This Wednesday the team at Heritage skipped breakfast and didn’t bring in any snacks to work so that their pallets would be truly ready to uncover the words that describe the tastes of the various breeds of pork that we sell. Italians and French people have no trouble finding words to describe the un-describable. In the U.S. the wine people have it down but for fruits and vegetables and meat it’s hard to find words to explain what our mouths and pleasure centers are experiencing….
Category: Heritage Pork
Doug Metzger works his 1500-acre farm, which grows corn, sorghum, wheat, alfalfa, oats, barley, Reese turkeys (he has worked with turkeys since 1951) and pigs with wife Betty, son Mark, daughter Marilyn, son in law Stan and their three kids….
Larry and Madonna Sorell have been farmers since 1970 when they purchased 200 acres of land in Cloud County, Kansas. Larry Sorell continues a family tradition that was passed down from his grandfather to his father and then to him.
Want a hot recipe? Here’s one: choose a lovely, well-sourced piece of meat — from a merchant that you trust, sourced from a farm that you know, and a breed you have come to love, and add fire. Et voila! There’s your recipe. Just remember, the fire is the constant, the meat is the variable. And don’t forget where it came from, so you can do it again.
No one’s saying to fricassee a Komodo dragon, or cacciatore an American Bald Eagle, but you should definitely think about roasting a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, or grilling a Tunis lamb….
So you’ve enjoyed a grilled heritage Angus steak and have savored the buttery flavor of our Old Spot bacon, but now you want to know more about the origin of these finger-licking cuts? You may already know that Heritage Foods USA works with independent family farmers across the U.S. who serve as the foundation of Heritage Foods USA’s mail order division and supply America’s top restaurants with premium cuts of pork and beef- but who are the masterminds responsible for prolonging the blood lines of the exclusive breeds Heritage Foods promotes? Wonder no more! Introducing one of our hog and beef farmers: Craig Good.
For more than 50 years, Craig Good has worked with livestock at Good Farms, located on the northern edge of the Kansas Flint Hills in Olsburg, Kansas. Historically, this area was known as the last vestige of the Tall Grass Prairie- a fertile strip of grasslands that supported untold numbers of bison in our country’s formative years. Given its history, Craig’s father, Don, bought the farm in 1961. Don quickly became a nationally recognized authority on beef cattle – an honor that has been passed down to Craig through hard work and close attention to genetic refinement. Early on, Craig took an interest in the family business, and after graduating with a degree in Animal Science from Kansas State in 1975, he began working for a pure-bred swine breeder. In 1981, Craig and his wife, Amy, decided to move back to his childhood home to carry on the legacy of his family’s farm.
The Good Farm is very diverse – raising various crops, 100% Angus cattle, and several heritage breeds of hogs. The farm’s modest size allows the couple to focus on quality, rather than quantity, through the enhancement of their livestock’s genetics. Working with Heritage Foods USA allows the Goods to make a living without converting into an industrial-sized farm.
“We feel that true quality is achieved by working with detail and care in breeding our hogs, not just cranking numbers and pounds off the farm,” Craig explains.
Good Farm’s size offers other benefits, too. Recently, Craig had the opportunity to experiment with the diets of his pure-bred Duroc hogs. Instead of the traditional feed, oats, Craig tried feeding these special swines a meal of dried cranberries and plums. Not only did he receive a positive response from the chefs to which he supplies pork (the Duroc’s normally tame fat became much more fragrant), but the pigs enjoyed this tasty change to their daily diets, as well. This experiment is just one example of how Heritage Foods USA and its farmers are finding creative ways to revolutionize the food industry.
The Goods are selective with their breeding, and are working to create the best possible future generation of swine. In addition to the Duroc, Craig and Amy raise a small number of Old Spot and Spot Rock pigs – a cross between Old Spot and Duroc pigs. Previously, the couple raised Yorkshire hogs as well, but decided to focus their attention on the Duroc breed due to their rapid growth rates, great muscle quality, and pure, yet mild flavor.
During a recent visit to his farm, Craig told the Heritage Foods USA team that his favorite thing about his farm is being surrounded by his pigs.
“I’ve loved pigs ever since I was in 4H, back when I was thirteen years old. Some people don’t like pigs but I do… I like to think there’s a really good relationship between us and our pigs.”
Craig and Amy feel a strong responsibility to our nation as farmers.
“We are proud of our place in the farm economy and hope that we can continue to serve the producers that have been true to us over the years,” Craig says. “We feel that the family farm has been a true asset to America and we strive to work together with our fellow producers to remain a viable part of the future. We have a strong commitment to produce pigs that are of the highest quality possible.”
The core of Heritage Foods USA’s mission is to preserve rare heritage breeds. We work hard to support family farms that raise their animals on natural diets and without the aid of antibiotics, which are common on industrial farms.
Heritage pork is sourced from Certified Humane Red Wattle or Six-Spotted Berkshire stock. Some of our farmers, however, also raise other rare breeds – Duroc, Old Spot, Large Black, and Tamworth – which are available for purchase by request, or as porterhouse chops and cured hams.
Berkshire meat is elegant, luscious and smooth. The streaks of fat that run through Berkshire meat produces a round, buttery flavor that melts on the tongue. The firm and substantial texture of Berkshire meat was so cherished by the British monarchy that they exported the breed as far as Japan, where it is called Korobuta.
As seen above, the Red Wattle is the only pig left in the world that still has a wattle hanging from its jowl. Red Wattle meat is charmingly inconsistent; its expressive porky flavor is concentrated and even a little racy. Originating in the South Pacific, the Red Wattle pig populated the backyards of New Orleans during the 18th and 19th centuries where it was bred to stand up to the strong and flavorful Creole cuisine. These gentle red hogs are renowned foragers: when allowed to roam, their meat develops earthy, herbaceous traces of the vegetation within their locale.
Duroc meat is clean and crisp. Its taste and texture are polished and easy on the palate. Duroc pork is a standard – not too fatty, not too lean, not too strong – but is certainly more flavorful than its factory farmed cousins. In fact, Duroc genetics were used in the foundation of the pig industry, which gained momentum in the 20th century.
Tamworth meat is robust and gutsy, and is the leanest of the heritage pork breeds- making it an excellent source of bacon and jowl. Its balanced flavor is the pork equivalent of a red beer. Despite its presence on the Threatened species list, the Tamworth is a hearty, strong, resilient animal – making it an excellent candidate for the growing urban farm movement around the United States.
Large Black and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs are listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Along with the Red Wattle, they are the rarest pig breeds that Heritage Foods sells.
Originating in the Berkley Vale of Gloucestershire during the 1800s, the GOS was bred to lounge around in the orchards of England, where its sole responsibility was to clean up fallen fruit. The breed became rare after World War II, when the shift to intensive pig production reduced interest in grazing pigs. Due to its supreme laziness, GOS meat is very delicate – even its fat is edible and milky. Old Spots carry a distinct layer of backfat and marbling within their meat, making them the bacon pig of choice for many.
The Large Black is a favorite of farmers who appreciate the breed’s intellect and docility. Its strength, hardiness, and ability to forage make it a valuable asset for pasture-based farming. The breed is native to southwestern England and gained popularity in the 1800’s as farmers began to see that the animal could easily turn poor-quality feed into large quantities of high-quality meat. The Large Black’s physical characteristics – its dark skin and large ears – make it stand out in terms of appearance and efficiency: its dark skin protects it from sunburn during long hours of grazing, and its long ears shield its eyes from dirt while foraging. Large Blacks are also known for their lean consistency; however, they lack the excess back fat found in the GOS.
There are about 900 million of my kind in the world. Wherever I have ever existed, humans have done well. My domestic brethren are fertile year round and offer a reliable source of food. I was the primary source of meat for middle Stone Age peoples. Cro-Magnons drew pictures of my kind on the walls of Altamira over 30,000 years ago.
I am closer in intelligence and trainability to a dog than any other livestock. My snout is a sensitive tool for exploring and smelling. My kind are meant to scavenge and forage. I love to root. In the past, I prepared land for crops and I cleared forested land. I am industrious. I helped humans build resistance to diseases like influenza, flu and pertussis.
Lard from my back fed Roman armies and was a principle source of protein for troops in The Revolutionary War. My lard makes soap, candles, and is used for cooking. It has been said that my bacon is the olive oil of the Americas. I was brought here by Vikings, Columbus, Cortes, and de Soto. Just like the humans, I settled in Jamestown. The Pilgrims brought me to Massachusetts. I came to your shores from China, Russia, Africa and the Pacific. I used to roam free on city streets keeping them clean. Cincinnati is known as Porkopolis and Chicago as the Hog Butcher to the World.
Today, factory farms have violated the sacred relationship we have developed with you over millennia. Of the 90 million of my kind in the U.S., almost every one is raised in crowded barns, removing any chance for our curiosity and intelligence to flourish. This has made us meaner to you and each other. I am fed food that is unfit for consumption.
Today most of my kind have weak genetics. We are pushed to grow too fast and yield unnaturally lean meat. Because of these living conditions, we develop new diseases and I now need medicine in my food. By stupidly relying on only two genetics, my rich diversity is risking extinction. You decrease the chance that my kind can ever again become the strong, proud animal it once was.
But there is hope. Hope flickers on family farms that dot the surroundings of your farmers markets and in places like Kansas and Missouri where rare and heritage breed associations honor us. Companies like Heritage Foods USA actively maintain our strongest claim to a secure future. All Pigs vote for Heritage Foods USA, its farmers, and its processors. Won’t you?