Monday, December 31, 2007

Feedback from a German Customer

We got some positive feedback from a German customer today. It was very nice to get her report:
... I wanted to let you know just how much I have enjoyed the
pork. Today for lunch (just like in Germany) we had some of
the most wonderful pork chops I have tasted in a very, very
long time. Even the fat tasted good, and after cooking it, my
little old house even smelled good. Usually when I cook
store-bought pork, my house smells rather unpleasant for days
after cooking it (I don't have an exhaust in my kitchen), but
today the little that lingered was nice.

I also gave some ham to my friends in Deer Park for Christmas,
and they loved it... Before this year is over, I wanted to
let you know that the chops and the ham were exquisite!!!!!
Thank you for doing what you do.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Note From a Customer

Just last week, a new customer showed up and bought a huge amount of boneless loin roasts from me, to feed 26 people. I was very nervous about this - he bought a lot of expensive meat, and if it didn't turn out well, that could be very bad for Wooly Pigs.

I'd heard from some people that our meat was tough (older pigs are tougher, in addition having better flavor), so I gave the customer specific instructions not to cook the meat too quickly. Here's the note he sent me today:
Hi Heath,
Just had some bacon for breakfast. Delicious.
The loin roasts were fantastic. I thawed them, salted them
overnight, took them and rinsed them under a dripping faucet for a
couple of hours,
browned them on the top of the stove and roasted them in the oven @
175 degrees for 5.5 hours (with a little bacon on top---don';t need
much). Took them out and let them rest for 40 min .
Couldn't have been better. Tender, juicy with amazing flavor. 25
happy guests. I told everybody about you, too.
Merry Christmas....
There's a number of things he did right: he brined the meat, but then soaked out the excess salt (a potential problem with frozen meat). And he roasted the meat very slowly - with the addition of some bacon, to make it that much better. He did a better job than I did with my boneless roast - I had mine on too high, and as a result had some chewy connective tissue in there.

Mangalitsa Sows Make Good Mothers

Some Mangalitsa sows have been farrowing lately. It has been a bit ridiculous, because the Mangalitsa sows are very good mothers.

For pigs, being a "good mother" means a few specific things. The above photos shows a Mangalitsa sow being a good mother - that hair standing up on her back means she's ready to attack anyone that gets close to the piglets.

When her time comes, a good mother goes to a hut or builds a nest out of vegetation. She lies in there and farrows (or "pigs"). The piglets come out and get their first milk. The sow doesn't get up much or move around, because if she does, she might trample the piglets.

A bad sow lays in an exposed place and farrows, and her piglets get trampled or eaten by other pigs. Or she moves around a lot in her nest, trampling her just-born piglets. Gestation crates can turn a bad mother into a productive sow, by stopping her from killing her piglets - but some folks think they are cruel to the sows.

If she's a good mother, she'll lay with her nose pointed out the hut or nest, so that she can bite anyone that comes close. If she's a bad mother, she lie with her nose in the hut or nest, and the piglets pop out into the cold, perhaps freezing.

If she's a good mother, when humans or anyone else comes to investigate, she'll attack them and chase them off. Even if the human has been feeding them for months and treating them nicely, a good mother will attack. The better mothers attack with less provocation.

A good mother stands up and gets upset when her piglets make distress calls. That prevents her from crushing them inadvertently: if she starts to crush them, they squeal and she jumps up, upset, ready to attack. A bad mother ignores them, perhaps crushing them to death. It can take a very long time for her to do it. She'll even do it in front of humans, as they watch, which is simply infuriating.

We've got two Mangalitsa sows who just had litters - #12 and #20.

Sow #12 will let you go up to her hut and scratch her nose. If you try to reach in the hut, she'll get upset and bite. Sow #20, in contrast, won't let you get near the hut. She'll come out and chase you away. #20 is the better mother. Both of them will probably wean all their piglets - but #20 is probably the better mother.

The farrowing reminds me of the Certified Humane standards - we'll never count as humane by them, because we can't get those piglets castrated in the first week. Even if you could keep the sows away physically, castrating the piglets in the first week would traumatize the sows, because they'd hear their piglets distress calls and get very upset. You'd rather traumatize the male piglets that are getting castrated more than your sows, because you need a working relationship with the sow, whereas that male pig, once castrated, is certainly heading to the slaughterhouse.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reflections on No-Nitrite, No-Nitrate Bacon and Meat Quality

Our bacon is about to be sold in a specialty store, so I thought I'd better do some market research and see how our bacon stacked up against what they've got already.

They had two bacons:
  • Applegate Farm's Sunday Bacon - a no-nitrite, no-nitrate bacon, costing about $8.50/lb
Nitrates and Nitrites

First off - a lot of people are worried about nitrites and nitrates in their meat. So they seek out no-nitrite/no-nitrate products, and pay a premium for it.

However, if their goal is to avoid nitrates and nitrites, consumers need to do more than buy no-nitrate, no-nitrite bacon: many no-nitritte/no-nitrate products use sea salt and celery juice -- because they are natural sources of nitrates and nitrates.

The reason that manufacturers resort to this is simple: if you don't use nitrates/nitrites, the meat turns an unappetizing gray. People are afraid to eat the meat, which kills sales. This trick of using sea salt and celery juice is similar to companies using grape juice concentrate in a product and throwing "no sugar added" on the label.

I don't worry at all about nitrates or nitrites in my food. Almost all Austrian books - like Wagner's "Räuchern, Pökeln, Wursten. Schwein, Rind, Wild, Geflügel" start by explaining that you get more nitrites and nitrates in your tap water and vegetables than you do from cured meat products.

If people want to avoid nitrates and nitrites, you should go for the low-hanging fruit: just eliminate tap water from your diet, and stop eating vegetables. Then you can eat all the cured meat you want.

Taste Test

Here are the three bacons: Applegate, Organic Prairie and then Wooly Pig's bacon:

I put in two slices of the Wooly Pigs bacon because neither piece is very representative of what I sell. The right is too lean and the left has a few spots on it. I figure those spots are from the processing - but I don't know - I pull those ones and eat them at home, so that customers get bacon that looks as ideal as possible. Here is a prettier picture of my bacon.

First off, the top two bacons - the commercial ones - are from young hogs. You can see from how narrow the bellies are. That's because those hogs were probably 5.5 months, while mine was at least a year old. The reason is simple - older hogs produce the best cured products. If you want the best bacon, you need old hogs.

I've had people complain to me that the bacon was too wide. I can't remedy that right now. Historically, today's hogs are slaughtered a lot younger and smaller than they were in the past. In the future, we'll have Mangalitsa bacon, which, when produced from year-old hogs, will look a lot like the bacon made from 6-month old modern hogs. Looking at them side-by-side, I'm shocked at how wide my bacon is - but that's just how it is; bigger hogs have wider bellies.

Another difference is the thickness of the bacon: the commercial bacons are thin-cut. My processor likes to do thick-cut bacon, so mine is thicker. Mine doesn't crisp easily, due to the thickness.

Here's the bacons cooked:

When I tasted the bacons, here's what I noticed:

  • Applegate Farms is smoky, but there wasn't much meat flavor. Compared to most bacons, the fat tasted quite good.
  • Organic Prairie was less smoky. There was a little more meat flavor. The fat on this tasted better than that from Applegate Farms.
  • Wooly Pigs bacon had much stronger meat flavor than either commercial bacon. Older meat just tastes more meaty. It is tougher, but the curing and smoking takes care of that.


If I couldn't eat my own bacon, I'd probably not eat either commercial bacon - because they didn't have enough flavor. I'm not a die-hard carnivore; before I had my own hogs, I wasn't eating much meat. If I had to pick one of the two commercial bacons, I'd go with Organic Prairie, because it tasted a bit better - but I'd wish it had a bit more smoke, like the Applegate Farms.

When I brought home the other two bacons, I was really nervous. I figured that if my bacon didn't taste substantially better than them, I was going to be in big trouble. Having eaten them, I'm not afraid anymore - my bacon clearly has more flavor than theirs. And that's not due to any magic - if you control the breed, feed and raising of the hogs for maximum flavor, that's what you get.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mangalitsa Piglets Running in the Snow

Here's a video of Mangalitsa piglets running around in the snow.

I want to slaughter 10 of these in January and sell them. They'll be about 6 months old and should be very good for fresh meat - e.g. frying, roasting, grilling, etc. They aren't recommended for cured products - they are too young.

They only weigh about half the weight of modern breeds - 120# versus 220#. Of course, their meat is substantially more marbled and flavorful than that of modern hogs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Please Don't Overcook My Bacon

Besides people cooking my hams (that have already been cooked) and complaining that they are too dry, I've also heard that my bacon "cooked down into very small pieces (smaller than other offerings)."

Please don't overcook the bacon.

As noted by mamster, "It’s hard to get it at all crispy without, as Heath warned, overcooking it, but if you like a thick, chewy bacon, this one has superb flavor."

At 160F the bacon is done. It should have glistening fat sticking to it. Please eat it then! If you cook the bacon too much, that fat renders out, leaving just a small amount of overcooked meat.

When I cook it, I stop when it looks like in the photo above.

Food Labeling

Almost everyone takes food labeling for granted - but it is a huge deal.

Obviously it helps that we've got standards. E.g. a restaurant can shop for "boneless pork loin roasts", and they have some idea of what they are getting. It isn't OK to call a trotter (pig foot) a pork chop. It helps that there is an official definition of what a pork chop is, and what a trotter is.

The federal governments FMIS (part of USDA) regulates the labeling of meat, under the FMIA and other laws. As food labeling is an important and complicated issue, they provide a "comprehensive, user-friendly document on the basic food labeling requirements for meat and poultry products" to help everyone. As it explains, mislabeling a product can have huge consequences:

If a product is deemed misbranded, its manufacturer faces a wide range of penalties that can be imposed by FSIS. These include withholding (rescinding) the use of labeling; product retention (prohibiting shipment); product detention (prohibiting sale from anywhere in the chain of commerce); request for product recall, press releases, and/or fines; and criminal prosecution. In addition, the facility producing misbranded product faces the possibility of inspection suspension or withdrawal.
The NAMP "Meat Buyers Guide" is one specification of pork cuts. You typically see things quoted with NAMP codes - like NAMP 412A for "center-cut pork loin roast".

Another set of specifications is from the USDA's AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service). They've got their IMPS (INSTITUTIONAL MEAT PURCHASE SPECIFICATIONS) documents. For pork, fresh pork (series 400), says, for example, that item 413A is a "pork loin, roast, boneless", defining it from item 413, which is defined from item 410, which says:

Item No. 410 - Pork Loin - The loin is that portion of the side remaining after removal of the shoulder, leg, belly, and fat back leaving a portion of the blade bone, its overlying lean and fat, not less than two (2) sacral, but no caudal vertebrae on the loin. The shoulder and leg shall be separated from the loin by straight cuts that are reasonably perpendicular to the split surface of the backbone. The outer tip of subscapularis muscle shall not extend past the center of the base of the medial ridge of the blade bone. The belly side shall be removed by a straight cut (a slight dorsal curvature is acceptable) which extends from a point which is ventral to but not more than 3.0 inches (7.5 cm) from the longissimus on the shoulder end, to a point on the leg end ventral to but not more than 1/2 inch (13 mm) from the tenderloin. Surface fat shall be trimmed to an average of 1/4 inch (6 mm) in depth or less except in the hip bone area. The hip bone area is defined as the area contained within two (2) parallel lines, 2.0 inches (5.0 cm) on either side of the anterior end of the hip bone and associated cartilage. Fat in the hipbone area shall be trimmed to the same contour as the rest of the trimmed fat surface of the loin. At least 2.0 inches (5.0 cm) of the false lean shall be exposed. Lumbar and pelvic fat shall be trimmed to 1/2 inch (13 mm) or less in depth. The tenderloin shall remain intact. The diaphragm and hanging tender shall be removed. The spinal cord groove shall be evident on at least 75 percent of the vertebrae.
Until very recently, I had no idea of how complicated and legalistic all this is.

My First Ever Bonless Pork Loin Roast

One of the most valuable parts of a pig is the loin. It is essentially solid muscle without much connective tissue, so it is easy to prepare. It gets turned into many things - chops, steaks, roasts or my favorite - Canadian bacon.

I had the loins from our very special hogs boned out and turned into roasts. Boneless pork loin roasts are a very special product: essentially pure loin meat. They are expensive, because boning out reduces the weight, and has a high labor cost. But boning them out results in meat that is extremely easy to prepare and eat.

I'm more of a bacon, sausage and chops sort of guy - but I figured I had to make a boneless pork loin roast, so I'd know my product. So below are photos of me preparing my first ever boned out loin roast. The basic steps were:
  • Chop all the vegetables.
  • Rub the meat inside and out with the garlic.
  • Put the parsley inside the roast, close as best as possible.
  • Make the bed of veggies under the roast, cover the roast with the veggies. Insert meat thermometer.
  • Roast at 325 to an internal temperature of about 150F. That takes a few hours.
  • Let it rest for 15 minutes.

First, the vegetables. This took the most time - chopping the parseley, carrots, onions and cabbage:
Here's the meat about 5 lbs:

And here it is opened up:

Rubbed with garlic and covered in parsley:

In the pan on the bed of veggies, covered up and with the meat thermometer:

Done cooking, with some slices taken off:

And then on the plate - please see that first picture at the top of the post.

All in all, it was very easy. I let the thing cool, made my meal-size portions of meat and vegetables and then froze them. My wife and I ate them over the next few weeks.

The meat was extremely tender, juicy and flavorful. The accompanying vegetables were really tasty.

A boneless pork loin roast is an expensive cut, but it was very easy to prepare, and the results were superb.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our Hams are Ready to Eat

I got an email from a customer today about her pork. She said she loved her pork chop, but that the ham was too dry. That really threw me for a loop. Many people who've eaten our ham have said it is the best ham they've ever had.

A few questions later, I discovered that she'd cooked her ham, because she figured it needed cooking. That's a mistake!

As the USDA explains, you have to read the label to know whether or not you need to cook the ham:
"Hams that must be cooked will bear cooking instructions and safe handling instructions."
"Hams that are not ready to eat, but have the appearance of ready-to-eat products, will bear a prominent statement on the principal display panel indicating the product needs cooking, e.g., 'cook thoroughly.' In addition, the label must bear cooking directions."
I don't cook my ham. I typically put a slice of bacon in the frying pan, render some fat and then put the ham in. I brown it a bit, then get it out of the pan and eat it.

Or I take the ham out of the package, warm it a bit, and eat it - like in a sandwich.

Another guy I know puts some sauce on it, then roasts it a bit - but he doesn't cook it - because then it would be too dry.

Seattle, Bacon and visitors to our Farmers Market Tent

My wife and I went the U-District Farmers Market in Seattle yesterday. It was our first time. We received a very warm welcome, partly because we also got mentioned in the Seattle PI. We had a great time, and plan to be there all winter.

We sold a lot of bacon. It helped a lot that we had a grill with bacon on it, so people could smell our superior meat and fat quality. It will be great if we get some feedback from our customers next week when we are there.

Most people eat bacon, but they don't know that it comes from pork bellies. People make bacon by wet curing and cold smoking pork. That pork can be belly, in which case you get bacon. When done to the shoulder, you get shoulder bacon - aka "Kansas City bacon."

Shoulder bacon is leaner than bacon. It is a very nice product, and very pretty! When Sara Dickerman visited with us, she took away some jowl bacon and shoulder bacon. Sara is savvy about bacon! You can see the shoulder bacon here - it is the rectangular bacon at the top of the photo. Sara Dickerman visited our tent yesterday with her husband and son. Sadly, we didn't have any jowl bacon for her. And we won't have any next week, either - but we'll have shoulder bacon.

We bumped into Seth Caswell there. He got a pig from us a while back, which he's using at the Stumbling Goat. Although I was very tired (from getting up very early), it was great to see his photos of our pig done "four ways" - a dinner composed of 4 dishes from different parts of our pig. It really looked great.

Seth explained that he's been wet curing much of the meat, in several different brines - so only now (after several weeks) is he able to taste the stuff. He's very happy with it, of course.

I asked how our fat compares to that from pigs from other producers. He explained that much of theirs isn't usable. I understand exactly what he's talking about: yesterday some people came buy our stall, and they ate some bread dipped in our bacon grease. The fat from our hogs is so "light" and "clean" that it tastes delicious. I can't imagine doing that with any normal pork - it would just be gross.

The fact that other pigs don't have as good fat as ours (likely due the feed) is quite sad: there's a lot of fat on a pig, so if it is unusable, that's a lot of waste. Also, fat is more expensive to produce than protein, compounding the problem.

Like most chefs who buy our hogs, Seth also makes stock, reduces it and uses it like a sauce. It tastes great, and is very versatile in the kitchen. So he's using the meat, fat and bones. When you consider how much sweat and tears goes into each pig, it is disgustingly wasteful to transport a hog all the way to someone, only to have him throw away a bunch of it.

We were extremely happy to sell people leaf lard yesterday. We sold it how it came from the processor: 10 lbs, 10 lbs and a 6 lb package. I hope those guys are able to render their lard successfully. Sadly, small USDA plants won't typically render lard for small farmers. Too much hassle. The processor was actually suprised that we wanted the stuff - normally people just donate it to the processor, who turns it over to a renderer. I asked them to bag the stuff smaller for retail customers, but they made it clear that they absolutely didn't want to do it.

Heidi Broadhead of Edible Seattle also stopped by, along with her husband and son. Heidi was the first journalist to ever visit the farm, and the first American not associated with Wooly Pigs to ever try our Mangalitsa.

Other visitors included our publicist, Hsiao-Ching Chou, and Kim Prohaska, both of Suzuki + Chou Communimedia. Hsiao-Ching brought her daughter, who looked great ensconced in her baby carriage. It was fun to watch Hsiao-Ching feed her our bacon and sausage!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pork Chop Comparison, Increased Meat Consumption

A customer recently bought some pork chops from me. They were from our year-old Berkshire hogs. She cooked them side-by-side with some pork chops from Costco, to see if ours were really worth the price.

Costco is supposed to have good stuff - but they don't have pork from year-old free-range Berkshire hogs, finished on barley and hay.

She said she browned them each (in separate pans), then put them in the oven for 40 minutes at 320F. In comparison to ours, the Costco ones were mushy, "flat" tasting and bland. "Greyed out" was how she described the Costco product. She and her husband tasted a few bites of each porkchop, but in the end, they threw away the Costco pork chops.

I thought that was pretty extreme.

She was also really grateful for some pork fat I sold her, which she said produced fantastically white lard. She says the stuff from the store has a nasty waxy texture, which probably comes from the hydrogenation.

I bumped into another customer today, who told me that since he got his order of our pork, he's been eating it nearly every day - e.g. bacon and sausage for breakfast, ham in his ham sandwiches, etc. He especially liked the jowl bacon.

It has been great to sell these people pork and get immediate and positive feedback.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Animal Fat Coming Back In

I saw this neat story about some special animal fat being in high demand.

That's very interesting. Mangalitsa and Iberian Black pigs have similar lipogenesis. Acorn-fed Mangalitsa could produce fat like the Spanish stuff. Maybe there will be a market in the USA for that one day.

However, there is some serious disinformation in that article, where Chris Saul says,
"If you render down good bacon fat, you can get the same taste and that would be my recommendation for the perfect Christmas dinner."

He's simply wrong. Fat from normal pigs, especially bacon fat, doesn't taste the same as fat from acorn-finished Iberian hogs (or Mangalitsa hogs). The two types of fat are very different. As shown here in table 4, breed is a major determinant of fat composition. In fact, it has already been shown that Iberian hogs, finished on acorns, have very different fat from confinement-raised pink pigs.

Him saying that is like someone saying that the fat from Angus cows tastes like that from pureblooded Japanese Wagyu (not the watered down American stuff confusingly called "American Kobe"). Or a guy saying that plain old Hershey's chocolate is just as good as Lindt. But imagine that the guy runs a chocolate store, and he's supposed to be an expert on chocolate.

Farrowing, Mothering and Cruelty

Berkshire and Mangalitsa sows are farrowing on the farm right now. This is a big deal, because it is cold here - 21F (or -6C).

The Mangalitsa sows are supposed to do fine, even in the cold, as long as they have some basic shelter. Humans don't need to attend the birth and help them or their piglets - given the minimum, they should survive.

The Berkshire sows on the farm are much worse mothers. This is apparent in multiple ways:
  • They farrow in bad places - e.g. in the open, where their piglets freeze.
  • They are indifferent to their squealing piglets, so they let their piglets get hurt.
  • They don't keep their piglets out of trouble.
  • They are more likely to attack their piglets.
The Berkshire sows we have came from farms that use gestation crates. Those farms aren't selecting for good mothering, because the crates take care of that. So some of them are good mothers, and others are terrible mothers. The only thing to do is to figure out which sows are good and keep them; the rest get culled.

The behavior of the bad mothers is very hard on Gary, the herdsman: one Berkshire sow attacked her piglets whenever they got near her food. She'd pick them up and throw them, maiming or killing them. Another Berkshire sow farrows out in the open, where her piglets get crushed or eaten by other pigs, or just die of exposure. Another crushes them, ignoring their screams of distress. This is simply terrible to witness.

All of that brings up the interesting question - what is more humane, using crates, or not? Is it inhumane to use crates on the sow, or is it inhumane not to use them, and have a large number of piglets die because of it? It is very easy to say gestation crates are inhumane, until you need to dispose of lots of dead piglets. Guys who use crates will tell you that if you let the sow out of the crate, she'll just go back in it, because she's used to it and considers it her spot. Dogs can have the same relationship to their kennel. It isn't really clear how miserable a sow in a crate is or isn't.

The Mangalitsa pigs are completely different from the Berkshire sows - just give them a hut with straw away from the other pigs, and they'll give birth. They won't crush their piglets or farrow them out in the open.

The downside is that if a piglet squeals in distress, sows get upset and bite. It happens very quickly - it is an instinct.

That means that you can't "process" the piglets (e.g. ear notch, castrate, deworm) with sows around. For example:
  • Gary, the herdsman, tried picking up a piglet that had a bump on its head. The piglet squealed, so sow #5 ran up behind Gary and bit him in the thigh, twice. She ripped his jeans, tore his skin and gave him a massive bruise. I tried to get between him and the sow with a hog panel, but it didn't work. He was sore for weeks and walked with a limp.
  • In another instance, we were grabbing piglets to process them, so one squealed. Although his dam (mother) was confined, sow #17, in an adjacent pen, stuck her snout through the fence and bit the helper in the back of her knee. The helper wasn't even picking up a piglet - she just happened to be in the general area of a squealing piglet.
As both cases illustrate, sows look out for the piglets of others, which makes the sows dangerous. It isn't enough to get a piglet's mother away - you have to keep all the other adults away too. That pig solidarity is fascinating - because they are absolutely awful to each other, and do things like eat the babies of each other.

One interesting thing about the humane standards from groups like Certified Humane Raised & Handled is that they often require that piglets be sterilised in the first week of birth. Although that makes sense for pigs raised in confinement, that can't work for us, nor anyone else that lets the pigs farrow unattended in a big field or forest. Because if you have to go out to a sow and castrate her piglets in those first few days, you are probably going to get maimed. If the sow isn't confined, she will attack. You'll just get maimed, and no piglets will get castrated.

So if a farmer wants to have "Certified Humane Raised & Handled" stamped on his pig, he'll pretty much have to confine the pigs. Another thing about their standards: clipping the needle teeth is allowed, as is tail docking. So the humane producers can confine their pigs, cut their needle teeth and dock their tails and still be humane. Anyone who doesn't confine the pigs (like us) can't be humane without getting maimed.

The EU has similar standards about castrating piglets in the first week. Due to the Mangalitsa sow behavior, the farmers just castrate later and lie about it. They are all breaking the EU's animal cruelty laws, despite the fact that most people would consider their farms extremely good for the pigs.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Chef Kevin Gillespie Talking Fat Quality

We visited Kevin Gillespie, Executive Chef of Spokane's Luna restaurant. We gave him some Mangalitsa piglet meat to taste - as we'll be slaughtering a batch of those, and need people to get ready for them.

He compared our hog's fat to that of other hogs. He also showed us products he's made from the hog, but technical difficulties prevent me from uploading the video of it:

He went on to explain that his favorite hog ever was a Red Wattle. The Red Wattle breed is famous for the special flavor of the meat (but it is a lean breed). But he also conceded that our hog's fat was indeed the best he'd ever gotten.

We are very happy with Chef Gillespie's assessment; the hogs with the best fat make the best cured products - and the best cooking fat. Lard is hands down the absolute best cooking fat. If you don't believe me, please read this article in Food & Wine.

And then Chef Gillespie ordered a buch of pork fat - 50lbs - which we'll deliver to him next week - along with more pork. Our pork fat is better suited to some applications than butter - and a lot cheaper. Until very recently, lard was the cooking fat, and pigs were raised for their fat.

We appreciate Chef Gillespie tremendously for being willing to buy our fat!

If you are a consumer and you want to buy lard, don't be surprised if a farmer can't sell you lard from his hogs: almost no USDA processors will make lard for a guy with just a few hogs.

So you'll have to buy fat. But don't be surprised if the farmer wants to deal in big blocks of it. This isn't the farmer's fault: if he asks the slaughterhouse to pack the fat in small packages, they'll refuse, or insist on charging $1/lb for the service - too much work. And legally, the farmer can't just open up his big packages, cut them and repackage them - unless he's a meat processor too.

Don't be afraid about 20 lbs of pork fat. Just render the stuff and keep in a cool, dark place. It keeps a very long time. You can always share it with your foodie friends.

Of course, the fat quality is key - if you use high-PUFA fat from a commodity hog (or a hog raised by a small farmer who doesn't finish the pig properly), expect it to be soft, yellowish and runny. That fat will go rancid quickly, and taste nasty. If you are going to do the work of rendering, why not work with the best fat? Even the best fat doesn't cost much - just $1/lb or so.