Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's So Great about Restaurant Groups Buying Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa Pigs

Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa Sow

Recently we've been selling Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa pigs to restaurant groups or their owners.

E.g. the Besh Restaurant Group has a farm behind their restaurant La Provence. They've got some Mangalitsa feeder pigs on that farm. They've just bought Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breeding stock from Heath Putnam Farms.

Similarly, Hidden Creek Farm in Wisconsin is affiliated with the SU Restaurant Group, which owns several restaurants in Milwaukee. They have some Mangalitsa feeder pigs. They've put Mangalitsa pork on the menu at Carnevor. Very soon, they'll buy their own Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breeding stock.

What's so great about this? Basically, once these guys have the breeding stock, they'll be producing and using the pigs in their restaurants - for years. The fact that they've committed to Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa pigs means they are deeply committed to using Mangalitsa fat, for the long haul.

They are on-track to their restaurants into Mangalitsa-powered kitchens. They are doing it because they know they are going to better off for it.

Read this blog - or eat some Mangalitsa products - and you'll learn that Mangalitsa pigs, fattened properly, produce some of the world's best meat and fat. You can make things from their meat and fat that you can't make from other breeds of pig - because the Mangalitsa breeds are totally different from all common pig breeds. Mangalitsa pork is in its own category.

Once these restaurants start killing pigs, they'll be making all sorts of Mangalitsa-specific dishes, like this one above from Alon Shaya at Besh's Domenica. That's Mangalitsa belly - basically, a small amount of ridiculously tasty fat.

Unless you actually eat Mangalitsa belly, you cannot imagine how good it is. You can't really communicate how good that dish is with words - as this 2008 piece from food writer Rebekah Denn shows.

You can't make a pork belly dish like that from other pigs. Its Mangalitsa or nothing.

The fact that these restaurants will use Mangalitsa pork means that when you get bacon at a Besh restaurant, it will look like this stuff above. It tastes incredibly good.

Also, the fact that these guys are going to own the pigs means they'll be using lots of lard, because if you've got Mangalitsa pigs, you've got a lot of lard. And if you feed your pigs right, and render the lard correctly, it is amazingly good.

Chef Erick Loos of La Provence was telling me he made a dessert of from lard, gelatine and other ingredients. He said it is fantastic. It would be probably gross if it wasn't Mangalitsa lard.

They are going to market the fat to their customers. Them having the pigs means more and more, people are going to understand that there's pork, and there's Mangalitsa. That there's the gristly, chewy nasty fat typical of common pigs, and then there's the delicious melt-in-your-mouth Mangalitsa fat.

In any case, they won't be talking about how great their butter and olive oil is; they'll be talking about how great Mangalitsa lard is, how they cook nearly everything in it, and how their restaurants are some of the few in the USA with such incredible ingredients.

I'm going to lose some business by selling the breeding stock. They aren't going to buy as many feeder pigs, because they'll be breeding their own. Nevertheless, my company is going to win, because these guys are going to communicate to the other potential customers that they need to be using the stuff that we are selling.

I can talk about how great Mangalitsa lard, lardo, guanciale and bacon is until I'm blue in the face. If chefs do it, particularly if famous chefs like John Besh do it, people listen.

The chefs that create demand for the fatty cuts are the ones that ensure that the Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed has a future.

As I've explained before, my company has done a lot to try to bring "Mangalitsa technology" to the USA. It has taken years, but there's lots of people across the USA who understand how special these pigs are.

I'm hoping one of these chefs will eventually come out with a definitive Mangalitsa cookbook, explaining how to take a whole Mangalitsa pig and turn it into food. The guy furthest along that is Mangalitsa Chef - he's been releasing recipes like mixtapes.

Right now, my goal is to prepare these restaurant groups to beat the pants off their competition with Mangalitsa. We want to make sure that they know how to:
  • Fatten the pigs to reach their goals.
  • Kill & cut up the pigs to make the most money.
  • Turn the Mangalitsa pork into the best food possible.

I'm a bit surprised at how this is working out. I thought that smaller restaurants would buy pigs and do the same thing. Instead, we are seeing restaurant groups committing to Mangalitsa pork.

My understanding is that the restaurant groups are big enough and smart enough to invest the the resources and reap the benefits of switching to Mangalitsa. The smaller restaurants haven't figured it out yet, or don't have the resources.

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