What makes our pork products special? We get asked quite often and decided to put together a special pork post!
Raised in Missouri, our pigs are sourced from a small cooperative of like-minded farmers. They are now using the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step rating system. We are really excited about these changes as we are hearing about more and more producers getting involved in the GAP program, and more retailers and consumers paying attention to that label. To learn more about GAP, please visit their website for a breakdown of the steps, and for details about what producers have to do to stay in the program.
There are five steps in the GAP program, and most of our producers are on the Step 3 and Step 4 levels (enhanced outdoor access and pasture centered). All new producers have to start out with Step 1, which means they cannot use crates, stalls or cages. Most of our producers actually do have their pigs outdoors, even though this first level does not require it. Our pork cooperative works with their new producers to help them move up as soon as possible, however, if the farmer does not have a current plan in place to move on to the next level, they will drop them from the program. This ensures that any new producers are constantly moving up and not just staying at the first level.
What do they eat? Pigs are foragers, and most of our pigs are outdoors every day (weather permitting) to forage for bugs, sticks, roots, etc. Since pigs have a single stomach, unlike the four chambered stomach of cattle, we cannot raise a healthy animal on grass alone, so their diets are supplemented with corn and soy. This is usually a non-gmo feed ration, however, due to the historic dought of 2012, it has been very difficult (and much more expensive) for our producers to source and feed a 100% non-gmo ration. We are getting closer to 100% non-gmo, and this post and our website will be updated just as soon as we can claim 100% non-gmo feed once again. We also do not feed any antibiotics or hormones throughout the life of the animal.
What about nitrites? It is near-impossible to find pork in grocery stores that does not include some type of nitrites or nitrates. They are usually used in the curing process, and unfortunately have been suggested to be possible carcinogens. Most of the "nitrite-free" pork products are cured with celery salt, however this is another possible danger, as celery salt contains naturally occurring nitrates. The Weston A. Price Wise Traditions Magazine recently explored this subject in great depth as related to bacon. While there are countless ways to make bacon - the actual health benefits of this popular product depend on a host of factors, from the raising and processing, down to the cooking process.
The Wise Traditions article suggested that our ancestors had bacon figured out a long time ago. All it takes is a dry rub (we use sea salt) and a cure (ours cures for 2-3 days) then a slow smoke (our bacon is hickory smoked). The end result is deep pork flavor, healthy fat, and a new family favorite.
What makes our bacon so special? This year we completely revamped the recipe, we removed the honey powder and the only ingredients are pork bellies and sea salt. That's it - no sugar, maple syrup, spices, or sweeteners of any kind. We do not use any nitrites, nitrates, celery salt or MSG in the making or processing of the bacon. It is so clean, we even have Whole30 approval, a feat we are very proud of!
Since the new bacon went over so well, we have been working on several other pork recipes. Our Pork Breakfast Sausage is an office-favorite and a staple in our kitchens every morning. The new recipe contains only: pork, salt, rubbed sage, ground red pepper and black pepper. No sugars, sweeteners, nitrates, nitrites, or MSG, and the flavor is amazing!
Our newest release is the Sugar-Free Ham, just in time for the holidays. It is the same petite ham we've been selling, but we took out the honey powder and the ingredients are the same as the bacon: pork, sea salt and water. Be sure to check out the Sugar-Free Options section online for more sugar-free choices.
We've recently added a brand new pork product to our menu. After numerous customer requests and a new kettle purchase, we are able to render pork lard now. Lard is full of healthy fats and a great oil to cook or fry in. We offer the pork lard in a 2-lb pail.
For some new and unique recipe ideas, here are some of our ham favorites:
If you have any pork recipes or cooking ideas, we'd love to hear them! Feel free to post below or link to any favorite recipes you want to share.