Friday, April 24, 2009

Alas, Poor Piggy. I Knew Him Well: Part 2

One of the most intriguing elements of the VIP event was a special comparison tasting of five rare, heritage breeds, hosted by Arie McFarlen of Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. This company was created to preserve endangered breeds and they have a rather unique philosophy, "Eat it to Save It."

In essence, they feel that the animals can only be saved by giving them a purpose, to be eaten. Though at first you might think that is contradictory, take some time to consider it. The idea actually makes a lot of sense. And the philosophy does seem to be working to help bring back endangered breeds.

McFarlen currently work with five breeds, including Mulefoot, Guinea, Ossabaw Island, Wessex Saddleback and Red Wattle. You can purchase live hogs to own yourself, or you can just order pork for eating. Their pork has been certified "Humane" by the Animal Welfare Institute. Their pigs have never been fed antibiotics, hormones or by-products.

Obviously it is vitally important to save these endangered breeds. Sadly, in November 2008, a fire destroyed an old barn at the Maveric farm, trapping and killing numerous animals, including a stallion, several Mulefoot hog sows with their litters of piglets, a Wessex saddleback boar, a Guinea hog boar and a number of cats. Rather than be defeated by this setback, Arie surged forward, her passion to protect the heritage breeds only burning brighter.

She established the Endangered Hog Foundation with a mission of preserving nine critically endangered hog breeds: Mulefoot, Guinea, Wessex Saddleback, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Large Black, Red Wattle, Ossabaw Island, Tamworth, and Hereford Hogs. The Foundation's work includes securing and distributing funds to assist breeders in DNA research, establishing breeding protocols, maintaining funds for herd rescue, public education, sponsorship of breeding animals and the importation/exportation of pigs to reinvigorate existing herds in the US, UK & Australia.

You can assist the Foundation's efforts in a myriad of ways: "Be it a cash donation, assistance at the farm, serving pork from one of our rare breeds, spreading the word or using whatever special talent you have, you are a vital part of our conservation effort." This is definitely a good cause and I encourage my readers to lend their support in any manner they can do so.

As for the comparison tasting, the five heritage pigs and the farms that supplied them were:

Guinea Hog (Arie McFarlen, Maveric Heritage Ranch)
Yorkshire (Adams Family Farm, Athol, MA)
Red Wattle (Josh and Kelly, Wendland Farms)
Berkshire (Mark and Rita, Newman Farms, Ozarks, MO)
American Mulefoot (Arie McFarlen, Maveric Heritage Ranch)

There were five large trays of pieces of pork, each from a different breed, all with different sauces or marinades. You served yourself, tasting and comparing the succulent meat from the different pigs. If you think all pork is the same, then you would be very wrong. Many people are only used to the pork you buy at your local Stop & Shop or other such grocery store. All of that pork looks and tastes alike. But you would be amazed at the myriad of flavors within these heritage breeds.

All five of these pigs were very different, including their look, texture and taste. This type of comparison testing is extremely educational, showing you exactly how varied pork can be. I found all of the pork to be very delicious though my favorite was the American Mulefoot. It just had the flavor that most satisfied me, almost a sweetness to the meat. But it is the variety of flavors in the different breeds that most impressed me.

I was also intrigued about learning more about the American Mulefoot. For example, it is the only pig breed native to North America. It also has a solid hoof like a horse. But there are only about 300 of these pigs in existence.

Don't let any of these endangered breeds vanish. Don't let this delicious pork disappear. Please lend support to the Endangered Hog Foundation.

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