Pretty soon, one of these little guys is going to be ours. And then, late next fall, he will become dinner. Many dinners, actually. Not just for us, but for our friends and family too. I'm not sure even Randy could get through 200 pounds of pork, as hard as he might try.
How did this come to pass? Randy's little brother Matt has a small farm outside Grand Rapids with his wife Angie, a vet student. Shortly before we went to visit them last fall, I got an email announcing a "whole-hog" mulefoot dinner at Blackbird in Chicago. Mulefoot is the name of this particular breed (they're the black ones in the photo). It stuck in my head, mainly because the idea of a pig with mules' hooves sounded a little odd! Then I read some of the Chicago Reader articles about the pigs.
A couple of weeks later when we were on the farm, visiting with Matt's chickens, ducks, and conventional pigs, I kept babbling about the mulefoot. Gradually, a plan emerged: if we paid for its housing and feeding, Matt would raise and process the pig for us. Maybe we'd get a couple of subscriptions from our friends in Chicago, a mini meat CSA. And somehow we'd get a large portion of the meat back to California with us. (We still haven't quite worked that part out yet.)
Over the winter, we had the privilege of meeting Jude Becker and tasting his incredible pork. If you're in San Francisco, you can pick some up at Bi-Rite. Sometimes Pizzaiolo serves it too. We peppered him with pig questions and he didn't tell us we were crazy. And we went to Japan and tasted some pork that blew our minds ...miles away from the rubbery, lean pork chops we grew up with.
After some months of discussion, research, and a couple of craigslist ads, Matt found a man in the area who's willing to sell us a mulefoot feeder pig ($50). A feeder pig is purchased after it's been weaned so that you can "finish" and slaughter it. We're investigating sources for organic feed, trying to get that lined up before the pig arrives. And there may well be two pigs joining Matt's farm, since solitary swine tend to get lonely.
We know the scheme is not ideal. Ideal would, of course, be local. But Matt and Angie are in the family and have the passion and the land to make this happen. We are excited at the Midwestern provenance of the mulefoot, since that's where we're both from too. This year it's just a feeder pig. But maybe next year we can invest in a couple of animals for breeding. If we can help Matt develop a business selling humanely-raised heritage meat and eggs from happy chickens in one of the most downtrodden states in this blasted nation, we want to do that. Since we head back and forth to Michigan and Chicago from the Bay Area anyway, this is a chance to know the animal that we're going to eat ...and to know what that animal has been eating, too.
So, last week Randy, Matt and Angie meet with the mulefoot man. We don't get to choose our pig, because he wants to sell the top six for breeding. We'll get the one that's left over. Leftover pork! We expect the pig to arrive in early May. And after that, we'll see what happens...
Labels: pig chronicles