Saving the tasty Mangalica pig from the brink of extinction -- so it can be eaten

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After having eaten more than my share of mouth-watering ham during my recent trip to Gijón, Spain (where I gave a presentation about DIY at the fantablulous Foro Internet Meeting Point) I was gratified to read that the Mangalica pig has been saved from the brink of extinction. As Michael Pollan and others have pointed out, one of the best ways a plant or animal species can ensure its survival is to be useful to people.

At one time, only 198 purebred pigs remained in the world. Farmers preferred other breeds. "The corpulent Mangalica grows very slowly and cannot be kept in closed quarters. It is therefore poorly suited to modern industrial pig farms, and it has been gradually replaced by modern breeds," according to the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity in Florence, Italy.

After less than two decades of intense breeding, the Mangalica population has now increased one-hundred-fold, with 20,000 pigs living in Spain and Hungary.

An 8-10 pound leg of Boneless Jamon Mangalica costs $490 at La Teinda. Rare pig breed resurrected for ham lovers

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  1. Oddly enough $490 isn’t all that much for Spanish hams. Some of the better Jamon Iberico legs go for 20,000 Euro as a whole leg.

  2. And to think I’ve never gotten any credit for my “Save the Bald Eagle” recipe book. I thought it was very patriotic. I challenge anyone to think of a more appropriate bird for Thanksgiving Dinner.

  3. It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again – if you want to protect an animal from extinction, let people own (and/or eat) them. There are countless examples of this truism.

  4. I saw something exactly like this on TV.

    Because of the change to synthetic corks in wine bottles, protecting the cork tree is becoming a challenge. Its economic worth has diminished and thus so has our incentive to try and keep it around.

  5. A few months ago ABC correspondent John Stossel did a piece on saving endangered animals by letting farmers/ranchers raise them for sale/slaughter. I have to admit that it’s a pretty good idea.

  6. Long, long ago and far, far away… someone decided it would be a good idea to cross a pig with a poodle. This is the result.

  7. leads to an interesting question: there were woolly mammoths, were there megafauna peri-glacial woolly pigs?

  8. One of my co-workers was just talking about his free-range pigs were allowed to feed on fallen filberts (hazelnuts).

    He should invest in some of these.

  9. Hey, that thing has cloven hoofs! Is it possible? Could this be the long sought after Kosher pig???

  10. The laws of kashrut derive from various passages in the Torah, and are numerous and complex, but the key principles are as follows:

    * Only meat from particular species is permissible:
    o Mammals that both chew their cud (ruminate) and have cloven hooves can be kosher. Animals with one characteristic but not the other (the camel, the hyrax and the hare because they have no cloven hooves, and the pig because it does not ruminate) are specifically excluded (Leviticus 11:3-8).[2] (For a comprehensive review of the issue involving the difficulty that neither the hyrax nor the hare are ruminants, see Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s “The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax.”[3])

    In 2008, a rabbinical ruling determined that giraffes and their milk are eligible to be considered kosher.[4]

  11. I’m as foody as the next guy, but almost $100 per pound for ham? Gimme a break, this is the Monster Cable of food.

  12. All pigs have cloven hooves; disturbing curley toed ones if they don’t get enough exercise. It’s sort of creepy. There’s more problems with pigs than just their feet.

    They don’t chew their cud, they eat unclean things, they eat meat, lots of reasons why they get vetoed off the kosher list.

    A pigoodle would be just as unkosher. For more interesting questions about kashrut and mythical animals, I recommend Evil Monkey’s Guide to Kosher Imaginary Animals

    1. Yann Arthus-Bertrand has a wonderful photoset of French farmers and their medieval looking livestock. Unfortunately, you have to go through Photographer Website Hell to get to it.

      http://www.yannarthusbertrand.org/index_new.php
      – Select English version. It will now irritate you by opening a new window.
      – Mouseover the main graphic and select The Animals
      – Select Farm Animals

  13. So, do you think this buisness model will work to save and preserve the giant panda?
    And more importantly, wich sauce goes best with panda?

  14. @25 – Dry cured hams with special regional significance are really expensive. Takes a lot of uncured meat to equal 8-10 pounds dried ham.

    Even cheapo prosciutto di parma will set you back $250 for 14-15 pounds. Granted, that’s ~1/4th the price of this jamon, but it’s from a rare pig that grows really slowly. It’s time intensive and has to be done properly to get the curing right.

    This isn’t ham to roast and eat a slab of. This is the kind of stuff that has a culture around it like wine does. You make paper thin slices and mostly wrap it around other stuff.

  15. I disagree about the Monster Cable of Meats comment. The pata negra ham is well worth the $100/# price. It is absolutely heavenly.

  16. I actually met Michael Pollan while I was an undergrad journalism major at NC State University (which incidentally has one of, if not the best agriculture and agribusiness programs in the southeast imho) and his philosophy was fascinating. I had an article published in the NC State Technician and ultimately the Raleigh News and Observer in support of his opinions. My father and I went on a weeklong heirloom food diet as a sort of immersion therapy of flavors. Dad is a country boy and naturally a big hunter and fisherman so for him it was not unusual to experience the gamey flavors of heirloom chicken. I, however, was quite surprised when we roasted two chickens, one from Harris Teeter and one an heirloom Blue Foot, in two ovens and then simultaneously compared the flavors of the two, I can honestly say that the supermarket chicken was the equivalent of white bread, whereas the Blue Foot actually tasted like…something…and something GOOD.

    However, I will say it was probably the only week that I’ve ever spent $600 on groceries for two.

  17. Article:

    An 8-10 pound leg of Boneless Jamon Mangalica costs $490 at La Teinda. Rare pig breed resurrected for ham lovers

    Anonymous:

    I’m as foody as the next guy, but almost $100 per pound for ham? Gimme a break, this is the Monster Cable of food.

    … I do wonder about the level of math taught these days. Since when is $49-$61 equal to “almost $100”? ;)

    Anyway, I agree with the other commenters. This is only about twice the price of good quality jamon serano. So, lots, but in the same order or magnitude. And, like caviar or saffron, isn’t something you use pounds of at a time.

    If you want pig that takes much longer to grow can can’t be packed together in crates with no room to turn around, you have to be willing to pay a little more.

  18. that is soooo cool!!! why haven’t i heard of this before??? i wouldn’t eat one though..

  19. I misread the title as being “Mangelic Pig” (as in man+angelic). I now have a name for that electroclash boyband I’ve always wanted to start.

  20. Never mind Unicorn Chasers. Now we can have Mangalica pig chasers instead.. cuz they’re so darned cute :)

  21. Mangalica, Mangalica, men have named you
    You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile
    Is it only cause you’re lonely they have blamed you?
    For that Mangalica strangeness in your smile?

  22. Though I don’t specifically object to GM foods per se, my personal bugaboo is peaches.

    As a child, I ate soft sweet fuzzy peaches (mostly grown locally in southern Ontario Canada) but now your only options are more nectarine than anything else, which sucks!

    Truthfully, fruits and vegetables would succeed more in peoples’ diets if more were commonly available — instead we have multiple artificial flavours.

  23. The Lincolnshire Curly Coat is another curly-coated pig- there was a program about them on BBC Radio4 recently.

    #49, Takuan:

    For that Mangalica strangeness in your smile?

    It’s pronounced more like ‘Mangalitza’; I’m not sure whether that improves or degrades your rhyme.

    #33,Antinous:

    http://www.yannarthusbertrand.org/index_new.php
    – Select English version. It will now irritate you by opening a new window.

    There’s a less flash-offensive version here (with some additional photos). His photo of a woman with her giant Charolais bull is one of my favourite photos of all time.

  24. No amount of shrill, vegetarian moralizing has ever done this, but finding out that apparently 90% of bb readers have paid hundreds of dollars for a single ham, makes me feel I should apologize for my generally unapologetically carnivorous diet. I don’t know what flavor is…

  25. @37 posted by Anonymous, June 24, 2009 2:24 PM
    “That’s why we should eat more whale. They taste good!”

    I got to eat Whale when it was on the menu at a place in New Hampshire called Yokens, in Portsmouth, Cow Hampshire (it’s still there, open since 1947). It was the mid to late 1960s, and my parents okayed my choice, which I ordered rare. It was a slab of meat with NO fat at all, and it was incredibly tasty. The waitress said that rare was the best way to order, because it got ‘fishy’ the closer to well done it was ordered.

  26. “At one time, only 198 purebred pigs remained in the world.”

    Those food replicators just can’t be developed fast enough.

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