A grower named Heath Putnam has asked me to spread a potentially great proposal. Many months ago Heath emailed me with questions about pigs and getting good ones to chefs in the Pacific Northwest. He intended to raise some of the best pigs available, European breeds, slow-growing, lardy pigs finished on a special diet. And he’s done that, he’s grown the woolly pig, the Mangalitsa (above), and my friend Devin Knell, a long time sous at the French Laundry and excellent cook, says that the pork they’ve gotten from Heath has been great, they've only had a young Mangalitsa but are waiting for a larger one to try.
Problem: Heath is a small farmer way the hell out in Spokane, WA. It costs him a lot of money to transport these fantastic beasts to the chefs who can put them to use. So much money it makes them prohibitively expensive for the chefs and too difficult for him to transport himself.
Solution: Heath wants to grow fleets of little piggies and spread them among farmers who are near great concentrations of chefs so that the chefs can afford to buy them and farmers can afford to grow them. He’s created a plan whereby interested farmers could purchase these purebred Mangalitsa and Mangalitsa-Berkshire piglets and bring them back to their farms to raise (they’re not expensive to feed out, Heath says, especially if there are nut bearing trees on the farm, so the cost is primarily in labor).
Any chefs or farmers who are interested in pursuing—dairy farmers might expand into pigs in order to make use of their whey, as they do in Parma—please be in touch with Heath, who has written a thorough description of his proposal at his site. His goal is nothing less than to make the West Coast a place that grows the best pork in the world.