For decades, hog farmers have been breeding animals to produce a leaner, pinker, lower-fat variety of meat that would calm their customers’ fears of clogged arteries. Lately, however, the strategy has run into an obstacle few people saw coming: a legion of foodies who think skinny pigs make for dry, bland meat.
The growing clamor for greasy bacon, sausages stuffed with supple lard, and pork chops oozing with deep, scrumptious, oleaginous flab is so strong, in fact, that a problem has developed. America has a shortage of flabby pigs.
People are taking a good hard look at their pork chops,” says farmer Mike Yezzi, 49, whose Flying Pigs Farm supplies Mr. Foster, “and realizing there’s no way to cook this pork chop and not wind up without it being tough.”
More back fat is what discriminating pork lovers want, inches of it, along with redder meat. And thick, greasy bacon, and more supple lard in sausages. That’s the attraction of meat from fatty “heritage” breeds that can be hard to come by.
Penn TenEyck, a restaurant owner in tony Dataw Island, S.C., two years ago wanted to add pork chops to his menu but says “99% of the time they are dry.”
He found the breed of his desire—huge Tamworth hogs—at a farm an hour from Charleston. But “they had more chefs than hogs,” says Mr. TenEyck, 33. “To get in the doors was a little bit of a struggle.”
He persuaded another chef to put in a good word with the farmer, Marc Filion. Then he kept showing up at the local farmers market to chat up the farmer. After six months of Mr. TenEyck’s wooing, Mr. Filion agreed to sell him a pig.
Mr. TenEyck’s restaurant now trims the fat before serving $25 pork chops, using the lard in chicken pâté. “You get that nuttiness, that creamy flavor,” he says. “The fat cap on these things is like an inch and a half.”
Mr. Filion, 61, began raising Tamworths—nicknamed “bacon pigs”—at the urging of a local chef. “What really surprised me was when we started getting calls from chefs that were not in Charleston,” he says. “These chefs were in Columbia, Atlanta, Charlotte.”
For millennia, farmers bred pigs to be fat, prized partly for the lard used for meals and lubricants. Then synthetic oils and competition from leaner meats had many American hog farmers avoiding the fattiest breeds.
Heritage pork is definitely more expensive than the ordinary stuff, but to my taste, supermarket pork isn't worth eating anyway, so money spent on it is wasted. I pay up.