2012 - Volume #BFS, Issue #12, Page #68[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story ]
Rare Hog Breed Catches On FastCarl Blake doesn’t believe in “build it and they will come”. He has taken the initiative to build a following for his rare Swabian Hall hogs which didn’t even exist in North America 2 years ago (see Vol. 33, No. 4 for FARM SHOW’S first report). Since then the Swabian Hall has become the “in-demand” hog for a number of top chefs around the country and has won acclaim among cured meat lovers.
“If people taste the meat, you don’t have to push it,” says Blake. “They tell me they’ve never had anything like it. We have chefs serving Swabian Hall pork in fine restaurants from Chicago to San Francisco and St. Paul to Houston.”
He credits the taste and quality of fat and muscle with both breeding and ration. Though he feeds breeding herds traditional corn and soymeal rations, meat animals are finished for two months on peanuts, rye, barley and canarygrass seed with acorns, when available.
Whatever he’s doing must work because one of Blake’s pigs won top honors in COCHON 555 San Francisco. The event is a traveling contest that requires participating chefs to use the entire carcass of a heritage breed pig in a variety of dishes from appetizer to dessert. In the case of Staffan Terje, the San Francisco chef who won with a Swabian Hall pig from Blake, he even used the blood and rendered lard. His dessert item was hog’s blood cupcakes with whipped lard frosting. A judge described it as tasting like a “moist chocolate cupcake”.
Getting his rare breed noticed didn’t just happen. Blake emphasizes that you have to have the right product for the market and package it right. He promotes the pork, the pig, its heritage and the way he raises it.
Blake has worked to build awareness through one-on-one interaction with chefs as well as local farmers market customers.
“I call them up, explain what I am doing and ask if I can visit them,” explains Blake. “When I visit, I give them some of my pork and ask them to try it. So far we have been building demand as fast as we have built our hog numbers.”
To find local buyers, Blake takes his prepared pork to area farmer’s markets and gives out free samples. He also donates pigs to be prepared by local chefs for fund-raising banquets.
Having a winning hog at a COCHON 555 has opened doors for Blake with other chefs. Blake’s pork was the featured pork at the James Beard Foundation Annual Dinner in Chicago.
Blake walks a fine line, building demand and supply at the same time. He currently has around 250 F1 (initial cross) Swabian Hall animals in his herd. He has begun cross breeding the multiple lines in an effort to create a purebred Swabian Hall.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Carl Blake, 1109 Larrabee Ave., Ionia, Iowa 50465 (ph 319 464-4175; email@example.com; www.swabianhall.com).
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