Serious Eats

Farm-Raised Ossabaw Pigs, Old School and Seriously Tasty

ossabawpig.jpg The Charlotte Observer's Kathleen Purvis visits 15-year-old Jonah Koeningsberg, who is raising a rare old-breed of pig called the Ossabaw on his farm in Union County. Ossabaws are said to be descendants of the Iberico pigs dropped off on an island in Georgia by Spanish conquistadors when they were exploring the New World over 400 years ago; they remained isolated for all that time and, while they've gotten smaller over the years due to insular dwarfism, Ossabaws also adapted to the food cycles of the island by storing tremendous amounts of body fat. Koenigsberg, his father Sammy, and other farmers like them are part of a move to start "getting pigs back onto small farms and keeping the genetic diversity of older lines." But why bother at all, when industrial pig farming can be so lucrative?

Don Schrider, communications director for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy in Pittsboro, points to all kinds of benefits, from hardiness to increased Omega-3 fatty acids in the fat of animals raised on pasture.

Then there's the taste factor. Everybody agrees that old breeds, raised in the right setting, have it all over industrial pigs that produce lean meat known for its consistency.

"These breeds on our list, like Tamworth and Ossabaw, all these breeds are winning acclaim for their flavor," says Schrider. "It's a stark difference between what you can buy in a grocery store. It's not a subtle difference."

South Carolina's Caw Caw Creek Farm lets their Ossabaw pigs live free and forage, rotating them between woods and pasture; they provide their pork to chefs like Daniel Bouled and Thomas Keller. Owner Emile deFelice will send all kinds of delicious pork straight to your kitchen via FedEX or DHL overnight delivery.

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