Adult_mangalitsa

A grower named Heath Putnam has asked me to spread a  potentially great proposal.  Many months ago Heath emailed me with questions about pigs and getting good ones to chefs in the Pacific Northwest.  He intended to raise some of the best pigs available, European breeds, slow-growing, lardy pigs finished on a special diet.  And he’s done that, he’s grown the woolly pig, the Mangalitsa (above), and my friend Devin Knell, a long time sous at the French Laundry and excellent cook, says that the pork they’ve gotten from Heath has been great, they’ve only had a young Mangalitsa but are waiting for a larger one to try.

Problem: Heath is a small farmer way the hell out in Spokane, WA.  It costs him a lot of money to transport these fantastic beasts to the chefs who can put them to use.  So much money it makes them prohibitively expensive for the chefs and too difficult for him to transport himself.

PurebredSolution: Heath wants to grow fleets of little piggies and spread them among farmers who are near great concentrations of chefs so that the chefs can afford to buy them and farmers can afford to grow them.  He’s created a plan whereby interested farmers could purchase these purebred Mangalitsa and Mangalitsa-Berkshire piglets and bring them back to their farms to raise (they’re not expensive to feed out, Heath says, especially if there are nut bearing trees on the  farm, so the cost is primarily in labor).

Any chefs or farmers who are interested in pursuing—dairy farmers might expand into pigs in order to make use of their whey, as they do in Parma—please be in touch with Heath, who has written a thorough description of his proposal at his site.  His goal is nothing less than to make the West Coast a place that grows the best pork in the world.

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60 Wonderful responses to “Attention Bay Area Chefs and (Current and Future) Pig Farmers”

  • Cliff Replogle

    Heath — I emailed you a comment and received no response so I will try to catch your attention from here.

    Central Coast California is a perfect location for supplying not only the SF area (only about a 4 hour drive) – but Los Angeles (about 2 hours) and even Las Vegas (about 6 hours)

    I am currently trying to gather info on processing and inspection costs so that I can make a viable offer. Before I get into it, I want to know what you think?

    you can email me at cliffy771@yahoo.com, or creplog@cosbpw.net. Thanks

  • gary angell

    I am the farmer near Spokane, WA. that raised the pigs for Heath Putnam that he is currently selling. It is an all natural pasture based farm. He is not a farmer himself and has many wild ideas about raising pigs. He currently keeps them at the worst kind of confinement farm and uses antibiotics to keep them healthy. He never mentions the current farm. I don’t recommend these pigs from a farmers standpoint!!!!

  • luis

    Just look at the cute piggies in the picture. Real world… bring them to the farm.. name them pet them and you will end up caring for them year after year. This babies would never see the b-u-t-c-h—….word that should never be spoken.

  • luis

    Don’t kid yourself Erin. They are cute and they have personalities like all animals. God bless the farmers that can deal with that dilemma. It may be a really silly thing on my part but I know for sure that folks will not go fishing with me because I detest to bait hooks with live bait. And I release everything I catch. Doesn’t mean I am a wooz or nothing like that. I’d do what I have to given the circumstances. It’s other…. Someone chooses to be a farmer, I choose to be other. It takes different brain connections. Who set this shitty scenario up and why? that is the issue. I could be a fish farmer or a veggie farmer. But an animal farmer takes a different kinda guy.

  • luis

    We are now looking at some acres in central fl. Retirement stuff… but by gosh if I ever have a piece o’land… I will get with Heath and check out the Mangalitzas….
    The only way to create wealth is to create. Not just service But actually create something. This is why we are in the fix we are in now.

  • Andres Larin

    Michael, I came across an article about the pigs back in November in Idaho falls, Idaho, from a Spokane, Washington, paper, I did find it in the airport after all. but it was all about Heath and his pigs and how good they tasted, it made my drool, think of a beautifully marbled piece of prosciutto from those babies. mmmm piggy. I bet you Constantino is going shit brick when he finds out about these things.

  • luis

    This one is for the experts. I have been trying to find directions around the web on how to butterfly a pig. I can do chickens but the closest I have come in pigs is this:
    One: don’t cut the skin.. and
    Two: you need to do something to their back bone?

    Can anyone help me understand How to go about butterflying an 80lb pig/pork…behemoth…

  • luis

    Unprovoked shark attacks…One diver dead after being stu… Folks don’t mess with sharks. You are not Mike Nelson and you have no skills….

  • Tags

    Another quote from “good good pig” (page 7)

    In his hunting days in Brazil, President Theodore Roosevelt once saw a jaguar dismembered by South American native pigs. Although pigs are generally good-natured, more people are killed each year by pigs than by sharks. (Which should be no surprise-how often do you get to see a shark?)

  • Heath Putnam

    luis – The pigs have a hard time with heat. Maybe they’d lose their coats if you moved them to FL – but it could be tough. If you want a lard-type pig that does well in FL, I’d look for a Chinese or Vietnamese breed from a semi-tropical climate. I looked up the Caja China device, but not the recipe. Mangalitsa pigs are great roasted.

    BBQ Fan – In general, Mangalitsa costs 3-5 times what normal pork costs. So take the shoulder price and scale it up.

    Tags – The Hungarians used to take the pigs and turn them into sausage. That’s how they’d preserve them. They also work with hot meat (pre rigor mortis). The idea is that the drop in pH in the meat is what kills the germs in the ground pork.

  • luis

    Interesting lake dynamics…. not really. They live amongst us and we just don’t notice it.
    Bro’s show up with a combo marshmallos, old bread and stale pretzels….meant for the ducks of course.
    Ducks are acting cool…like all the lake deforestation isn’t important?… I immediatelly spread it all out on the barren bank… not a duck in striking range.
    Well blackbirds zeroed in first.. then brownies swooped down on the scraps…well we turned and walked away in disgust…what would a marshmallow do to an un invited black bird? just as we were driving off the ducks were all over the stuff. Gosh if you feed them they will come.
    Well kicking things around we ended up in Isla Morada which is in the Florida Keys were we tired of looking at the real estate and ended up at Hog Heaven’s.
    I had the pork po’boys and the bitter key west lager with the breaded squid rings appetizers. Long story short, it was more fun feeding the fish than eating or drinking anything at Hog’s heaven. If you feed them they will come I guess… barracudas, snappers..more fish I can remember…
    Honestly the pork wasn’t anything to write home about and it was topped with a sweet barbeque sauce….No doggy bag for me.
    Nobody does pork right in this town. Did you catch the caja china pork recipe?…
    It is not about sweet.. it is about pork people. I think Bobby Flay gets it. Oh! and you’d love the sign on the door at Hog Heaven.
    It reads “the beer is hot, the food is lousy and the service sucks”. “Have a nice day”.
    The staff though was like hooters on steroids which in a sports bar is not entirelly out of place.
    Imagine a major market going begging….and not even knowing.
    I

  • BBQ Fan

    I have a question for Putnam. Exactly where do you see your product prisewise as compared a good quality butcher’s offerings ?

    If your jowl bacon is $22 lb, what will shoulder cost ? Other parts of the animal ? Spareribs ?

  • Tags

    My guess is you’ll have a better chance to taste them at BBQ events, since contestants are more prone to buy them than proprietors of BBQ joints, especially as prize money ascends while restaurant competition puts pressure on profits.

    Ham, though, will likely be served in the finer restaurants and fine foods emporiums.

  • Tags

    A quote from page 57 of Sy Montgomery’s “the good good pig;”

    From the Austro-Hungarian Empire came the fleecy-coated Swallow-Bellied Mangalitsa, bred for meat suited to Hungarian salami.

  • luis

    That is another thing I hadn’t thought of. I wonder if the Mangalitzas would do well in the southern florida weather. That heavy coat it wears could be trouble in the south. Nothing that an airconditoned barn wouldn’t solve. Makes an argument for buying the frozen carcasses and renting a walk in.

  • luis

    well I don’t have a farm… but do share a lake. Mangalitzas is a megawinner in this market and I am working on that. For now I will clean up the lake and raise tilapia. It is what I can do at this time.

  • Heath Putnam

    latenac – from poking around, it has become clear that some of the best people to raise these pigs aren’t currently farming pigs. The folks who farm pigs already produce low-quality pork and sell it to customers who don’t demand the best. Although they are raising pigs, they don’t know what to feed them to get the best pork. I don’t see how you can count on those folks to do it right. In any case, when they go to market the pork, the customers have to trust them, which is tough if they know about their normal pigs.

    Similarly, the restaurants that already buy a lot of pork aren’t generally the best purchasers of Mangalitsa – the best ones are the ones who buy lamb and Wagyu, and complain that pork is too dry.

    I contacted Michael because I figured that he’d get the word out to folks who want the best raw material, or to people who want to produce the best. Assuming you want to produce the best, it is trivial to set up a pig finishing operation, buy the feeder pigs and produce some of the best pork there is.

    Mathias – My exclusive control of the genetics drives some into an envious frenzy. And the fact that I’m specifically hoping to get the pigs into the Bay Area in a big way bothers people who think I’m insulting them.

    Bob – That pig is from Christoph Wiesner’s farm. I have a bunch that look like her. I don’t care if you have an oak grove. It sounds like the pigs will wind up in NYC, which is good enough – as long as you’ll feed them properly.

    vox8 – I think an acre or two of oaks per pig is enough acorns. They like the low-tannin ones.

    luis – I think those palm seeds may have too much palmitic acid. If I remember correctly, if the pigs fatten on that, it gives their fat a soapy flavor. You’d want to do some experiments. In any case, if you just feed them barley & wheat, you get a superior pork.

  • luis

    Bob/HEath we have a LOT of palm trees and Palm tree farms in Miami. They of course do not produce acorns but they do produce seed pods that resemble acorns in size and weight.
    http://www.tropilab.com/royalpalm.html
    The link above may strike a bell with you?. How do you think the Mangalitzas do on these?? do you guys know?

  • Bill

    Hi Michael, thanks for the info about the pigs. We are always looking for new and wonderful foodstuffs from local artisans who share the passion of the craft. I am going to network with the great chef’s in Seattle who share the same passion as I do about great, sustainable sources and aim to try to help Heath get his pigs out to those that care. Thanks, Bill

  • latenac

    No it’s just a strange proposal to have on such a wide reaching website. If you’re really just looking for farmers in a certain area that you already supply a restaurant to, then you talk to the chefs of those restaurants and find out what local farmers they use and network to find someone closer. Or you take a trip down to the Bay Area and visit farmers markets and network that way. Or you begin a program of trying to get farmers not too far from you to begin to raise the pigs and then start working your way down the coast. Or you contact local farmer’s associations. etc., etc.

    It’s one thing to create word of mouth about a new or returning food product to a certain area to create a buzz and convince people to go to Seattle or the Bay Area to try it. That’s where this blog and Saveur, etc. can help and French Laundry. But if you’re really just trying to get other farmers to raise your pigs closer to where they need to end up there are more targeted and productive ways of doing it. (yes I’m in marketing)

    And as more is revealed I can’t help but wonder if the reason why Heath is reaching out this way is because his standards for how the pigs must be raised is a little too stringent for the average small farmer even ones where transportation costs aren’t a problem. And yes, I’m a cynical heartless suspicious person even though I live in the Oregon of the East Coast, Vermont. But I do have easy access to pork from Berkshires and Tamworth pigs so I’m not actually overly jealous or bitter.

  • vox8

    How many acorns are a lot of acorns? Because I have 3 120 ft Pin Oaks in my yard here in GA and they produce an awful lot of acorns. Oaks are pretty common – are the acorns that the pigs are finished on a different type?

  • luis

    Heath I am excited for you and this is a major market. Have you ever heard of the “caja china”. Bet Ruhlman has. Any way I will visit some of the 24/7 roast houses here and see if they are willing to roast a pig for me. Shouldn’t be hard. After that I will find the right ocassion contact you and see what it takes to make it happen. I got some talent coming up in the fam… we will see if this dream fades or sticks in my mind. Nothing but the best to you Heath. Godspeed.

  • luis

    DOOOOOOOOOhHHHHHHHHHH!! This is like Ratatouille all over again. Gaston or was it Gastineau?? vs the creepy chef with the fast food ideas….. It all comes down to price vs flavor. I bet ruhlman could pencil in some recipes and ideas for a franchise. Built on flavor of course and cost too… Nobody knows this better than Heath. If his intuition leads him to the haute cuise market.. so be it. I would do cartwheels for really good tasting food vs just more of the same same…
    Would whoever borrowed my ratatuille cd pleeeeassee bring it back?

  • Heath Putnam

    luis – I would love nothing more than for someone to roast and serve whole Mangalitsa pigs every day, in a major market – especially if they could use frozen carcasses. It wouldn’t matter if it was a street vendor. Mangalitsa meat is extremely addictive.

  • latenac

    I guess I’m not understanding if you’re only looking for Bay Area Farmers why you’d have this promoted on a much further afield reaching blog and in Saveur magazine this issue. Surely there are better ways of finding Bay Area Farmers, like a farming association or the Organic Farming association, etc, etc.

  • Mathias Eichler

    Not sure why everybody is giving Heath such a hard time about his business proposal here.
    If you have constructive critism, first learn to understand what he’s trying to do – how about try his pork?!? and then come up with comments and ideas.
    Just because something is not offered to you doesn’t mean the idea sucks.
    If you want his pigs, he’ll give them you you. Oh wait, you just want to whine and not actually pay the money, right?!?

  • Bob delGrosso

    Holy Moses Heath, that’s a gorgeous pig. Wow.

    I’d love to have pigs like that, but I’m in Pa. so given what you wrote in your comment (above) I don’t think it would work. (We are far away and don’t have an oak grove on our farm)

    Wow, did you breed that beautiful animal?

  • Bob delGrosso

    Holy Moses Heath, that’s a gorgeous pig. Wow.

    I’d love to have pigs like that, but I’m in Pa. so given what you wrote in your comment (above) I don’t think it would work. (We are far away and don’t have an oak grove on our farm)

    Wow, did you breed that beautiful animal?

  • luis

    Heath you posted “I don’t understand your remark, “The issue is, why develop a more expensive cut of pork for basically peasant dishes?” Mangalitsa is a superior meat. In Austria where there is a wide and deep market in the stuff (and the substitute, Iberico), it costs 3-5 times what normal pork costs. The price per pound of Mangalitsa is very, very high.”

    Heath I am excited for you about a better cut of pork. I live in Miami where they sell more Cuban and ham sandwiches than they do burgers.
    It’s very competitive. Everyone loves pork.. this is a peasant dish.

    I actually intended to post you that if your pork is “that much better and differentiable from the rest”. YOu should build a franchise around it. Just like chicken or burgers… Nothing but pork. Cuban sandwiches, po boys.. chinesse pork dishes.. french pork roasts..hawaian.. whatever just build a superior franchise and go build it. If your pigs can deliver value and flavor.. they will succeed. I just think you have a tough job and I admire what you are doing. Best of luck.

  • Heath Putnam

    This is Heath Putnam responding to various people who’ve commented so far:

    Kathrine: I’m very happy that you like the jowl bacon. It is my favorite – when I’m running out of jowl bacon, it is clear we need to kill more hogs. However, the price for the jowl bacon is $22/lb, not $25/lb. The package you bought must have been a bit bigger than a pound. That was from our year-old, properly fattened Berkshire hogs, of course. Our Mangalitsas are too young to cure, so there’s no bacon yet. I’m determined to cure no pigs until their time.

    Marlies – that was my site, not Michael Ruhlman’s. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I strongly recommend you go to Austria. Spitzbart’s operation is amazing, if you want to see a farm/restaurant combination.

    Tags – the pigs will all get eaten. They won’t be wandering around with nobody to take them.

    Laura – I’m promoting the offer to B.A. farmers because I’ve got customers there already, and I want someone who can service them. E.g. The French Laundry, Bouchon and Ad Hoc need to get their Mangalitsa. If Devin Knell has to pay a lot for freight, I’ll be letting him down.

    Additionally, one can finish pigs on acorns in California. I don’t know of a place on the East Coast near NYC with plentiful acorns. I’m not averse to selling the pigs to the East Coast – but let’s be reaslistic: if you factor in the hauling, the East Coaster will have to pay an arm and a leg just to get the piglets. It isn’t likely we can conclude a deal very quickly. With the Bay Area and Portland, it should be a lot simpler to establish relationships and get it done.

    Wooly Pigs is not now selling breeding animals with Mangalitsa admixture because it hasn’t been possible to come to agreement with anyone on a price Wooly Pigs considers reasonable. Given that, I’m promoting an offer that should work.

    Finally, our goal isn’t to bring back heritage pig breeds. If you look at the website, you’ll see, “Wooly Pigs is a business formed to raise and sell pork like Europe’s best.”

    We’d like to help the breed (and all lard-type breeds, actually) to survive, of course. One way to do that is to demonstrate the economic utility of the breed.

    Bob – I’ve been trying to get that cut into his hands for a while now. I know that if he ever experiences the Notorious C.U.T. he’ll understand what is different about Mangalitsa.

    Luis – I’m perfectly happy to sell (or anyone) breeding stock – it just comes down to price. So far, it hasn’t been possible to work out a deal with that Wooly Pigs would consider fair. The root of the problem is that we are the only one with the genetics in the Americas, so selling stock hurts the value of Wooly Pigs. Just put yourself in the shoes of a potential acquirer. Hence the price of the breeding stock would have to be very high for it to work – and it hasn’t worked out yet.

    I don’t understand your remark, “The issue is, why develop a more expensive cut of pork for basically peasant dishes?” Mangalitsa is a superior meat. In Austria where there is a wide and deep market in the stuff (and the substitute, Iberico), it costs 3-5 times what normal pork costs. The price per pound of Mangalitsa is very, very high.

    Claudia – the wool has little value. Apparently fly fishermen like the hairs for some reason. I think if one killed a bunch of piglets and took their fur, one could make some neat-looking stuff – but that’d be very expensive and would draw the ire of the anti-fur crowd.

    Alejandro – If you buy my pigs and haul them to the East Coast, you’ll have them on the East Coast. It will cost a lot to haul them – but go ahead and give me a call. I just hope you finish them the right way and sell them into the right market.

    Edsel – Please see the above remarks. I have nothing against the Ohioans buying my pigs. I think it is unlikely that anyone in Ohio will outbid a California producer for the pigs though, given that the Californian producer will be selling a super-premium product in one of the best markets, and the Ohio producer will have to pay a lot more to haul the piglets.

    My biggest motivation to set up a relationship in the Bay Area is to keep some of my best customers – The French Laundry, Bouchon and Ad Hoc happy.

    Finally, I’d lean to selling to a Bay Area producer because it would probably be better for Wooly Pigs. The Bay Area had good coffee (Peet’s), good bread, good cheese and so on before much of the USA.

  • Alejandro

    Can he get pigs to the East coast perhaps? I’ve dealt with a lot of Berkshires but those are quite interesting and would be put ot good use…

  • edsel

    Michael,

    I have to agree with part of Laura’s comment. Namely, why limit this to Bay Area only? I bet there are farmers here in Ohio who could find a market for this pork with local restaurants. Have you asked Michael Symon or Jonathan Sawyer if they’d be interested in this stuff? Could Ed Snavely or Kat Breychak raise these pigs?

    One part of Laura’s post I’d disagree with – at least partially. Calling Heath’s marketing of the pigs “profiteering” is a bit harsh. I’m sure he’s gone to considerable expense to import this breed, so it’s only fair that he gets to make back some of his investment. Ultimately it’s best to propagate the breed to many, many producers. Maybe Heath could charge a premium price for breeding stock (above what he charges for the neutered piglets). Just a thought.

  • Claudia

    Bob Del Grosso, time to get some for your farm so us deprived East Coasters can enjoy these guys, too! Of course, I had just finished reading Kaminsky’s Pig Perfect when Michael first blogged about Heath and the other breeds of great piggies pig farmers are starting to use. (I e-mailed Heath, and he said their hair is wire-y wooly – more like wire-y buffalo wool than sheep wool – but I wonder if you can use the Maglitsa wool, too?)

  • Lee Ashwood

    That’s the nicest looking pig I’ve seen in ages and ages… perhaps since I was a child on the Farm.
    Only now am I lamenting living in town.

  • Laura

    Why on earth isn’t he making this proposal to pig farmers on the East Coast? What, do New York chefs have no credibility anymore?
    If he’s intent on promoting this breed, why are all the pigs he sends neutered? Much as I support his efforts in bringing back heritage pig breeds, such actions smack of profiteering. It’s livestock he’s selling, after all, not Louis Vuitton purses or some such nonsense. If he has good bloodlines he should be willing to spread them.

  • bob mcgee

    Michael,
    If you have the opportunity, you absolutely have to try Heath’s Notorious K.U.T. It’s a bone in Mangalitsa pork belly, cut in about 2″ strips horizontally, absolutely the most decadent braising cut in all pigdom.
    His Berkshire jowl bacon is also to die for.

  • luis

    Laura, Tilapias were bred to make it impossible for them to reproduce in the wild and threaten the environment.

    Heath is doing similar but in a more grotesque fashion.

    The issue is, why develop a more expensive cut of pork for basically peasant dishes?.
    What would Escoffie think of this?

    This is Heath’s challenge. Tough row to hoe.

  • Tags

    Just don’t anybody rush in with their eyes closed. You’ve got to know the legal lay of the land first. Regulations have been the undoing of many a small farmer, since the laws are tilted towards the big meat companies.

    The last thing we need is a bunch of abandoned pigs wandering the California countryside and animal shelters, just like Easter chicks.

  • Maryann

    Do you have to show the babies when you’re writing about eating them? Look! One is smiling right into the camera! Geesh… I can’t look. :)

  • Marlies

    Michael, I spent half of the day visiting all the different sites on your Mangalitza blog. So interesting to see the Austrian farms and what they produce. That made up my mind. I am going to Europe to visit some of those this year, and eat some pork that has taste and is not “the other white meat”, overbred and insipid.

  • BBQ Fan

    Do you think that if some of these bigtime BBQ fanatics that travel the USA in search of blue ribbons use this guy’s product, that they might stand a chance of beating out their rivals who use supermarket pork ?

    I’ve heard that most of these guys buy the 89 cent/per/lb shoulder for the competitions and think it is good enough to win. I mean most of them smoke the daylights out it, inject just about everything into it , and slather it with tastebud altering sauce. Do you think a better base product will lead to more competiton victories ? Or are these BBQ competitors just cheap bastards ?

  • veron

    I’ll try and contact my local butchery right away. They might know some local farmers that might be interested.

  • Kay

    Who can afford that much land in the Bay Area? Be better off targeting the San Joaquin valley before the entire strip turns into one big Wal-Mart where pigs of the bipedal variety gather to suckle. Who knows, with decent meat available maybe someone will even open a decent restaurant in Fresno one day.

  • Tana

    I spread the word to my buddy, Jim Dunlop, at TLC (Tastes Like Chicken) Ranch in Watsonville. He’s already selling pork to places like Quince and Oliveto. Hope it works out.

    Why don’t you allow HTML comments?

    http://www.tasteslikechickenranch.com = TLC Ranch’s listing at LocalHarvest.org

    Fanx, Michael.

  • latenac

    There’s a guy here in Vermont that’s doing something similar for grass fed beef breeds. He’s part of a consortium of some sort. He helps to get the breeds here and then gets small farmers to raise them. I wonder if he’d be interested in pork b/c they sure are cute.

  • Big Red

    Give me 4 years Ruhlman…I am in the beginning planning stages of my own small Homestead of sorts, and I want to raise animals for humane slaughter, and prime meat for local restaurants and the like. I would LOVE to get my hands on a few piglets. They look so great, and there would be no one else in my area with them.
    We are still finalizing the building designs with the architect who happens to be my snot nose little sister so this could take a while. (4 years younger than I and she has never had to work a day in her life, nor has she EVER had a pimple or a bad hair day) If he is willing to keep it up for a while, pass along my info and I would be willing to purchase youngin’s from him. What a great opportunity!

  • Dick Black

    I wonder if Bob del Grosso thinks this breed of pig will be widely accepted or will the plan fail .

    Definitely has potential for new pigsuede apparel styles.

  • Kathrine

    Bought some of Heath’s jowl bacon at the Seattle Farmer’s market a few weeks ago. It was $25 a pound but the best bacon I have ever eaten. I hope his plans works!

  • NoseToTailAtHome.com

    It’s a very noble and ambitious plan. After seeing the picture of the Mangalitsa loin on his website, I hope as many farmers as possible take him up on his offer.

  • Andy

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but the fact that those little piglets are so adorable actually makes me want to eat one more!

  • GG Mora

    That’s a mighty fine and distinguished-looking pig. You can just barely make out the wire-rimmed spectacles under his bangs.