The Case of the Red Wattle

Drawing by Sara Bloomberg

“You are what you eat!” It’s an old adage that encourages us to make healthy choices about the food we consume. A donut? Or a banana? One will give you energy and the other will slow you down. But for a pig, such decisions are irrelevant. No, I’m not talking about someone who stuffs their face with processed junk. Hogs will slop down just about anything. And for the Red Wattle, what they eat determines the experience our taste buds have when we grill up a chop.

While most pork consumed in the U.S. is the result of many years of selective breeding for qualities that are prized for mass production and a standard flavor, many small farmers have preserved so-called “heritage” breeds, including the Red Wattle which has come close to extinction, except for the efforts of passionate farmers who raise them.

Heritage breeds all maintain unique qualities such as markings, sizes, fat content and flavors- just like the heirloom tomatoes we go crazy for during the fall. Unlike the short local tomato season, pork can be enjoyed year round. We are proud to carry Red Wattle pork from Heritage Foods USA, a collective of small farms in the Midwest using natural, humane techniques for raising livestock. Try one tonight and see what flavors you can detect… Maybe sweet corn? Or nutty wheat berries? Wait a minute, is that chocolate cake? Well, maybe not.

Bon appetit!
Sara  (from the Deli!)

P.S. Right now we’re carrying Red Wattle Heritage Porterhouse Pork Chops ($8.99/lb) and Red Wattle Heritage Center Cut Pork Chops ($10.99/lb)

P.P.S. To read more about the Red Wattle breed, visit Heritage Foods or Slow Foods USA.

4 Responses to “The Case of the Red Wattle”

  1. David says:

    Aren’t red wattle pigs on the endangered species list?

    • Kirsten says:

      Great question David, and thanks for asking it. Red wattles might be endangered as a species, and the same is true for lots of the fruits, vegetables, and animal breeds that are classified as “heritage”. But because they are domesticated animals and not wild animals, we must eat them to save them. The pig exists as a food, and is therefore different than a bald eagle or panda bear which is a wild animal, meant to live in the wild. This is precisely the reason why we need to support the farmers, ranchers and organizations like Heritage Foods USA who are working hard to keep these breeds in existence through domestication.

      We recently found a bumper sticker we love that shows a picture of a pig and says “If you love me, eat me”. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it means that in order to keep these unique breeds around, we need to get behind the farmers who raise them by continuing to buy, cook and enjoy them!

  2. Kent says:

    I happen to raise Red Wattles in Minnesota. It’s a great question David asks. I can say if I don’t have buyers for my hogs or pork, then I would only grow them for my family, and ultimately they would go extinct. If consumers demand more quality pork like that from the red wattle, then farmers like me will continue to grow our herds and re-invest in the breed. Keep in mind we can’t go to the local sale barn or get these hogs AI’d. We drive 1000 miles away to find new blood lines and keep the breed going. The real reason farmers don’t grow Red Wattles more often is they don’t do well in a confinement barn. We are committed to growing them on pasture which takes more effort, more risk and ultimately more (taste) reward. I love what I do and if I had to raise them in confinement I wouldn’t raise pigs or eat pork at all.

    • Josh says:

      Kent- Thanks for pasturing your pork! We’re doing a Red Wattle event this weekend and were lucky enough to find a farmer to partner with.