Top chefs requesting fattier pork

US - The frantic phone call to Iowa was followed quickly by an urgent e-mail. Money was no object. Could the pork fat be sent overnight?
calendar icon 9 July 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
Le Mars-based producer Tim Beeler checks out one of his pigs on the More Pork Farm near Oto. On the West Coast, consumers are paying premium prices for fattier, humanely raised pork, he says.

"This was a customer on the West Coast," said Kathy Eckhouse of La Quercia, a pork-curing operation in Norwalk.

"We were able to get it to them," she said. "But I felt a little guilty because the shipping cost as much as the pork."

We're not talking just any pork here. This was a slab of expertly cured pork fat, cut from the leg of a hog.

The idea that a restaurant would panic over a blubbery cut of pork might strike Iowans as strange.

But, after falling from grace during the health-obsessed 1980s, pork fat is returning to the table in cutting-edge kitchens. This is especially evident on the East and West coasts, where some chefs actually know the names of Iowa farmers who specifically breed their hogs to have more fat content than common, other-white-meat hogs.

They are feeding the demand of customers who are in open rebellion against leaner pork that can often be dry and tasteless.

In New York City, destination eateries are making a name for themselves by moving away from lean pork and using juicier, brand-name pork.

Manhattan restaurants like Momofuku Ssam Bar and Daisy May's BBQ USA are charging $120 to $180 for a 5-pound pork butt that will feed five people.

They have charged $480 for a 35-pound whole pig that feeds up to 12 people.

"Pork is just huge here in New York right now," said Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May's. He has made several trips from New York City to Iowa. A National Pork Board Celebrated Chef from New York, Lang is a former champion of the Great Pork BarbeQlossal at the World Pork Expo, held in Des Moines.

"Chefs are in love with the fat because it carries so much flavor and because special niche pork makes it easier for chefs to do very special things.''

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