– By Jakob Anderson, Food Writer –
Did you know that the pork you buy from your local supermarket actually has a name other than “rib chop” or “loin”? That your meat is, yes, at one point a living, breathing piggy! Most of the pork you see in supermarkets come from Yorkshire, Duroc or Landrace pig breeds. But are you aware that there are over thirty varieties of pig breeds around the world? On a recent trip to a local pig farm (Perth Pork, Perth County, Ontario) I was given a tour of the whole operation and came across a poster they had of all the different varieties of pigs. It blew me away.
Have you ever heard of a Mangalista or a Meishan pig? How about a Swabian Hall? After viewing this poster, I skipped emphatically down the deep rabbit hole of pig varietals (and yes, they all sound more delicious than the next)!
Originating in China, these mammoths were introduced to the US through the University of Illinois and Iowa State University. Known for their scrunched wrinkled face and skin, these pigs achieve puberty at around 2 to 3 months (can you imagine)? Meishans can also drink up to 53 litres of water day!
Carl Edgar Blake sought out to create “the perfect pig”. He wanted to create the best tasting pork on the market. So when he crossed a Meishan with a Russian wild boar, he struck gold. Enter the Swabian Hall. Extremely fatty but rich and deep in flavour, the Swabian Hall is a chef’s dream pig, but has yet to take off commercially. More and more people are turning towards leaner cuts of meats, even if it means sacrificing flavour!
These pigs originate from Ossabow Island which is located just off the coast of Georgia. They were brought to the Southern US in the 1500’s by the Spanish. This breed is considered by many organizations to be endangered, and it is has become very difficult to export them from the island. So if you happen to get your hands on an Ossabow pork chop, call me over for dinner!
In the land of charcuterie, Iberico pigs are living gods. Native to Spain, these black beauties produce some of the finest ham (jamon ibercio) in the world. Words like delicate, floral and earthy are all words used to describe the flavour of these world class pigs. Most of these pigs spend their days roaming the Spanish countryside and live very happy lives. There are also a small few who are selected to become Jamon Iberico de Bellota, translating to acorn fed. These pigs are sent to live on “dehesas” around Spain. These are small pastures that are lined with oak tree which produce loads of acorns for the pigs to feed on. Once the pigs are released onto the dehesa, they can gain up to 2 pounds of fat each day. Acorn fiends!
These pigs have been known as “the next big thing,” for a long time. Mangalitsa is being regarded as the kobe beef of pork. Where as most of the pork on today’s market is bred to be extremely lean and yield the most meat possible, the Mangalitsa is bread for flavour. These furry beasts are so far removed from the phrase, “the other white meat”. The meat is heavily marbled and deep red in colour, looking closer to steak than a pork chop. What holds this animal back from the market is also its main selling point. Mangalitsas are extremely plump, yielding an large amount of fat. This layer of lard is what makes them so tasty, but most run at the sight of a beautiful fat cap (if only you knew what you were missing). Chefs around North America have been on a mission to educate the customer about the uses for pork fat, aiming to use the byproduct like our grandparents did— but it is a tough sell for the market.
Jakob Anderson is a trained cook and food enthusiast who approaches cooking as something that connects people in ways they don’t realize. “I love talking about food, eating food, thinking food, discussing food, debating food, think about debating food, fooding food? I love food.”