Sunday, January 16, 2011

Talked with a Fatback Expert Today

We're selling fatback to a guy distributing salo (aka "lardo") to stores serving the FSU* community.

He's buying our fatback. Ours costs more than the stuff from Spain, but he says ours is of higher quality than the imported stuff.

I asked him for more info. What I learned: the Iberico fatback has more gristle in it than ours, and it doesn't melt as nicely on the tongue. But, the price of the stuff, delivered, is under $2/lb.

Iberico pork production

$2/lb delivered sounds cheap, until you consider that the iberico bellota fatback is a by-product of an extremely efficient pig production and global logistics system.**

The first lardo I've seen from Iberico fatback is here. I would guess that if the stuff takes off and more processors start making it, the spread between the raw material and the finished product ought to shrink quite a bit.


* Former Soviet Union: Russian, Ukrainian, Baltic, etc.

** As explained in "Considerations on ethics and animal welfare in extensive pig production: Breeding and fattening Iberian pigs":
The extensive pig production in Spain is traditionally characterised by: the use of the Iberian pig, an autochthonous breed perfectly integrated into the environment in which they have developed; a long duration of the productive cycle for about 23–24 months; a high level of animal welfare level, specially in the fattening process with freedom of movement and feeding base on natural sources: acorns and grass, and an equilibrated “dehesa” agro-forestry system where this activity has been developed. Nowadays, the introduction of more intensificated methods due to the increasing demand led to important changes, such as: the shortening of the productive cycle (10–12 months); freeing from the territorial base; changes during the fattening period, fattening with mixed feed and less animal freedom. All these facts may implicate a loss of the animal welfare condition. These circumstances lead us to question it from an ethical point of view.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

These photos of Iberico production are not representative of all pig farms in Spain. The best product comes from pigs that are ranged under oak trees and receive much of their feed in the form of acorns. This product is labeled "de bellota". Compare your product to the best in order to see where your product stacks up. -Jim Dunlop

Heath said...

Jim -- there's no way any one farm could be representative of all pig farms in Spain.

However, in the last few years, the Spanish went from producing 2 million Iberico a year to 6 million. They did that by raising approximately 4 million head intensively, like the pigs shown in the photo.

Also, it may surprise you to find this - but you can look it up if you don't believe me - most of the pigs marketed as "iberico" live 9-12 months indoors - in "factory farms" - like most pigs. At the end of their lives, they are put outdoors to forage.

In addition, the ones that get put outdoors get rings put in their noses, so they won't root. And the females get spayed, so they won't get knocked up by wild boar.

Heath said...

Jim -- Here's more for you:


"The extensive pig production in Spain is traditionally characterised by: the use of the Iberian pig, an autochthonous breed perfectly integrated into the environment in which they have developed; a long duration of the productive cycle for about 23–24 months; a high level of animal welfare level, specially in the fattening process with freedom of movement and feeding base on natural sources: acorns and grass, and an equilibrated “dehesa” agro-forestry system where this activity has been developed. Nowadays, the introduction of more intensificated methods due to the increasing demand led to important changes, such as: the shortening of the productive cycle (10–12 months); freeing from the territorial base; changes during the fattening period, fattening with mixed feed and less animal freedom. All these facts may implicate a loss of the animal welfare condition. These circumstances lead us to question it from an ethical point of view."

If you want to read more on that, along with my analysis of why this system predominates, just click here.