The Heritage breeds of pigs are nothing new. They have been raised on mixed-use farms for centuries.
Most farmers kept a few hogs on their property so the food chain would work beautifully. These heritage breeds are naturally thrifty and live off the land grazing on grass, grains and some waste from the farm.
Being outdoors and rummaging on the entire farm has two benefits to the pig. First, more movement equals more muscle. Second, the pig regulates its body temperature through colder climates with more fat.
These traits of firmer flesh and good marbling used to be revered and then the low-fat-diet fad hit the scene.
The trend became leaner is better and “The other white meat” was born.
Because of the demand, farmers were forced to raise a leaner hog, which means little fat and ability to stay outdoors. This has lead to a very lean, tasteless and ghostly white pork meat. Not to mention it is usually tough and has become unappealing by most people’s standards.
Heritage breeds are making a comeback. While they are a bit more expensive, they are worth it. You will most likely see Duroc and Berkshire at the butcher shop and in restaurants. The easiest rule with heritage breeds is they will be meatier than the typical grocery store brand and have more marbling. This makes the meat almost creamy.
Since most heritage breeds need space, they tend to be raised more humanly and handled with care. A low stress environment means better meat.
Both, Duroc and Berkshire are more flavorful, fattier and “porkier” than “the other white meat” has presented itself.
Duroc is a nice proverbial dip in the pool of heritage breed pork. They pigs are red in color and the meat is a beautiful, almost fuchsia rich pink. It has a nice combination of meat to fat ratio and is a crowd pleaser with its crisp clean taste and texture.
For those looking for a remarkable difference, or a swan dive into the pool of new pork, they should turn to Berkshire pigs.
The marbling in the crimson piece of meat resembles something like a prime piece of beef. The fat melts through the meat making it luscious and buttery with a smooth mouth feel as it melts on the tongue. Berkshire has an intense flavor. It’s juicy and smoky with a creamy finish.
Let the pork speak for itself and only use salt and pepper for your first preparation and cook to 145 degrees. Let it rest for three minutes.
It is a splurge to be had and one you will most likely remember.
Other heritage breeds to keep an eye out for include Hampshire, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Tamworth, Ossabaw, Mangalitsa and Red Wattle.
To find these cuts in Kansas City, ask the butchers at the Broadway Butcher Shop, Local Pig and McGonigle’s Market. Or try online attenderbelly.com
Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.