Friday, September 21, 2012

Pig Diet...Not for Slimming

My nephew, Austin Schneller, is raising four hogs this year. Each year he raises a few for his own consumption and a lucky few friends who help with the costs. A few years ago he raised four Danish Landrace prize stock pigs. They were lean and skittish, without much fatback. They grew really fast but were not what he was after. Then next year he got a Berkshire, a couple Hampshires and a Duroc cross. These were totally different, huge and very fatty. Last year he tried Tamworths, which were wonderful, large with very nice bellies etc. Some of the best pork I've ever tasted. This year I think he has the winner, a cross between Large Blacks and Old Spots. These pigs are very healthy, great foragers and getting really fat. They are a little agressive with each other but thats just pigs acting as they do.
 The feed for the pigs is pretty much the same year to year, lots of grains including corn but also some fermented barley, then as we get into fall, acorns, pumpkins, squash and apples, all byproduct waste from local farmers. This year I picked a big bucket of acorns off my lawn and they ate them like candy. The pigs are under some large oaks so they get all the natural drops in their pen as well. They always get the kitchen scraps from Austins home cooking.
  At the CIA we have the St Andrews Cafe where we try to keep it local and use as much locally grown food as possible. The attempt at sustainability is valid but I noticed we were throwing out the waste food scraps so I introduced the pig bucket. Every couple days the students from St Andrews fill a 5 gallon bucket with a wide assortment of scraps. I pick it up and drop it off to Austin's on my way home, which is typically late evening. The pigs get a very nice late night snack. I've always heard the worst time to eat dinner is late at night because it will make you fat! Well thats the goal here.
 The difference of flavor between these hogs and the commercially grown pork I work with in class is like day and night. Hese pigs are not only fed a more diverse and healthy diet, they are also allowed to mature a little more, giving a more complex meat taste. The other day we cut a half hog from Meiller's in Pine Plains. It was ok but didn't have much marbling and fat back. It wasn't raised poorly, but it was a white pig breed which tend to be leaner and it just wasn't allowed to mature.
 To get the best possible pork, such as that used for the Bellotta Iberico hams, it takes time and lots of really good feed, which means it will be expensive, but well worth it.