2011 City Guide: Pork

photo by Nathan Peracciny, courtesy of Feed Your Soul Productions

A passion for all things porcine has gripped the country with a foodie fervor unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Images of bacon now grace all sorts of inedible collectibles: wallets, belts, pillowcases, and more. Not to mention the fact that bacon has now made its way into the “it’s not just for breakfast anymore” categories with Vosges Mo’ Bacon milk chocolate bar or the Denny’s chain of restaurants recent menu addition, a maple bacon sundae. Is this obsession just a fad? Or is it a sign that the pendulum is swinging the other way, away from spa diets, raw food enthusiasm, and the increase of vegetarianism, at their height just a few years ago?

Either way, pork in any form is here to stay, and wise consumers have begun to grasp the idea that pork isn’t and should never have been “the other white meat.” Bred to fit into narrow pens and loaded up on antibiotics and hormones in order to produce the largest amount of lean meat possible, the pink, Wilbur-esque pig used in today’s factory farms are nothing like the pig of a hundred years ago. One hundred years ago, most pigs were pasture-raised foraging beasts whose meat was dark and full of flavor. Served in the finest restaurants across the country today, heritage-breed pork is the pork of our ancestors and hopefully, it is the pork of our great-grandchildren.

Fortunately for WNYers, several local farmers pasture-raise heritage breed hogs, making their moist and luscious meat available to us as consumers at several area farmers markets and at restaurants whose chefs are committed to ingredients with flavor and integrity. Our favorite is T-Meadow Farms in Lockport, which we featured in our September 2009 local food issue. Their Tamworth and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs live a wonderful life on a grassy open field before becoming the most amazing chops, roasts, and bacon we’ve ever had. If you’d like to try the meat before cooking it yourself, sample some of farmer Rich Tilyou’s fine work at restaurants such as Carmelo’s in Lewiston (425 Center St., 754-2311) or Bistro Europa in Buffalo (484 Elmwood Ave., 884-1100).

To begin learning about the importance of heritage breeds, check out www.sustainabletable.org/issues/heritage. You can also learn more about T-Meadow Farms and their mission to reinvigorate waning hog breeds at www.heritagebreedsusa.com.

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