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.