I was disappointed to miss the event, but on January 26, 2009, more than 90 food professionals, chefs, food writers, and food connoisseurs converged at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, VA, to participate in a blind-tasting which compared pork from eight rare heritage hog breeds and one commercially line.
This so-called Pig Pageant was sponsored by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Humane Farm Animal Care, Slow Food U.S.A. , and Ayrshire Farm, an eclectic group of organizations and individuals committed to saving heritage genetics, promoting a saner animal production paradigm and bringing flavor back to the table.
The pig breeds in question evolved to fit various regional and farming practices and some are known for producing plenty of lard, while others are naturally lean. For example, the Tamworth is a lean grazing pig shaped to produce plenty of bacon, while the Ossabaw Island is a feral breed that stores large amounts of fat for winter survival.
Once the results were tallied, the Mulefoot was on top, but with the exception of the Large Black, all heritage hogs out tasted the commercial breed. The specific results were as follows:
2. Gloucestershire Old Spot
3. Red Wattle
4. In a tie: Tamworth and Guinea
6. In a tie: Ossabaw Island and commercial
7. Large Black
According to Ayrshire Farm’s Large Livestock Manager, Don Schrider, this event was the largest comparison of pork breeds in North America to date and it successfully demonstrated that each of the breeds is valuable for the unique culinary experience it offers.
Special thanks go out to the farms that supplied the meat. If you are in the market for some awesome pork, or foundation herd stock for a swine project of your own, be sure to check out what these folks have to offer.
Tamworth – Cove Branch Farm, Charles and Marilyn Barnes, New Castle, VA
Red Wattle – Sloans Creek Farm, Nathan and Ellen Melson, Dodd City, TX
Ossabaw Island – Marle Hill Farm, Byron and Ruth Childress, Manquin, VA
Mulefoot – Maveric Heritage Ranch Company, LLC, Arie McFarlen and Bret Kortie, Dell Rapids, SD
Large Black – Cabbage Hill Farm, Nancy and Jerry Kohlberg, Mount Kisco, NY
Hereford – Whitmore Farm, Will Morrow, Emmitsburg, MD
Guinea Hog – Maveric Heritage Ranch Company, LLC, Arie McFarlen and Bret Kortie, Dell Rapids, SD
Gloucestershire Old Spots – Ayrshire Farm, Upperville, VA
This makes me ever more eager to get our Mulefoot pig production model up to speed.
Read more about our Mulefoot pigs here.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.