Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As Expected, Chef Jason Bond Killed a Pig

As expected, Chef Jason Bond killed some pigs.

He's got a gallery on facebook showing the results.

That's not a belly. That's fatback, with a chef's knife on it.

An extreme lard-type breed, the Mangalitsa puts the "fat" in "fat-prone".

It looks more fat without its hair.

His pigs had 75% Mangalitsa genetics. I think that explains why they got so big so quickly - purebreds grow a bit slower. The jowls look huge.

Tiny loin eye

I heard today of a chef who bought a Mangalitsa pig and was bothered that it was so fat. He expected it to have a carcass like a normal pig, but somehow just better tasting. He was tremendously disappointed by the very small yield of lean meat, particularly the tenderloins.

It is important to be realistic.

As these photos should make it clear, these pigs are very fat. When fed properly (which Wooly Pigs does), they produce a lot of wonderful fat. When fed improperly, they produce a lot of low-quality fat. Either way, they are likely to be the fattest pig you've ever encountered.

I suspect that Chef Jason Bond will make much money off the fatback (like Chef Stockner - an expert at using very fat Mangalitsa in a fine dining setting).

Not everyone can make money off such a pig, just like not all chefs can make money from expensive ingredients like foie gras, truffles and pacific salmon (the sort of stuff Foods In Season can get you).

Spanish article on the Mangalitsa Breed

There's an article in the Spanish media about the Mangalitsa breed. They compared them to to their Iberico.

I like the article because of the photo, above.

Mosefund's Progress

The New Jersey Monthly has an article about Mosefund and their Mangalitsa operation. Mosefund is a customer of Wooly Pigs. Wooly Pigs sells them (and others) feeder pigs. In addition to selling them pigs, Wooly Pigs gave them advice on how to finish them.

Since that article was published, they've delivered their pigs to some of the East Coast's most-respected restaurants. Their progress is incredible; they've only been killing pigs for a few months now.

Michael Clampffer has done a great job running Mosefund's Mangalitsa program.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jason Bond's Mangalitsa Photos

Jason Bond, a chef in Boston, has some nice photos on his facebook page.

Here's one of his fat pigs, near a trailer. That normally means a pig is going to get taken somewhere for sale or slaughter:

Who Buys Mangalitsa?

Wooly Pigs recently sold some Mangalitsa pork to Michael Mina, Ad Hoc, La Folie and Frascati - some of the San Francisco Bay Area's best restaurants.

Mosefund, another Mangalitsa producer, just announced via Facebook:
Just deliveried pigs to Daniel, Klee, Resto, BLT Prime and Gramercy Tavern!!! What an amazing line up of top quility restaurants to be serving mangalitsa!!!! On my way to Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore!!
By selling feeder pigs to farms like Mosefund, and selling pork to restaurants and Foods In Season, Wooly Pigs is having a national impact.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Herbfarm Visit

Herbfarm's Head Gardener and Herdsman Bill Vingelen

I visited the Herbfarm today and delivered some Mangalitsa loins. Those are from the same batch that I've sold recently to Nell's and the WAC (Washington Athletic Club). There's an upcoming pork-centered menu at The Herbfarm.

I saw Bill Vingelen and their Mangalitsas. I forgot my camera in the car, so there's no pig pictures. Maybe next time.

The Mangalitsas are all bigger. Two of them look to be fully grown. Bill has found a place that will let him gather acorns, so he's feeding those, in addition to free bread, bananas and carrots. The pigs prefer the acorns to pretty much everything.

We had a lot of fun watching the pigs. At the end, I gave Bill some of my Mangalitsa bacon. This is the same bacon that people have been tweeting about:
Just tried the Mangalitsa bacon from @woolypigs. Crazy delicious. Sounds weird to say, but it has complexity and finish, like a wine.
lornayee Heath's Wooly Pigs Mangalitsa bacon---OMG YUM!

@MarcSeattle I did a cheater bolognese last week with mangalitsa bacon, sausage out of casings, red wine, onion, tomatoes, and pork stock.

I had several new customers come up to me today and buy bacon. The ones in the know bought the jowl bacon. I would have given Bill some jowl bacon, but by the end of the market, I was out.

Butchery in the News Again

There's a New York Times article about butchery classes.

A while ago, Reuters had a similar article. At that time I wrote:
Of course, Wooly Pigs and other Mangalitsa producers take it much further: slaughter, seam butchery and other skills, like preserving meat, rendering lard, cooking organs, etc.

The next such class is in January, in New Jersey, hosted by Mosefund Farm.

I helped to make a similar class happen back in early 2009.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Provenance Farm's Pigs

Cute piggies

I got new photos from Cristina Cruz-Jones showing their Mangalitsa feeder pigs. The photo above is from back when they were small and cute. If you want to order some pork, their number is 651-583-2252.

Here's new photos of the pigs. Considerably older, I can't even pick out my favorite (the blond in the foreground above):

As Cristina explained on the phone, they haven't destroyed all their pasture, because the humans are careful about rotating them.

I suspect the pig with the visible pink hoof is my favorite, now grown up and not nearly so cute.

She mentioned that two look more like Mangalitsa purebreds, while the other two aren't as woolly.

Her pigs have 75% Mangalitsa genetics. That explains the variation in coats and why some have pink hooves and others black hooves.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wooly Pigs Brand Mangalitsa Now Available in Most of the USA

I'm happy to announce that Wooly Pigs has finally reached the point where customers across much of the USA can order Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa.

The new distribution is made possible by Foods In Season, a Washington-based company that distributes pacific salmon, mushrooms, truffles, foraged edibles and other fancy foods across the USA, overnight, via FedEx.

You can call them, order the stuff, and they'll ship to you - the same product that goes to restaurants like Ad Hoc, Frascati, La Folie and Michael Mina (some of the San Francisco Bay Area's best restaurants).

Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa is available in the following areas:

Puget Sound - call me (Heath) at 253-833-7591

San Francisco Bay Area - call Tom at 415-648-4762.

If you live in these states, you can order our Mangalitsa from Foods in Season.

Foods In Season will take orders from the states shown.*

Foods In Season is only selling foodservice cuts: things like chop ready loins, shoulder butts and sides (bellies with the ribs in them - have your rib puller handy). Please don't call Foods in Season and ask for a single chop or a steak; they don't have that stuff.

To order Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa from Foods In Season, contact Jerad Anderson, Director of Operations, at 866-767-2464 ext. 113, or email jerad@foodsinseason.com

Can't order live pigs yet from Foods In Season.
Picture courtesy of Torm Siverson.

If you want to buy things like feeder pigs, live pigs, whole pig carcasses, halves, a pallet of Mangalitsa, etc. please call me at 253-833-7591. Foods In Season isn't set up to do those yet.

*If you live in a state not shown on the map, please call Michael Clampffer of Mosefund at (201) 289-0210. They fatten Mangalitsa feeder pigs (that we sell them) on a beautiful farm in New Jersey. They sell their pork to some of New York's best restaurants, in addition to distributing their pork across the USA.

Besides Mosefund, America has a few other Mangalitsa producers; the master list is here.

Mangalitsa Sow

Here's a picture of a Mangalitsa sow with her pigs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pigs Vs Cows

I was talking to a butcher recently (Gabriel Claycamp). He buys whole animals, cuts and processes the pieces and sells them.

In many ways, he's got the same challenge as Wooly Pigs; he's got to maximize the value of any carcass he owns.

With a properly fattened Mangalitsa, the fatback is very valuable; in some hands, the single most valuable item on the pig, as these videos demonstrate:

By the way, those videos show why the feeding and age of the pigs at slaughter is so crucial - because besides breed, those are the factors that determine the quality of the fat. If you blow the feed, you ruin your fat quality.

Even if you aren't Chef Stockner, the fat is still valuable, either as lard, sausages, etc. Pigs are amazing in terms of how usable their carcasses are. A person who buys a pig can pretty much use it all up, just as a chef can:

But what if you buy a whole beef? What do you do with all the beef fat? Render that beef fat to produce tallow - and then what? Make candles and soap out of it? Sure, there are some recipes that use tallow or suet - I'm thinking of certain puddings from English cuisine. But the fact that I can't even name them suggests to me that they aren't that popular.

Meanwhile, I've been selling cases and tubs of Mangalitsa lard in the last few weeks. People are using it for frying, baking and cooking.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Operation Porcupine: Mangalitsa Belly at Frascati

As mentioned before, Frascati in SF serves Mangalitsa pork belly. They've sold out of it a few times. The guests love it. Right now, it is available only on the Saturday and Sunday menus.

In New York, Chef Daniel Angerer (at Brasserie Klee) serves a 3-inch by 3-inch slab of pork belly with vegetables and starch. People go crazy for it.

I'm happy to see adventurous chefs serving Mangalitsa belly directly to their guests. As much as possible, I'd prefer that Mangalitsa be center of the plate and get placement on the menu. That doesn't happen if the belly gets turned into bacon and used to accent other stuff.

"Mangalica" in Hungary

I found a photo of some Mangalitsa pigs in Hungary, in a giant dirt lot. They've removed all vegetation in their pen.

The photo illustrates a few things about pigs: they eat everything. Also, you can give them a lot of space , but they'll group together very closely. E.g. the ones in the background are packed in very tight, like Mark Baker's pigs:

Obviously his need more time to destroy everything, there's still some green stuff in the pen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Swinery Buys a Pig

The Swinery (Gabriel Claycamp's company) has ordered a pig from me. It will be an F1 Mangalitsa.

That's a pig with a Mangalitsa parent (and a non-Mangalitsa parent). I also sell such pork as "Mangalitsa-sired": pork from a pig sired by a Mangalitsa boar (and having a non-Mangalitsa dam, or "mom").

I've sold a lot of Mangalitsa-sired pork to Monsoon. If you've eaten at Monsoon in the last year, and you had something listed as "Mangalitsa-shire", that was "Mangalitsa-sired" pork.

Chefs tell me that most diners can't tell the difference between our Mangalitsa-sired and Mangalitsa pork. People who've eaten plenty of both can usually tell the difference.

People like The Swinery's (Gabriel's) products. I know he's made good stuff from other pigs we sold him. As the new pigs are of higher quality (due to Mangalitsa genetics), I expect he'll make even better stuff. I experience this recently with my new bacon; customers (and I) who ate the old stuff and the new stuff agree the new stuff is a lot better, just because of the tremendous improvement in genetics.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Mosefund Gallery, Traditional Fattening Methods, Mangalitsa as a Brand

Mosefund has a new gallery of pig photos up, showing their New Jersey farm. Mosefund is the farm that will have the incredible slaughter class this January.

Currently, their pigs have access to a mountain until the last few months, when they go into a pen and eat a lot of barley and wheat. That feeding program ensures their fat is of consistently high quality: hard, white and neutral flavored.

Basically, they've got a yard for the pigs, where they sleep and eat. They can go out a door and up the mountain, to dig for stuff and play. Here's their home base:

Unsurprisingly, they've destroyed their home base.

Some pigs are lazy, so they stay near the feeder and hut for sleeping. Mangalitsa pigs are typically quite active, so most of them head out up the mountain to root. Michael says they generally come and go on schedule:

Pigs heading up the mountain.
Photo by Bob del Grosso

And up top they have fun:

The book "The Mangalica Pig", describes how the Hungarians, the creators of the "mangalica" breed, fattened them:
In the case of the nomadic type of keeping, the animal searched for its own food, and it did not get any supplemental fodder. the natural nourishment was usually enough for the fattening of the animals. Sometimes it happened that the animals' meat had an unpleasant by-flavour [sic] and had a fishy or swampy taste to it. The farmers tried to fend themselves against such a possibility by bringing in the animals two months earlier off the fields before slaughtering and they continued to fatten the pigs on wheat: barley and maize. The pork then was strongly spiced in order to conceal any unpleasant by-flavours [sic]. This is one of hte rasons why the custom of strongly spieced Hungarian dishes dates back to this time.
This is something I've written about previously; if you let the pigs out, they'll eat what they like the most. It may or may not be good for the pigs' fat quality. E.g.if there's a bunch of moldy dead gophers, the pigs will probably like that the most, so they'll eat them and taste bad. At another time of year, they might eat a bunch of acorns and taste better as a result.

Mosefund and Wooly Pigs take the approach we do to ensure that customers never feel regrets. The easy way to do that is to try to keep the product as consistent as possible. With our superior genetics, just finishing them consistently suffices, because of the determinants of meat quality.

Variation works against customer loyalty. E.g. imagine in the Fall, the pigs taste great, because they come off a lot of acorns, but that in the Spring, some of the pigs (but not all) have a mild swampy taste. I see a few scenarios, all illustrating the dangers of variation:

  • Customer buys swampy pig first. Doesn't buy again, tells everybody it was expensive and swampy.
  • Customers buys great pig first. He tells everyone how great it is. He and his friends all buy pigs - and they all get swampy pigs.
  • Customer buys great pig. Then he gets a good, but not great pig. He tells everybody that quality is inconsistent.
Mosefund's pigs are run by a chef - Michael Clampffer. As a chef, he knows inconsistency is unacceptable. E.g. Michael wants to produce meat that looks like this, every time, and it needs to taste as good as it looks:

Hence, here are some of Michael's pigs, living out their last 60 days, eating a carefully formulated finishing ration:

It doesn't as pretty as the outdoor setting, but it works - their pigs can't eat any dead gophers, rotten vegetation, etc.

Wooly Pigs likewise finishes its pigs on a carefully formulated ration. Here's our first batch of Mangalitsa, before they became food for the San Francisco Bay Area:

There's not much difference between the two sets of pigs - they are all eating low-PUFA feed, getting ready for slaughter. They aren't eating swampy-tasting carrion. Ours might eat a dead bird or two, but as far as controlling diet, a dirt lot and concrete are fairly similar.

For comparison, here's some of Christoph Wiesner's pigs, in Austria:

Austrian Mangalitsa Pigs.

Wooly Pigs, my company, is the only breeder of commercially viable lard-type hogs in the Western Hemisphere. Besides fattening our own hogs, we provide feeder pigs (neutered) to other producers.

Farms with Mangalitsa feeder pigs.

Our mission to introduce a new product, lard-type pork, to the Western Hemisphere. Although Europeans kill 2 million head of lard-type or mostly lard-type pigs a year, America's actual production (projected) is (will be) like so:

3 purebred Mangalitsa pigs - all produced by Wooly Pigs

50 or so Mangalitsa pigs - all bred by Wooly Pigs

600 or so Mangalitsa pigs - all bred by Wooly Pigs.

2400 or so Mangalitsa pigs - all bred by Wooly Pigs

Given our superior genetics and America's competitive landscape, selling these many pigs so quickly requires avoiding mistakes. So we play it safe and finish our Mangalitsa on a controlled finishing ration (like Mosefund), maximizing our chances for success.

Wooly Pigs has been selling Mangalitsa pork, in one form or another, since the end of 2007, starting with the French Laundry. Now that we've finally got some regular pigflow, thanks to some of the USA's best pig breeders, Michael Mina, a 2-Michelin star restaurant is going to feature Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa pork on their menu.

We've done such a good job building "Mangalitsa" (the breed) into a brand that Michael Mina has announced, via twitter:

If you can't read that, it says:
Currently one of a select few restaurants to be featuring Mangalitsa Pork on the menu!! What an incredible flavor experience!
Obviously Mangalitsa pork has intrinsic merits; you can't bribe companies like Michael Mina into bragging that they serve your product.

It helps that the Mangalitsa is an extreme lard-type hog; it defines the lardiest (and tastiest) end of the spectrum. If you want the best-tasting, there's nothing better, even in Europe, where they've got other breeds similar to the Mangalitsa.

As Wooly Pigs hasn't spent anything on PR since the end of 2007, the press and attention we've received in 2008 and 2009 has been due to providing customers with a superior eating experience. A key part of that has been finishing the pigs consistently and conservatively - in keeping with Austrian methods.

The result of consistently providing a very superior product, over a relatively short period of time, is that some of the most quality-sensitive consumers in the USA trumpet the fact they use our product.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chicken Fried in Mangalitsa Lard!

I recently started working a processor that can give me a USDA-inspected lard. I really love that, because extreme lard-type pigs produce a lot of very high-quality lard. I've finally got a lard that's ready-to-use.

The first batch of lard I got is smoky, because of how the processor rendered it. It works well for frying or sauteing. In the future, I look forward to having lard like that produced in Austria - as neutral as possible - because that's suitable for baking and frying.

One advantage of Mangalits lard, for frying, is that because of its special fatty-acid composition, it can be used many times before needing changing. As Pick, a major Hungarian "mangalica" producer, says:
The Mangalica fat is easier to digest among the animal fats due to the advantageous fatty acid composition. It is especially tasty due to the special tastes and aroma substances concentrating in fatty tissues. Its other advantage is that it does not become rancid so easily lt and it can be used several times for frying.
A customer, Bobby Bourne, bought a bunch of the first batch of Mangalitsa lard for frying up chicken. He says it tasted great. He sent me photos:

Operation Porcupine Update - October 15, 2009

Operation Porcupine takes place in two theaters: Napa Valley and San Francisco. In Napa Valley, there's just Ad Hoc, while in SF we have several customers.

I'm happy to report that Ad Hoc has reordered and as with Michael Mina, it looks like Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa will be available there regularly, in some form or another. I'll post more details as things unfold.

I'm hoping we can build on things in Napa Valley fairly quickly. There's a lot of quality-sensitive restaurants there!

Mark Baker's Pigs

Mark Baker raises Mangalitsa pigs in Michigan. I've written about him before. He uses the pigs as part of an integrated pig/chicken operation.

He provides his pigs with clean water. That's important. Whenever I see big pigs at nipple waterers, it looks like they are abusing them.

Photo by Michael Clampffer of a boar drinking.

There's a boar in Austria drinking. He likewise looks like he's abusing the waterer.

Here's pigs at Baker's demonstrating that you can give them all the space in the world, and they'll crowd together, cheek by jowl. This is something others have noted, and explains why pigs can be raised in a variety of systems.

Baker's pigs are so fat and lazy, they don't even bother to eat that chicken that made a wrong turn and got into the pig pen, which is funny, because they know how good his chickens taste.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Operation Porcupine Update - October 14, 2009

Michael Mina location in red

Only a few weeks into Operation Porcupine, we've got a neat development: Michael Mina, has ordered all our tenderloins and cheek meat (jaw muscle or masseter). They went for some of the best parts on our pigs. By acting now, they've ensured they'll get it preferentially, which is smart, because there's never enough Mangalitsa tenderloin and cheek meat.

It looks like they'll be serving Mangalitsa regularly on one or both of their menus (classic and trio). We are only getting started - so details will come later.

Chris L'Hommedieu is one of the best chefs in the USA. Its great he likes Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa so much. Michael Mina has been awarded two Michelin stars. It is one of the best restaurants in the USA. Its great that Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa will be served regularly (details pending) at this restaurant.

It has only been a few weeks since Operation Porcupine began. It is very nice to get this positive result so soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tail Biting

I found some pictures on flickr showing some Mangalitsa pigs (and some non-Mangalitsa pigs, like that spotted piglet). One funny thing about that photo; there's a sow there, with dirt up to her ears as she roots.

The comment from the person who took the photograph is interesting:
Some of the piglets have shorter or almost no tails at all. Is it because of rough play or rough parenting?
Here's another photo of the same pigs:

It is clear that some of the pigs are missing some of their tails. It is also clear the pigs are outdoors, in a fairly natural setting.

The short answer to the photographer's question is that pigs are cannibals. I've written before about tail-biting explaining:

Animal production involves making choices. Animal scientists argue that the tail-docking is better than the alternative - an outbreak of pig cannibalism:
'Docking tails soon after birth substantially reduces the incidence of tail biting. Pigs may cannibalize whether they are housed inside or on dirt lots and the practice occurs with widely different stocking densities. An outbreak of tail biting is expected to be very painful for the pigs with bitten tails. The small amount of discomfort caused by docking is much less overall than what would be experienced by pigs during an outbreak of tail biting.
Our inability to get pigs to do what we want them to do leads to animal scientists entitling their publications things like, "Tail biting in pigs: Understanding the intractable problem".

Pigs having fun destroying a pasture.

So not only do pigs root up stuff, but they eat pretty much everything, including each other. That's not saying pigs are bad; many omnivores with a more wholesome reputation, like chickens, dogs and bears, are cannibals too.

My general sense is that people who discover, for the first time, how animals are, are inclined to blame it on the humans if it disgusts them. E.g. if a chicken in a chicken barn eats another chicken, that's a chicken driven crazy by humans. That puts the producer in a no-win situation, because animals will pretty much always do something that can be blamed on the producer. If the producer makes a "least harm" choice like tail-docking, and people don't like it, then he's also to blame.