Saturday, July 16, 2011

Various Pork News Items

Raw Bacon

Raw bacon from Herb Eckhouse (La Quercia). Herb is making pancetta (aka Bauchspeck). He's marketing it as "raw bacon". Herb is a very smart guy. I think he's doing this to try to take the product mainstream.

I should mention: Herb buys Mangalitsa from time to time.

Although Herb isn't using Mangalitsa pigs to make this product (yet!), I respect him for trying to sell ready-to-eat bacon to Americans. It has been a long time since shelf-stable bacon was a staple in America. From what I've read, even back then, Americans liked to cook the stuff[1]. So wish Herb luck!

This issue demonstrates how difficult it is to sell new food to people. E.g. jerky is raw meat. Americans buy that. But a bunch will probably never even try "raw bacon". Maybe if he called it "bacon jerky" the people would buy it[2].

I suspect Herb is using pork from Tamworth breed pigs[3] because he wants a breed-specific product that tastes pretty good, without it being too fatty[4]. You can see a wonderful blog post comparing "raw bacon" from Mangalitsa pork and Tamworth pork on this food blog by onevanillabean.

As recently as 1951, a lot of Americans (and Germans) knew what this "raw bacon" was, and considered it a staple. Many chefs and butchers will eat raw bacon; they aren't afraid of getting sick. I've eaten raw bacon - the Mangalitsa bacon from Chef Shop was so good that once I started, I couldn't stop.

So three cheers for raw bacon!

I would suggest that Herb tell people to cut it thin and melt it on flatbread (pizza) or toast. Restaurants that make lardo, pancetta and guanciale from Mangalitsa pigs (e.g. Serious Pie in Seattle and Domenica in New Orleans) do well that way.

I've written a lot about Bauchspeck on this blog. The fact that Herb is trying to sell it is a great thing.

GMO pigs

Researchers have used genetic technology to develop some improved pigs. That's big news. Even if we ban that technology, you can bet the Chinese will adopt it.

China's Porkflation Problem

The Atlantic Monthly has a neat article on China's pig situation. There's record high pork prices causing trouble. Record high corn prices have farmers refusing to jump into pig production. The reasons given in the article make a lot of sense. E.g. "It's not like we can just instantly raise pigs when prices are high, it takes time."


[1] probably because it was filthy and/or adulterated, making it shelf-stable but not ready-to-eat.

[2] This phenomenon shows you how difficult it is to convince people to try new foods. Just as with pigs, you want them to do something that's good for them. Often they respond by wanting no part of it.

[3] The article mentions that the Tamworth is a "bacon-type" breed. To some extent, it still is (despite the breed changing to stay popular), because the modern version of the breed has small hams.

Tamworths efficiently product bacon, just as modern chickens efficiently produce chicken breasts. That doesn't mean that Tamworth pigs produce the best-tasting bacon, just as modern chickens don't produce the best-tasting chicken breasts.

Mangalitsa pigs are most efficient at producing lard, but they do also produce the best meat (and their fat is the best too - the catch is that Mangalitsa costs more than all aternatives).

[4] the fact that Herb won't use Berkshire pork tells me he probably doesn't want Mangalitsa bellies, as they'd only be less lean.


flipster said...

Maybe, we should just call it pancetta and leave it at that, not raw bacon. I have seen Americans yukk when you serve them squid, but serve them calamari and the same people wind up licking their plates with gusto.

Heath Putnam said...

Herb is a very smart guy. You have to figure he thought this one out.