sort to go to the farmers' market on the weekend. His wife isn't going to do that either. They've got the money and desire to buy tasty stuff, but they aren't going to go to a farmers' market to shop. A bit unfortunate, but that's just how it is.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lazy British Media

The British media continue to make fools of themselves with this article about a zoo saving Mangalitsa genetics.

This is the followup to another story, deconstructed here.

The new article features a Swallow-belly sow nursing some crossbred pigs. I say crossbred pigs because they pigs obviously weren't sired by a Swallow-belly Mangalitsa boar. As explained here, those pigs will be quite tasty, but they aren't helping the goals of breed preservation.

But the media don't care - as long as there's a cool pig photo and people can pat themselves on the back imagining that they are making the world a better place (by preserving heritage breeds that they know almost nothing about) -- great!

Studying Ozzy Osbourne

There's an article in the news about Ozzy Osbourne, and how people will study his genome, to attempt to determine how he can still be alive, having consumed so many things that would poison others.

I think people should study Mangalitsa pigs, to see how why the get so fat. And they should study Meishan boars, to figure out why they never get fat (or eat much) - despite the female Meishans (and barrows) getting very fat.

Bill The Butcher has More Mangalitsa Now

Bill the Butcher bought more pigs, so they've got more in stock now.

I visited their new Magnolia store, which opens tomorrow. Later that same day, after visiting Eric Banh at Monsoon, I visited their Madison Valley store, where they were selling the meat briskly.

One thing that's neat about Bill the Butcher is that the guys behind the meat counter are chefs, like Scott Molyneaux. Chefs can give their customers good advice.

A neat thing about Bill the Butcher is that they can sell people chef-ready (in German "Kochfertig") food. E.g. take a tenderloin, cut it down the middle and put a slice of speck in it and sell that to a customer. That's the sort of thing that Kropf in Austria would do.

When I sell stuff at the farmers market, I don't do that - because I'm not set up to process meat. E.g. I can't legally cut meat, wrap meat, portion meat, combine meat, slice meat, etc. If you want to do that stuff, you have to have the right space, equipment and permits - the sort of setup that a butcher has.