Crimson and Clover. Wine, Pigs and Slow Food

Pigs in Clover

Visiting with Shirley Sullivan at Sullbar farms this past week was a joy. Shirley and Jim Barnett raise a heritage breed called American Guinea Hogs. This is Blackberry and her piglets. Their American Dingo (the sweetest “dog” is outside the pen.)

I’m also preparing to meet farmers in San Francisco at Slow Foods Nation. Lining up the meetings, doing my research on their farms, their breeds, and trying to locate where their paths and mine might cross in the considerable agenda the conference planners have set up.

Reading about pigs eating clover, I remembered Shirley looking at the piglets routing around in the fresh grass and clover, and saying “pigs in clover.” They love it and farms like Shirley and Jim’s ensure that pigs get a steady supply of good, fresh pasture. Their pens are moved every several weeks.

In this interesting series on Salon.com, “Pork Week” there’s a video clip of Gloucester Old Spots on Veritas Farms in New Paltz, NY. (Glass of wine on me for the first person to comment here with the significance of that town.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

These pigs, lovingly raised by farmers who feel strongly about giving the pigs a healthy happy life, you might be reminded of the adage “happy as a pig in s***” . I realize now that pigs are really happy in clover. The other stuff is incidental. Fact of life on a farm.

What’s with Heritage Pigs?

Maybe it’s time to tell you why I’m so enamored of this topic.

First – there’s the conservation aspect. Five percent of all highly endangered breeds disappear from the face of the Earth annually–that comes to an average of more than one a week. Many of these heritage breed pigs have total US populations under 200.

  • 75% of European food product diversity has been lost since 1900
  • 93% of American food product diversity has been lost in the same time period
  • 33% of livestock varieties have disappeared or are near disappearing

If we lose genetic diversity in our food stocks we raise the risk of catastrophe from disease or other threats. Remember the Irish potato blight? One strain, non-resistant.

Second – there’s the flavor. In our recent history we allowed industrial farming and marketing to dictate what pork made it to our plate. The “other white meat” campaign tried to challenge the dominance of chicken in consumer’s buying choices when beef purchases declined. Pork was bred for lean, “white” meat to compete with the perceived healthier qualities of chicken.

What we now know is that there are healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the heritage breeds and their meat is well marbled and pink to red in color, not white. It’s more akin to a Kobe Beef steak than an industrial pork chop.

Third – there’s the local aspect. We have seen an increase in consumers’ interest in humane and sane food production. Why local?

Why grow lettuce, ship it to Mexico, then import lettuce from Mexico? Why breed a tomato for a thick skin and ship it across the country? Then we gas them to give them color. Instead, we could buy local farm tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes and don’t carry the carbon footprint the cross-country tomato carries?

We support local farmers raising heritage pigs and that creates a sound local economy, creates a solid food community and most often, also a healthier food chain for the consumer and the consumed.

The fourth reason I’m focusing on heritage pigs, is the humane or ethical eating aspect of heritage farming. If you raise pigs in non-factory farms, eating clover and good grain, in a pen that gets rotated, give them a healthy environment, you don’t need to pump them up with subtherapeutic antibiotics. If you are not working on a big Ag model of production, meat full of growth hormones don’t seem so appealing.

Blushing and Fearless

Or, Fearless and Blushing, I wrote recently about the the blush wine hoax pulled by a fake restaurant to expose Wine Spectator’s ratings. Enjoying a South African Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé this weekend gave me another excuse to plug that article, and tell you about the Mulderbosch Cab Sav Rosé. See Bauer Wines for that or recommendations for others to try.

I also want to remind everyone about the tribute to the food blogger who died recently. My friend Lia enlisted Clos du Bois to match donations this month to WomenHeart. See Lia’s blog here for links and info. Red wine is certainly good for our hearts, and it seems women’s heart research and heart disease awareness is far behind where it should be. Did you know six times more women die from heart disease as die from breast cancer?

Have a drink, click and donate, and toast the pig!

He’s half the size of my cat!

2 Responses to “Crimson and Clover. Wine, Pigs and Slow Food”


  1. 1 swirlingnotions August 27, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the link, Jackie! Love the pigs . . .

    I’ll hopefully see you in SF on Friday!


  1. 1 Not a Ba-a-a-d Idea - Goats Munch Weeds - LA Saves Dough « Jacqueline Church Trackback on September 10, 2008 at 8:48 am

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A window into what I’m thinking and writing about.

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