That’s Some Pig!

An Iowa farmer’s quest to breed the perfect pig

A gang of Swabian pigs going hog wild at nap time. Photo: Rustik Rooster Farms.

Carl Edgar Blake II, an Iowa-based farmer, is on a quest to breed the perfect pig.

Made by combining wild boars, a handmade hydroponic feeding system and just a little bit of pig magic, Blake’s pigs, called Swabians (after a 19th century bread ordered by King Wilhelm I of Baden-Württemberg), have been a hit in the trendy world of gourmet food, according to a recent New York Times profile:

Two years after his operation began, his pig won a heritage pork culinary contest in 2010, Cochon 555 in San Francisco.

“It was great meat,” said Staffan Terje, the chef and owner of Perbacco in San Francisco, who prepared Mr. Blake’s pig for the competition.

“It was rich in flavor and well-marbled,” said Michael Anthony, the executive chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York, who cooked dishes for his restaurant with an Iowa Swabian Hall.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Blake and his pigs–state inspectors have visited his farm multiple times out of concern his wild hogs were possessed illegally, and some cured-meat makers have questioned the success of the breed:

Herb Eckhouse, the owner of La Quercia, a cured meat manufacturer near Des Moines, made prosciutto from one of Mr. Blake’s pigs and said he would not work with them anymore because they were too fatty. He said he was having difficulty selling the meat.

“We found that we preferred other breeds to that breed for their flavor,” he said.

Still, Blake is optimistic and full of pig-related products sure to be a hit amongst the bacon fiends of the Internet: 

By March, he said, he hopes to have about 50 of his Swabians market-ready — he sells them for $3.75 to $4.50 per pound. Within the next seven months, he said, he hopes to have enough pigs to begin selling them weekly. In the meantime, he is supporting himself by selling bacon, beef sticks, novelties like bacon floss and bandages, and roasting pigs for special events.

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