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Trend Watch: Chefs Are High On the Mangalitsa Hog

Hot & Cool Trends

Who’s the trendsetting porker for 2011? The hottest heritage hog, at least among high-end restaurants, appears to be the wooly Mangalitsa, an old breed of Hungarian pig that was all the rage in Europe about 100 years ago.

Now the obese pig is making a comeback in the U.S., becoming the premier heritage hog of choice among chefs at such well-known upscale restaurants as Le Cirque, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Eleven Madison Park in New York, and at Chef Thomas Keller’s venerable French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

According to Glenn Collins, writing in The New York Times, the Mangalitsa is becoming available to “ordinary pig worshippers,” as both fresh cuts of pork, cured ham, and other products.

The trend in hog farming in recent years has been to breed a leaner pig, to meet the demand for leaner cuts of “the other white meat.” This has been true even among the “heritage” breeds. The Mangalitsa is, without question, swimming against the current of that trend.

To get their incredible fat, Mangalitsas are raised for over a year and can get up to 300 pounds, which is heavier than the Berkshire, another heritage breed favored by pork aficionados. Standard-bred commodity pigs are generally slaughtered at about 175 pounds.

About 2 million standard, industrial-raised pigs are processed in the U.S. each week according to the National Pork Producers Council, while only about 50 Mangalitsas are processed in a given week—so it’s obviously on the gourmet end of the scale.

And they’re priced accordingly. Collins reports that in the New York area, a restaurant’s cost for a pound of Mangalitsa boneless loin is about $12, compared to $3 for standard issue hybrids and $7 to $8 per pound for Berkshires.

As described on website woolypigs.com, Mangalitsa fat is more unsaturated than normal pig fat, so it tastes much “lighter and cleaner” and melts at a lower temperature. It has a stronger flavor and more than double the marbling of average pork.

Liza de Guia, Founder and Chief Storyteller for website food, curated, calls it the Kobe Beef of pork. You can view the video of her encounter with Mangalitsa pigs, captured from the Huffington Post.

I guess if you want to go high on the hog, this would be the kind of hog you want to chow down on.

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Photos: Above, left: via; Above, right: Inn at Ship Bay