Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hong Kongers order Again

HSBC building in Hong Kong

Waves Pacific in Hong Kong is ordering again. More Mangalitsa will go to Hong Kong.

It is a big order. Seeing the order reminds me that it has been a lot harder to develop the USA market for this stuff compared to the Hong Kong market.

The new order got me thinking about Berkshire pork.

Berkshire pigs taste better than the other meat-type pigs. You can see that in these results - the Berkshire pork groups closely with the GOS and Basque pigs, which taste somewhat better than average pigs.*

Currently, our Mangalitsa regularly goes to:
Those same customers were - before the arrival of Mangalitsa - the sort to purchase Berkshire pork. They purchase Mangalitsa now because it tastes a lot better, and they aren't fat phobic.

Historically, most of the USA's Berkshire pork goes to Asia. Asians are willing to pay more for it - and that willingness to pay more includes the cost of shipping the stuff across the Pacific.

That last bit is really something: Asians are willing to pay international freight to get slightly better-than-average pork.

It costs just as much to ship a pound of Berkshire pork to Asia as Mangalitsa pork. Hence, for marginally more money, they can get something that tastes incredible.

I knew in 2007 that the USA exported a lot of Berkshire pork to Asia. What I didn't know until tonight is that historically, most of the USA's Berkshire pork goes to Asia (PDF or Google DOCS HTML).

If the Mangalitsa market develops like the Berkshire pork market, we should expect most of the Mangalitsa produced in the USA to go to Asia, especially if incomes rise in Asia.

I was talking with a Mangalitsa producer today, Shane Petersen of Suisun Valley Farms. Shane mostly sells pigs to the Bay Area's most-respected restaurants - The French Laundry, One Market and Perbacco. He said that his private customers are 90% Asian. Even if it isn't quite 90%, that's very telling. Other Mangalitsa customers report a similar skew.

Exporting to Asia is where the low-hanging fruit is. I knew it would be important in 2007. It is neat to be shown correct four years later.

I think it is great that Asian customers are going to help preserve the Swallow-belly Mangalitsa breed. Even though Slow Food USA and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy aren't interested in devoting resources to conserve the Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed, as long as we've got customers, it will happen due to private enterprise.

Hungarians should thank me for helping to safeguard one of their national pig breeds!

* Of course, lard-type breeds beat the meat-type breeds (e.g. Berkshire) on organoleptic measures. The extreme lard-type Mangalitsa beat all the others on all organoleptic measures.

Friday, February 25, 2011

From Inside Milwaukee:

Hog Wild

Apparently there’s this new sensation – the It Pig. It’s a corpulent porker called the Mangalitsa. Chefs love it because its meat is fattier and richer tasting than other breeds. The New York Times ran a story late last year that mentioned the Mangalitsa’s appearance on menus, including at The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. Downtown Milwaukee’s Carnevor is incorporating some Mangalitsa into its menu, too. Starting today (Thursday, Feb. 24), the steakhouse is running a ravioli small plate that has a Mangalitsa, sweet potato and Swiss chard filling ($10), and a Mangalitsa sausage pasta entrĂ©e with house-made spaghetti, pea shoots and confit tomato ($29). And... for the next couple of weeks, there’s also a nightly special – pan-roasted Mangalitsa pork chop with herb-roasted root vegetables ($32). And incidentally, Carnevor’s Jarvis Williams graces the cover of Milwaukee Magazine’s March issue, available on newsstands now. (724 N. Milwaukee St., 414-223-2200)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NJ Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa Breeders Get Some Press

There's an article, "Lord of the Lard" in the NJ Monthly about Erno Hollo and Mosefund, two customers. As the article explains:

In New Jersey, different cuts of rich Mangalitsa pork have turned up on the menus of some of the state’s best restaurants, including Elements in Princeton, the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, Copeland in Morristown, Uproot in Warren, Chakra in Paramus and the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn. Chef Juan Jose Cuevas of the Pluckemin Inn gets his Mangalitsa from George Faison, a Morris County resident who is chief operating officer of premium meat purveyor DeBragga & Spitler in New York. Faison also retails Mangalitsa pork at DeBragga’s Mangalitsa comes from farmer Heath Putnam ...

Hong Kong Feedback, Local Food, Breed Preservation

Neck photo by Chef It Yourself.

Feedback is coming in from Hong Kong about our Mangalitsa pork.

So far, they think the neck* is better than the loin.

Pretty much all Mangalitsa fans/experts I know agree that the neck is more marbled, juicy, flavorful and tasty than the loin. They all prefer the neck.

The Hong Kong guys have already had their Mangalitsa neck get "stolen": the sous chefs at a restaurant cooked and ate the cooked samples before the Exec chef could eat any. They simply could not resist the Mangalitsa once they started eating it.

Mangalitsa Belly

I've heard similar stories in the USA. E.g. guests sneaking into the kitchen to eat up the Mangalitsa belly leftovers and hiding the evidence - the bones - in the garbage.

Asians eat a lot of pork belly. Most of it is lousy, because most farms don't optimize fat quality. Ours tastes incredible in comparison.

It has become clear to me that if we are going to save the Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed, we either need Americans to buy lots of Mangalitsa fatty cuts - e.g. bellies, jowls and fatback - or we need to export the stuff.

I wish Americans would recognize how tasty the bellies are. But that's not likely to happen. Hence, in a few years, I bet a huge fraction of Mangalitsa bellies will go to Asia.

I wish there was a lot of demand where we raise the pigs and where we kill them. Given that we produce some of the best-tasting food in the world, there isn't demand near the place of production. Just like Alaskan salmon or Maine lobsters, the stuff goes to where people have the desire and money to eat them.

In order to save the Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed, we need to be able to sell the parts to as many people as possible - like the Hungarians. If for some reason we were restricted to selling all our pork within a few miles of where it is produced, or even within the states where we produce it, we'd have to exit the business - at which point the Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed would probably go extinct.

Similarly, if it wasn't possible to export Maine lobster from Maine, or Alaskan salmon from Alaska, a bunch of it would go to waste. The lobster industry and the Alaskan salmon industry would necessarily shrink.

So thank goodness for modern logisistics.

If you care about the genetic diversity of domesticated animals, you should be for things like reducing trade barriers, reducing bureaucracy and reducing the cost of moving food around - because those are the things that make it possible for people to make money raising specialty crops like Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa pigs.

* The next time I'm next to a Mangalitsa pig, inspired by the skit "Wu-Tang Financial" (NSFW), I'm going to tell it:
This ain't "Charlotte's Web", piggy. This is real effin' life! Protect your neck!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mangalitsa Network

Mangalitsa pigs on the Wiesner's Farm

When I meet people who really serious about Mangalitsa, I encourage them to travel and learn more from Christoph and Isabell Wiesner.*

I hadn't thought much about it until tonight, but I've done it consistently for years. I think it has helped Mangalitsa culture to spread quickly in the USA; as a result of this, we've got a lot of people across the USA excited about Mangalitsa pigs and pork. Soon we'll have people in Asia excited about Mangalitsa pork.

Seattle customer visiting Christoph.

Without the Wiesners, we just wouldn't be where we are right now.

Many of the people involved are ridiculously capable and diligent. They are naturally attracted to Mangalitsa pigs, because they taste the best. I can't claim responsibility for their accomplishments.

My role has been to bring people with common interests together.

A Mangalitsa fan visits ground zero.

It started with a class at the Herbfarm taught by the Wiesners. I helped to fill the class with a number of people, many of whom now in the Mangalitsa business. They are all customers: Michael Clampffer, Shane Petersen and Marie Nguyen and Mark Baker.

One of the students, David Pearlstein, doesn't own Mangalitsa pigs, but he has built a USDA-inspected meat processing facility in his Seattle basement, which is amazing.**

Isabell Wiesner making crepinettes

I was also instrumental in getting Michael Clampffer and Carolyn Banfalvi to visit Austria in 2008. I helped Mangalitsa Chef (aka Bryce Lamb) to visit Austria in 2009.

Those were the first three Americans I convinced to visit Austria on Mangalitsa business.

Michael and Bryce visited the Wiesner's farm, Wischathal, in Göllersdorf. Bryce was lucky enough to live with them for six weeks. He cooked several meals a day for them - but in return, he got to go out with them and kill pigs and learn everything he could about processing them, from the Wiesners and their instructor, Metzgermeister Kropf. That's why I - and the Wiesners - bestow the title Mangalitsa Chef on him.

Caul fat from a Mangalitsa pig.

Things really started to snowball due to Mosefund. Michael Clampffer organized several Mangalitsa slaughter and processing events in 2010, taught by the Wiesners. They were incredible events.

I told many people about those events, so I'm a bit hazy about who exactly I convinced to attend; of course Michael Clampffer got a bunch of people to attend. Some impressive attendees include:
  • Morgan Weber, who brought a posse of Houston chefs with him. They all went on to do a lot of great work with Mangalitsa. Morgan Weber breeds Mangalitsa pigs now, and is opening a market with Ryan Pera, one of the attendees of Mosefund's event.
  • Thomas Schneller, CIA meat expert and Mangalitsa fan. He teaches American chefs how to butcher meat. He wrote the textbook.

I told everyone I could about those events because I knew they'd be awesome. How else could you learn how to slaughter and process the world's best pigs from some of the nicest and most skilled people ever?

Recently, a regular customer, who really loves Mangalitsa told me he was visiting Austria. I said he had to visit the Wiesners. They were happy to have him. They must have just killed some pigs, because they were able to show him how to render lard and make crepinettes. He got to see their pigs and take some photos, some of which I've duplicated in this post.

Looking at his photos, I really wish I could go to the Wiesner's farm. I've often thought that if I had a lot of time to decompress, I'd go to Austria and live on the Wiesner farm, and learn how to raise and process pigs. It would be ridiculously fun.

* If people just want to learn how to cut pigs up, and can't make it to Austria, I encourage them to visit our slaughterhouse in Swiss, MO.

** David deserves to be on the Food Channel for getting a facility built in his house's basement and for getting it a grant of inspection from the USDA. It is just a regular house in Wallingford, a Seattle neighborhood.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Erick Loos's Bacon - John Besh's La Provence

Here's a photo of some bacon from their recent 200 pound batch made at John Besh's La Provence restaurant by Erick Loos.

These guys use a lot of bellies.

I've heard they do a Mangalitsa bacon ice cream that is ridiculously good. It sounds odd, but combining fat, sugar, salt, flavor and things like sourness can really work.

Bauchspeck Appearance in 1951 Film; Reflections on Yamamoto's Hagakure

Bauchspeck example in 1951 film.

I watched "Decision Before Dawn", a 1951 film about the waning days of World War II, 1945 - a full 66 years ago.

In one scene, a man offers the people he's riding with in the back of a truck, strangers to him, some "Bauchspeck".*

People are desperate, going without basic things like food. In the middle of all this, the man shares his precious Bauchspeck with strangers he'll never see again. The way the scene is composed, it looks like an advertisement for Bauchspeck - you are clearly meant to want what he's got in his hands. The people in the truck greedily take the food.

When I saw that Bauchspeck, I couldn't help but think more piggy thoughts like, "I'd eat that!" and "That's some good looking Bauchspeck, no wonder he's smiling!" and "Looks like he cut it really thick, that could get chewy."

Modern Bauchspeck from

In 1951, the time of filming, they still had decent-looking Bauchspeck. The modern stuff is much leaner, and can't taste as good.

In America in 2011, the product isn't nearly as common as 60 years ago, but foodies have it much better than in 2006 (when I hadn't imported the first Mangalitsa pigs to the Western Hemisphere). These days, if you want a really great version of that product, you can:

It is interesting to see that in 1951, the Bauchspeck shown in the movie didn't look like our Mangalitsa Bauchspeck or pancetta - it was a lot leaner. Just look at the 1951 Bauchspeck versus the Mangalitsa stuff to see what I mean.

Of course, the movie just shows one piece of Bauchspeck, not a bunch of typical pieces - but I assume that what they showed in the film was typical for the time.

It is interesting to think that back then, Americans probably would have recognized the product as a basic staple. Maybe they would have called it "salt pork" or "side" or "bacon". These days, most Americans wouldn't recognize the product - it is the sort of thing you trek to Eataly for, pay $34.80/lb. When it is all over, you feel like you've scored something really special.

That last paragraph isn't meant to deny the specialness - the stuff is ridiculously special. This is the first time in history that regular Americans have been able to walk into a retail store and by this stuff of this quality, produced entirely in the Western Hemisphere. Such stuff might have existed in the past, but people were too broke to afford it, and in any case, it wouldn't be so easy to acquire. Now you just need a credit card and a telephone or internet connection.

The world of 1924 - just 87 years ago.

Reflecting on the past reminds me of this passage from the Hagakure, by Yamamoto:
It is said that what is called "the spirit of an age" is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same.

For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation. This is the mistake of people who are attached to past generations. They have no understanding of this point.

On the other hand, people who only know the disposition of the present day and dislike the ways of the past are too lax.
There's no way we can go back to the days of ordinary people eating fatty pig products nearly every meal. It can't be done.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that by importing the Mangaltisa to the Western Hemisphere in 2007, I made the most of our generation. I just can't imagine what else I could have done in that same period that would have had such a positive impact on so many people.

It should be clear too, that when we send Mangalitsa to Asia, we aren't returning to some glorious past where they ate really great Mangalitsa-like pork. Rather, we live in a new time when they are richer than they've ever been, and some of them can afford to eat really great stuff that is generally better than anything they've been able to eat in all of human history. By exporting our production to Asia, we are making the best of the present.

* Here's more on that product, if you want to make some of your own.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Response to Eddie Huang

Eddie Huang commented on my post responding to his blog post (reprinted in Slate) that said things I consider inaccurate about Mangalitsa. He pointed me to his original essay on his blog, which is different than what I saw on Slate.

I'm happy to respond to the version on his blog. I'll excerpt the stuff I consider relevant and put in my response:

From Skate to pork belly to razor clams, there's always something that's priced reasonably, previously ignored, and able to fill a role on a menu. That's where these things start. Your purveyor comes to you with a new product, say, Mangalitsa Pork and asks you to try it. It was almost extinct in Hungary as a lard animal but now they want you to experiment with it. There's an introductory rate. The pig really isn't good for anything but lard, yet, you can charge a premium for the experience and novelty. Call it kobe pork! While the purveyor is showing it to you, he's showing it to 5 other chefs in your neighborhood, boom. We have a trend.

Mangalitsa isn't a product that has existed in the USA, unknown until it was discovered by trendy people. It is a foreign delicacy that I recently imported to the Western Hemisphere.

Reading Eddie's paragraph, the following questions occur to me:
  • Why would someone spend a lot of money to import some pigs that don't taste much different from regular pigs?
  • Why do my live pig customers pay a lot more for Mangalitsa feeder pigs and breeding stock than normal pigs?
  • Why would people in Hong Kong pay a fortune in air freight to buy our Mangalitsa?
  • Why would it pay to take hams from Mangalitsa pigs in Hungary and move them to Spain to have them cured? Why would people outside of Spain pay a lot of money for cured Mangalitsa products?
  • Why do Per Se, Corton and other Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City, spend so much money on Mangalitsa pork, when they could save some money and buy regular pork?

2) Eddie writes, "The pig really isn't good for anything but lard..."

Mangalitsa pigs produce the raw material used to make some of Europe and Americas best cured products. They aren't just used to make lard.

As lard-type pigs, Mangalitsa pigs have better meat and fat quality than meat-type pigs. They beat everything else on every conceivable meat quality metric - flavor, juiciness, color, marbling, etc. They beat everything else so handily, when you do a principle components analysis, Mangalitsa is in its own category.

Eddie continues:
The Mangalitsa isn't a bad product. It's interesting. I'd like to spend some time with it, slowly integrate it, and figure out how to deliver it at a fair, sustainable price so it isn't here today/gone tomorrow on my menu. Am I selling a trend or selling a good dish? By the time you cycle through those thoughts, Mangalista prices go up for a summer, then they level out. But by the time it levels out, the eating public is bored. They just paid $30+ for a mangalitsa experience that doesn't really out-do your average berkshire...
If a chef can't use Mangalitsa to produce something markedly better, he's screwing up. Similarly, if you give a chef some great Wagyu beef, if he can't make it taste better than the regular beef, it is the fault of the chef.

Eddie continues:
With pork, the problem has never been marbling. With the loin, YES, the Mangalitsa has an advantage there, but in terms of the rest of the animal, especially belly or butt, I doubt the berkshire lacks marbling. On top of that, chefs are coming up with specials and pushing trends before truly understanding the product because they don't have to. The novelty sells itself.
When I read Eddie's essay in Slate, I replied with a photo of a Mangalitsa loin. I don't see how anyone can look at that and not immediately grasp that Mangalitsa pigs are totally different. I didn't intend to restrict myself to just the loin.

Eddie pointed me to the essay on his blog, which actually mentions loins specifically.

If I understand him correctly, he's saying that although the loins of meat-type pigs are inferior to Mangalitsa pigs, the other parts of a meat-type pig aren't all that bad.

If that's the case, I think he's right, in the sense that for most people, meat-type pigs are fine.

Nevertheless, Mangalitsa bellies have more fat than Berkshire bellies, and the shoulders are more marbled. The Mangalitsa fat tastes lighter and cleaner. The meat has a strong meaty flavor. In comparison, Berkshire lean meat tastes like chicken. Just look at the Mangalitsa pancetta in the above photo. Berkshire bellies don't look like that. Of course, pancetta from Berkshire pigs doesn't cost $34.80/lb either.

Some people strongly prefer the non-loin Mangalitsa cuts to meat-type pork. Here's a guy writing about his cured Mangalitsa neck:
What really makes this stuff ridiculous is it's unctuousness. Sliced paper thin, it actually melts on your tongue.
The fat of normal pigs can't compete. Similarly, here's people writing about Mangalitsa jowls:

It turns out that this pig is worth every bit of hype that’s been surrounding it. What incredible flavor. The stuff is tender, moist and just melts in your mouth. It is insanely rich and I can’t recall a more flavorful meat I’ve ever eaten. Just amazing.

There's plenty of examples of that across the web, many of them copied on this blog. Basically, there are some people who strongly prefer Mangalitsa necks, fatback, hams, bellies, jowls, etc. to those of non-Mangalitsa pigs. They are willing to pay a big premium to get the stuff they really want.

Similarly, there are some people who want a Ferrari. They don't want a Honda Civic. If you are the sort who is happy with a Honda Civic, it is hard to see what's cool about a Ferrari, much less stomach paying for one.

Obviously, people who are happy with non-Mangalitsa stuff will keep using the regular stuff. At the same time, the people who want better stuff now have the option to buy Mangalitsa.

Food Trend

This is Mangalitsa.

Eddie Huang in Slate writes about food trends, using Mangalitsa pork as an example:

From skate to pork belly to razor clams, there's always something that's priced reasonably, previously ignored, and able to fill a role on a menu. That's where these things start. Your purveyor comes to you with a new product, say, Mangalitsa pork, and asks you to try it. It was almost extinct in Hungary as a lard animal but now they want you to experiment with it. There's an introductory rate. The pig really isn't good for much but lard, yet you can charge a premium for the experience and novelty. Call it "Kobe pork!" While the purveyor is showing it to you, he's showing it to five other chefs in your neighborhood: Boom. We have a trend.

The Mangalitsa isn't a bad product. It's interesting. I'd like to spend some time with it, slowly integrate it, and figure out how to deliver it at a fair, sustainable price so it isn't here today, gone tomorrow on my menu. Am I selling a trend or selling a good dish? By the time you cycle through those thoughts, Mangalitsa prices go up for a season, then they level out. But by the time it levels out, the eating public is bored. They just paid $30+ for a Mangalitsa pork experience that doesn't really outdo your average Berkshire, which is known, widely available, quality pork. But the bigger issue is that chefs are coming up with specials and pushing trends before truly understanding the product, because they don't have to. The novelty sells itself.
I completely disagree with this characterization.

To start, Mangalitsa wasn't previously priced reasonably, being ignored, etc. It is available at all in the USA because I and others brought it to the US market and marketed it.

Mangalitsa pigs are great for things other than lard. They make great cured products, like ham, bacon, guanciale, capicola, etc. Does Eddie Huang really think Mangalitsa pigs are just good for lard? That's hard to believe.

Mangalitsa and Berkshire are very different. Mangalitsa is much more marbled. It is also much more juicy, red and flavorful. It is hard for me to imagine a competent chef buying Mangalitsa and not being able to do better than if he bought some Berkshire pork.

Just look at the loin up top. That's from a Mangalitsa pig. Berkshire pigs can't produce loins like that. That loin tasted great. You could eat a million Berkshire loins and they'd never taste that good.

OLLI Salumeria Americana

Salumeria OLLI Americana ordered a bunch of jowls, bellies and fatback.

I'm guessing that like Salumeria Biellese, they'll make guanciale, pancetta and lardo from them.

John Besh & Special Dinner

John Besh had to cook a very special dinner. There were a lot of important people there.

If you look at his menu, he used a lot of Louisiana ingredients. For example: shrimp, oysters, crawfish and blue crab. That's some of their best local food.

I noticed one particular ingredient - Mangalitsa pork. John Besh and his crew love Mangalitsa pork. In fact, based on this tweet, I think they might have killed one of these pigs for this dinner.

I'm honored that when he needs to make a really great meal, he uses Mangalitsa pork. I'm also happy that he's confident enough to just cook the belly and serve it. A lot of chefs are afraid to serve a piece of nearly solid fat.

From CNN's blog post:
Next course, a Mangalitsa pork belly “hot pot.” As Besh explained, the term "fusion" is thrown about but New Orleans' food is exactly that - a melting pot of African, French, Spanish, Native American, German, Italian and Cajun influences. He considers this his culinary tribute to the Vietnamese community in New Orleans.

Hong Kong Meat

Here's the first photos of the meat we sent to Hong Kong. You can see the special markings for export. The special blue stamp says "export".

Our Mangalitsa is very red. Not typical of meat-type pork.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Charcutepalooza 2011 - Mangalitsa Offer

Sausage Debauchery's Cured Mangalitsa Neck.

I've been watching Charcutepalooza, wondering how I can help it to be even more of a success.

I love seeing people do stuff like this or this or this or this with Mangalitsa pork. It was the incredible quality of cured Mangalitsa products that convinced me to import Mangalitsa pigs to this hemisphere and establish the first modern lard-type pork company.

People may not know, but we've done a lot already to make it possible for chefs to make great cured products:
  • If you want to know how to fatten a pig to make great cured products, we tell you. Even if you aren't raising Mangalitsa pigs, we want you to produce the best raw material possible. If we didn't tell you, you'd probably have to foreign-language materials to learn how to fatten your pigs properly.
  • E.g. we spent money to make this tutorial freely available. And we put these videos up to show you how to do it. If you want to turn a pig into cuts for cured products, there's no better guide. Why'd we do this? Because if you are going to produce great pigs, we don't want you to waste a scrap.
  • We also make it easy for chefs to buy raw material for cured products. We sell a bunch of cuts that are idea for curing. E.g. fatback for lardo, boneless loin, neck, paletilla-style shoulders, jowls, etc. You can see the cuts here. Nobody else in the USA can get you hundreds of pounds of super-premium necks or neck fat, or paletillas.
So getting people curing great meat is something we've been trying to encourage for years.

She's essential.

Also, I was just talking with Brian Polcyn today, and he mentioned that the Mangalitsa fat he used produced the best lardo and salami he'd ever made. He's already on record saying:
"Mangalitsas are a must for certain types of charcuterie. A necessity..."
So I've got Polcyn on the brain today.

The obvious thing that occurred to me was to have some sort of contest, with the winner getting some feeder pigs. They could fatten the feeder pigs for 18-24 months, then kill them and make charcuterie from it.

But then it occurred to me that that's not practical for most people.

So here's my offer for the 2011 Charcutepalooza:
  • If you do a Charcutepalooza blog post that uses Mangalitsa pork, email me about it. I will look at it. You don't need need to use meat from Heath Putnam Farms. If you buy Mangalitsa pork from other Mangalitsa producers, it's going to be from pigs that we bred. When you buy from our customers, you help us and the Mangalitsa breed.
  • If your Charcutepalooza blog post doesn't use Mangalitsa pork, please don't email me about it. If you are curing non-Mangalitsa pigs, you are wasting your time on inferior raw material. Mangalitsa is superior.
  • When this year's event is all over, I'll pick my favorite Charcutepalooza blog post. That person is the winner, and I'll blog about it. I'll judge based on the skill used to craft the product and the photos you take of it. E.g. cut your meat nicely. Tie up your stuff well. Make really great photos. You don't need to gush about how wonderful Mangalitsa tastes compared to meat-type pork; others do that plenty.
What's the winner get? I'm thinking one of two things (chosen at my discretion):
  • A half a Mangalitsa pig, cut up into parts ready for curing (see this document). We'll ship the parts to you.
Of course, if you'd rather take feeder pigs, we could give you those instead. But you'll need to pick them up, in the Midwest.

Pigs, People & Choices

It is fascinating to observe people and the purchasing choices they make. In a lot of ways, people and pigs act the same way.

Here's a report of a human making a ham purchasing decision:
While perusing the fish counter I saw Spanish mackerel. I recalled having a delicious mackerel with ham at The French Laundry. This worked out perfectly as I'd been dying to find a reason to use Mangalitsa ham since reading this article in the New York Times. Luckily for me Murray's Cheese's newly opened meat counter carried it. I nearly balked when I saw that it was nearly twice as expensive as the already expensive Surryano ham. "Is it really twice as good?", I inquired. The wonderfully pleasant counter woman allowed me a taste and, y'know what? It was twice as good. It was creamy without feeling overly fatty, with an incredibly concentrated pork flavor. As I only needed four slices I reasoned it couldn't be that expensive, an easy rationalization for a splurge.
Being quantitatively minded, I think in terms of exchange rates. E.g. how many pounds of Surryano ham would you have to give me for a pound of Mangalitsa ham?

When you've got quality-sensitive people, the exchange rate is very high - because they really don't want the less-tasty alternative. It would be a bit like asking someone who likes Peet's or Starbuck's coffee, how many pounds of Folgers instant do I have to give you for a pound of your favorite coffee?

I've had similar discussions with people, fighting over jowl bacon; they want what they want, and don't want substitutes.

For people who really like Mangalitsa, but are open to other stuff, I would guess the exchange rate is around 5 or 10. That is, you'd have to give them 5 or 10 pounds of the stuff they don't want for the one pound of Mangalitsa product.

In reality, at the high end, there are customers like Westchester Foodie who probably will only buy what they want, and won't buy the alternative, no matter how cheap it is. E.g. a guy who wants a Ferrari isn't going to buy a Ford or even a Jaguar - he's going to buy the Ferrari. Until he can't get a Ferrari at any price. Suddenly the Jaguar looks OK, or maybe a Mercedes convertible. This emotional response of people to changing choices is fascinating to observe.

Pigs and humans are similar. If you read here, you'll see that like humans, pigs are fussy:

Pigs are funny creatures, and very particular. They'll sort through the bread products and eat anything sweet first. Cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, anything with frosting. then, after they've eaten dessert, they'll go through and eat any loaf that has molasses in it. They'll eat all the dark bread first. Then the white bread. After they've got through the whole thing a few times, and only then, they'll eat the sourdough.
That's why this sourdough loaf is out of the bag, but not eaten. The pig had to make sure that it was sourdough before it dropped it in search of something tastier.
You can learn a lot about the market for Mangalitsa here.

Basically, the customers we can get are the ones who eat the best and are on the lookout for something better.

If there's a chef who regularly buys whole meat-type pigs, whether from big farms or small farms, we probably can't convince him to buy Mangalitsa. He's happy with cheap meat-type pigs; he isn't looking for the best stuff available. If he was so quality sensitive, he'd eschew meat-type pork and instead serve things like lamb and A5 Wagyu beef - the fatty & tasty stuff. You don't think people like that exist? They do - e.g. the French Laundry, my first Mangalitsa customer.

Back to the ham customer: Westchester Foodie is a regular Surryano ham customer. A Surryano ham customer is a lot more quality-sensitive than the average customer. Some of the Surryano ham customers, but by no means all, will be receptive to paying more to get Mangalitsa ham.

I should mention - I've sold Sam Edwards, the maker of the Surryano ham, a few hams. Sometime in 2011 or 2012 he ought to sell them to the public.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mangalitsa Ranch

Mangalitsa Ranch in Walton, New York has their website up. Now it consists only of their contact information.

They'll be selling Mangalitsa pork and pigs.

Two Friends Looking For Work in Seattle

I have two friends looking for work in the greater Seattle region.

It is a hard time to find work, so I'm doing what I can to help them.

The first is finishing a paralegal program. She's one of the best in her class. She's got a Masters degree too. She's seeking work as a paralegal in a law office. She is smart, conscientious and hard-working.

The second is a college-graduate working as a line cook in a well-respected Seattle kitchen. She's good at her job. She's looking for work in a kitchen where she'd learn new things about making food.

If you'd like me to put them in contact with you, please send me an email at, saying whether you want the paralegal or the cook.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seaton Place - New Mangalitsa Breeder - Delaplane, VA

There's a new Mangalitsa breeder in Delaplane, VA. The farm is called Seaton Place. It is only 50 miles west of Washington DC. Finally DC chefs will be able to get Mangalitsa produced locally.

If you want to buy pigs or pork from Seaton Place, call Matt Neiswanger at 202-549-7291 or email him at

They've already got some Icelandic sheep and Jacob's sheep.
Some draft horses. Here's one now:

A Jersey milk cow:
The house was built in 1860 by Henry Light Horse Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee.
Soon they'll have some Mangalitsa pigs.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Germ Phobia

There's an article on the web about a farmer that took over a small food business. They serve their meat there, in addition to drive-through coffee and breakfast burritos.

They aren't raising Mangalitsa pigs. I wouldn't mention them except for something I saw in the comments. Someone writes:
I do not want a person who looks that unkempt handling my food with his bare hands. Sorry, but when you're dealing with food and serving the public, clean it up. Especially handling pork! Groom yourself, cover your hair, wear a clean apron and wear disposable gloves.

When I read that, I thought, "isn't the meat going to get cooked?" That's one reason I'm not super careful about the cutting boards in my kitchen; I figure anything I cut on them I sear right after, killing any germs.

Of course, if I processed meat for other people, I'd follow the rules. But when it comes to me and my own health, what I care about is staying healthy, not keeping things unnecessarily clean.

I was thinking about that criticism, and then I thought back to one of my visits to the Wiesner farm in Goellersdorf, Austria. Christoph showed me how he makes his speck, which he sells to people. Here's the video:

Yep, that's the kitchen sink. I think Christoph looks kempt enough. But he's not wearing a hat to keep his hair away from all food - which I think is a requirement in a USDA-inspected facility, and whose absence would trouble a mysophobe.

Christoph knows his stuff though - among other things, that product will dry out before people eat it. Germs die when that happens. If sanitation was such a life and death issue, we wouldn't exist, because our ancestors couldn't keep things germ-free the way we can now.

Christoph Wiesner's products

From a business perspective, Christoph does fine. He makes incredible speck. He hasn't made people sick. People keep buying it. I think you'd have a hard time convincing him to do things differently. He's certainly aware that the first time he makes someone sick, he's probably going to be out of business.

I think some people worry too much about germs.

Postscript: I thought about this a bit more. When I first traveled in Central Europe, to eastern Slovakia, I was offered a lot of homemade food that would normally be made by heavily regulated food companies in the USA. E.g. distilled alcohol, pastries, klobasa, etc. I remember eating that food and wondering if it was going to harm me. The thing you learn quickly is that normally that stuff tastes better than the heavily regulated food, and it costs less.

First Load of Mangalitsa is on its Way to Hong Kong

Photo from Hungarian "mangalica" fesztival.

Our meat is leaving for Hong Kong, as previously mentioned here.

At a certain point, it leaves your hands. We are approaching that moment very soon; a truck will come and take the meat away. Hopefully we've done the paperwork and stamping correctly and the meat will be in Hong Kong in a few days.

This is probably the first time the USA has exported lard-type pork to Asia in the last several decades. If things build from this, we'll look back at this as a historic moment. It amazes me that I'm the guy doing it. I've told the guys in Hong Kong I need to get photos of them with our meat in Hong Kong, just to prove that it has happened.

The Spanish have exported Ibeirco to Asia for a while now. With our export, the USA is starting to compete with Europeans for the Asian market. Our product will have to go head-to-head with Iberico in Hong Kong.

Importing Mangalitsa breeding stock to the new world, selling the first pigs to world-famous restaurants like The French Laundry, building demand in New York at the highest levels for Mangalitsa pork: I really have accomplished a lot.

But international trade is even bigger; it means we've somehow produced something so valuable that it pays to ship it halfway around the world, because other people really want it. If it works, in a few years, there'll be a lot of lard-type pork going from the USA to Asia.

I think it is great that people in Hong Kong have money and want to spend it on the world's best pork. From early on, it has been clear that Mangalitsa is a good fit for the Chinese market; the Chinese market isn't fat-phobic or fixated on beef. From retailing at the farmers' market, I and other Mangalitsa producers have learned that well-off foreign-born Chinese are some of the best Mangalitsa customers; some of them buy week after week, and they really appreciate the fat.

If the Mangalitsa breed thrives in the USA, it will be because international trade allows us to sell off the fatty cuts (bellies, jowls and fatback) to customers who appreciate that stuff, and have the means to pay for it. It is trivial to sell the lean meat from Mangalitsa pigs; what limits a producer is the fatty cuts.

In some sense, the Hungarian "mangalica" producers have it easy; they can sell fatty products like the stuff in the photo at top in their home market. We don't have it that easy - but we do have an excellent trade network with Asia.

I'm hoping this turns into something big. Even if it doesn't, just getting the first load of product off to Asia is a huge step.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Products from Our Raw Material on Sale at Eataly

Michael Clampffer from Mosefund sent me this photo of lardo and pancetta, made from our pork by Salumeria Biellese, on sale at Eataly.

Cane syrup glazed Mangalitsa pork belly with Louisiana crawfish

This dinner to honor John Besh features some of our Mangalitsa:

Gulotta serves as chef de cuisine of Restaurant August in New Orleans. His award-dinner menu will feature jumbo Gulf shrimp with pickled mirliton, spicy remoulade and petite greens; cane syrup glazed Mangalitsa pork belly with Louisiana crawfish, Becnel’s blood orange, picholine olives and green garlic; blanquette de veau, a slow-cooked breast of veal with handmade sweet potato tortelli and morel mushrooms; and Ponchatoula strawberry and Meyer lemon Streusselkuchen with strawberry Creole cream cheese ice cream.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Domenica in New Orleans

I saw this mention of John Besh's Domenica and our Mangalitsa in this review:
The octopus carpaccio was extraordinary and unless I have tasted anywhere. It was sort of like a brawn dish – but made with octopus jellied up in a roll and very thinly sliced carpaccio styled with a fennel/salad thatch (as they say in them fancy cuisine reviews). Enjoyed with a glass of white wine from Sicily – Regaliali – composed of Inzolia and other varieties it says). I got a small ($8) portion and could have gone the $12 size (be cautious with American sizings!). Then the main of Mangalitsa pork (neck) braised with borlotti beans, basil and honey – unbelievably tender and melt in mouth ($23). This could do no wrong so far – enjoyed with a glass of Umberto Cesare Sangiovese from Romagna. This was proving to be an absolutely classic Italian meal – forget the food in Italy folks, it’s all happening here in adaptation. Although desserts were interesting after the event on the menu decided I was going to do cheese instead and have the Casarita di buffalo – the mozzarella buffalo milk cheese from Lombardia. This was great but somewhat turned into a dessert American style with sweet stuff also on the board – some marmaladed citrus fruits, some honeyed nut things etc – not to mention some fried sweet salty beignet type bread pillows! All for $8, the same as the “real” desserts. I was happy to tip 20% for this bringing it to $80. One of the best ‘Italian’ meals I have had anywhere and no disappointments anywhere (usually one course falls down somewhere) – well worth 4 peanuts!

Exporting Meat to Hong Kong

We're exporting meat to Hong Kong. Meat leaves in a few days for the Far East!

Waves Pacific Limited will distribute our stuff in Hong Kong.

This is very exciting. Heath Putnam Farms might be the first ever to sell Mangalitsa pork in Hong Kong.

I'm hoping that our customers like Johnston County Hams and Salumeria Biellese can start exporting their cured Mangalitsa products to Asia too.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out. One neat thing about selling in Asia is that we may have different demand for various cuts than what we see in the USA. With the exception of John Besh, not many USA chefs think of cooking and serving Mangalitsa belly or jowl.

Bakers Green Acres and Our Pigs in The News Again

Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa feeder pig

Bakers Green Acres, a farm that has bought many feeder pigs from us, got written up in Northwest Michigan's Second Wave.

They took some nice pictures of the pigs and the Baker family.

As the article explains:
These, however, aren't just any pigs. They are Mangalitsa, which is often referred to as "curly-haired pigs," and the Bakers have found themselves knee-deep in the culinary world thanks to them. The pig was the focus of a recent New York Times piece.
I'm always happy when our pigs get our customers good press.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How the Herbfarm Cures their Necks

We cut our pigs so that we get a Schopf (aka collar, neck or coppa). Jokingly, I sometimes refer to this cut as the "Heath Putnam Farms Austrian Pig Neck cut". To my knowledge, we are the only company selling this cut wholesale to American chefs.

Discriminating customers know that a neck is some of the best meat on a Mangalitsa.

The Herbfarm has been using Mangalitsa pigs longer than almost everyone else in America; they love their Mangalitsa neck. Here's their sous vide recipe (165F for 14 hours).

Besides the Herbfarm, John Besh and his restaurants buy hundreds of pounds a month. Tom Douglas's Serious Pie buys necks and cures them. Macelleria in New York likes them. Bloggers like Anamaris Cousins is are big fans, as are the Eadeses (who know more about Mangalitsa pigs than most people).

Some people like to cure the neck. Here's some cured Mangalitsa neck, done by the Sausage Debauchery guy:

A lot of people get our frozen necks (including the Herbfarm). When curing frozen meat, it is crucial to watch the salt, because it penetrates quicker than with never frozen meat.

I had some customers asking for help on curing previously frozen necks.

I emailed the Herbfarm and asked for info on how they cure the necks without them turning out too salty. Here's what Ben Smart (#2 in the Herbfarm's kitchen wrote):

The very basic cure we use on the necks is:

2.25 Kg pork neck
125 g salt
25 g dextrose
6 g prague #2 or DQ curing salt #2

Rub half of mixture on neck and refrigerate for 9 days. Rub remaining cure and let sit additional 9 days. Rinse, truss and hang in cool, dark place with roughly 70% humidity. When neck is about 70% of its original weight it is cured.

If your customer follows this recipe he should have success. However, half the fun of curing is coming up with additional spices to play with in the rub. He should keep this template and experiment if he chooses...
It is incredibly nice of them to share information, as they already did their ham recipe.

So there you have it; if you want to cure one of our previously frozen necks, that ought to get you started on the right foot.

If you want to order a neck, there's info in the right margin on how to order.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mangalitsa Diet


I wrote here about my Mangalitsa/Sous Vide/Crossfit lifestyle change.

Basically, in the last few months, I've been eating my way through some Mangalitsa pigs, working out and using a supplement, Pentabosol.

Having noticed that the most fit people I sell Mangalitsa to - typically, of all things, lard - are paleo-dieting CrossFitters. My job is to sell fatty pork. I need people to eat fat and feel good about it. Obviously, the more fit you look when you do that, the better.

In December, I got more serious about exercise and diet. I went to my gym and did CrossFit enough to improve my fitness noticeably. CrossFit is ridiculously fun, and it will get you into shape quickly. Just try doing Fran (video). I don't think jogging or riding on an exercise bike will get you similar results.

Unfortunately, I injured my knee, probably doing some squats. I was re-injuring it when I did CrossFit. I finally decided I needed to stop the CrossFit and get the knee fixed. So I've switched to working out with kettlebells until I can go back to CrossFit. The idea is, repair the knee and build up enough strength that I can do thrusters and overhead squats without injuring myself.

On the diet front, in December, I noticed was that I was gorging on carbs. E.g. if I had roasted almonds around (so I could eat a few a day), I'd snap and eat them until they were all gone, at which point I'd go back to eating meat. I didn't have the discipline to make occasional almonds work.

I did some research and made some modifications.

I read some things - like this - that convinced me that I really ought to cut out the carbs and dairy. That is, on a daily basis, eat few carbs and no dairy.

I also read about the concept of a cheat day. When you are dealing with someone who loves carbs, if you tell them they never get to eat dessert again, they get terribly depressed. So imagine you tell the, "eat this for 6 days, the 7th day, you eat what you want." That makes it a lot easier to stick to a diet.

So I put that together and came up with this meal plan (6 days a week followed by a cheat day), which I started at the end of December:
Mangalitsa meat (cooked sous vide) or bacon, lardo, speck, sausage
leafy greens (cabbage, kale or collard greens)
any other non-dairy, low-carb foods
I'm calling this the Mangalitsa Diet.

I'll eat other things too - e.g. salami and Brazil nuts (basically no carbs)- so long as they don't contain dairy, sugar or starches. I also take Pentabosol twice a day.

There's no calorie counting on the Mangalitsa diet. If you are hungry, eat.

Typical meals look like the photo up top. Mangalitsa, Mangalitsa and more Mangalitsa. Surprisingly, this isn't getting boring. Mangalitsa tastes incredible. I typically eat it with salt and pepper. I cook it all in my Sous Vide Supreme.

I'm really enjoying eating chunks of meat. In the past, I tended to eat slices of bacon or sausage. Now I'm really liking chunks of fatty meat. I can see why people like to eat steak.

On this diet, most of the calories are from animal fats (typically Mangalitsa fat), except on the cheat day.

The high fat diet is quite satiating. That fits with the experience of others. If you are overweight, you will probably lose some fat, because you won't be overeating. Sometimes I am not hungry until the late afternoon. On those days, I eat when I get hungry. It leads to a sort of intermittent fasting.

A big change is that I'm not eating for entertainment. Most of my life, I've eaten out of boredom. That was very easy to do in Europe, because the beer, pastries and bread are so much better than here; that stuff tastes good and gives you a nice sugar rush. When your food has almost no carbs, you can't anything like a sugar rush no matter how much you eat.

I resumed losing weight after changing the diet. I also started gaining muscle.

My experience:
The low-carb Mangalitsa diet seems to be work. I enjoy my meals a lot.

The Sous Vide Supreme makes it ridiculously convenient to cook a lot of Mangalitsa.

Mangalitsa tastes so great, it doesn't get boring to eat it meal after meal. E.g. I have no desire to eat any non-Mangalitsa meat on my regular days.

CrossFit will get you fit.

If you aren't trained, working out with kettlebells will improve size, strength and aerobic capacity. Of course, if you aren't trained, just about any resistance training will get you low-hanging fruit - aka "newbie magic".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bakers Green Acres in the News, Brian Polcyn Calls our Pigs a "Necessity".

Where you might encounter our pigs.

I was happy to see my customer, Bakers Green Acres, getting mentioned in Crain's Detroit Business.

The article is about Brian Polcyn, chef, instructor and restaurant owner. He's famous for writing a book (with co-author Michael Ruhlman) called, "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing".

In the article, he's quoted as saying:
Breed-specific pigs are critical. I use two types of pigs: Managalitsas for cured meats and Berkshire pigs for cooking. I get the Mangalitsas from Bakers Green Acres. Mangalitsas are a must for certain types of charcuterie. A necessity. Michigan is one of only a few states that breed that type of pig, which is critical for curing meat.

I'm really happy that an American charcuterie authority, Michael Polcyn, thinks our pigs are essential.

These are "our pigs" in these sense that, as I've previously mentioned, all Mangalitsa pigs that have gone to slaughter in the USA in the last few years were bred by Heath Putnam Farms.

Brian Polcyn isn't the only guy who thinks our pigs are the best. Here's a satisfied Mangalitsa customer who has worked with a lot of different meat, the author of The Sausage Debauchery blog:
It's terrific. I think God put these piggies on earth specifically to cure, I can't imagine they serve a better purpose than this. As I wrote prior regarding the coppa and how it melts in your mouth, the Lardo is even more unctuous, if that's possible. I sliced some paper thin to put on bruschetta. I toasted the bread and while it was still warm added the lardo. It was drizzled with top notch olive oil and cracked pepper. By the time I got to it, the lardo had begun to melt into the bread..............sick.
If that inspires you to want to order some Mangalitsa lardo from our pigs, clicking this link will get you stuff made by Salumeria Biellese from our pork.

Brian Polcyn mentions that some farms in Michigan breed Mangalitsa pigs. To my knowledge, the farms in Michigan that breed Mangalitsa pigs produce Blonde Mangalitsa pigs. In contrast, our pigs are Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa.

There are three different Mangalitsa breeds, the Red Mangalitsa, Blond Mangalitsa and Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa. They really are different pig breeds (like Golden Retrievers vs Labrador Retrievers). See "Do Mangalica pigs of different colours really belong to different breeds?" by Zsolnai for more info.

We've sold Swallow-Belly breeding stock to several farms. Here's a map showing the locations of farms that have bought Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breeding stock from Heath Putnam Farms:

Farms that own Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa Breeding Stock

In 2007, when I imported Mangalitsa pigs to the USA, I had to decide what pigs to get. I chose Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa pigs because I was able to get the most genetically diverse herd.