Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ham Appearance in Miami, The Mangalitsa Phenomenon

I find it fascinating to see how Mangalitsa pork gets eaten in the USA. I have a fairly personal relationship to it, because as of 2011, every Mangalitsa pig that has gone to slaughter in the western hemisphere in the last few years was produced by Heath Putnam Farms.* At one point or another my company owned that pig. We either imported it or farrowed it.

If you read about Mangalitsa pork being eaten in New York, Minnesota, California, Florida or Texas, it all came from pigs that were bred by Heath Putnam Farms. For instance, if you watch a video about Mosefund's Mangalitsa pigs, every one of those pigs was bred by us. If you read about Olli Salumeria Americana selling Mangalitsa products, without exception, the pigs that provided that pork were originally bred by us.

Sometimes the pigs change hands many times. E.g. we sold pigs to people in Michigan (Bakers Green Acres). Some of their pigs wound up in Indiana, in new hands. We've sold pigs to Mosefund in NJ, and some of those pigs wound up near Baltimore. Others went to Massachusetts.

In some cases, we and our customers sell our Mangalitsa pork to the same buyers. Nevertheless, all the pigs were bred by Heath Putnam Farms - so if there's a Mangalitsa product out there (made from domestic pork), I know the ultimately, it came from a pig that we produced.

I read about the pork on the internet. Often I've got no idea of the restaurant serving the stuff, whose pig it was, how they got it, etc. E.g. I have no idea how Binkley's got this Mangalitsa, but I know the pigs were mine at some point.

A similar phenomenon is seeing our pork (processed by Johnston County Hams) getting served in restaurants we've never heard of, in ways we couldn't have anticipated. For instance, tonight I found the image up top, in this review:
Still other dishes celebrate porcinity in its various other forms, including a small selection of various cured hams in the "Raw, Marinated and Cured" section that leads off the menu. Along with Spanish jamon serrano and Italian speck, on one visit there was country ham from Kuttawa, Kentucky, on another night some Mangalitsa ham (the new "it"-pig) from Smithfield, North Carolina (presumably from Johnson Country Hams). The hams are served simply, just thinly sliced, perhaps drizzled with a bit of olive oil, and with a sidecar of some spicy mustard. They need nothing more.
It is very odd when this happens. Who would have ever thought that pieces of my pigs would wind up processed and eventually sold and so nicely plated (as shown in the picture above). I'll probably never visit that restaurant. I may not even visit Miami in my lifetime - but they are eating my stuff there.

There is a downside to being so closely tied to the Mangalitsa phenomenon. For example, if someone eats a Mangalitsa product, and the farmer that produced it didn't fatten the pig right, so it gets rancid fat, that's not my fault. it takes a lot of skill to make great pork - and not everyone is up to the task. If someone makes some bacon that's too salty, or doesn't have the kind of smoke on it that you like - don't blame me (unless it actually is our bacon).

Similarly, if you don't like Magyars driving Mangalitsa pigs with traditional Hungarian pig whips, don't complain to me about it. Yes, I bred that pig he's chasing. But I sold him to another farm, who sold it to the Magyar with the whip. If someone attacks me for whipping pigs, I'm going to have a hard time resisting the urge to laugh.

* Although we recently sold some breeding stock, it takes so long to breed and fatten pigs that it will be quite a while before any pigs bred by other breeders go to slaughter. Also, we didn't breed all the pigs we've sent to slaughter; some of them were bred in Austria.


John K. said...

Heath -- I imagine there is a great deal of pride involved, knowing that your efforts have spread so far and wide. I have somewhat recently become aware of the Mangalitsa, and your work. I am impressed and fascinated! I'm eager to learn more, and to tasting this wonderful looking and sounding pork.

Heath said...

John K - I find the whole phenomenon amazing. If you need help getting a hold of some Mangalitsa, just ask.