It was with some nervous excitement that I waited for the arrival of Heath Putnam, owner of Heath Putnam Farms/Wooly Pigs. In the Mangalitsa world he’s somewhat of a celebrity. He’s largely responsible for bringing the breed to the attention of the US culinary and foodie world. Both his website and his blog are a wealth of information about his experiences in Europe researching the breeds and I often find myself dipping in and out of his sites to brush up on some little nugget of information that I half remember reading.
As a new owner of Mangalitsa pigs he was on the top of my list of people to visit while here in the US. Mangalitsa meat commands a good price here, direct sale cuts range from £14 to £31 per kilo, prices that we can only dream of in the UK. However, finding those customers is the problem – the benefit of the USA is scale, even with a niche product there is a far greater probability that scattered across such a large area there is a discerning customer who’s palate can appreciate the finer quality of Mangalitsa. The UK market, which is obviously much smaller, is still struggling with Mangalitsa – the products that I’ve seen sold have seen meat cuts prices comparable with the big supermarkets. This has to change to make Mangalitsa pork viable.
Heath was incredibly candid and honest about his experiences and for that I am extremely grateful. Over the years he has had his fair share of issues with breeders, slaughterhouses and processors and it was these little anecdotes that I had hoped that he would share with me. As a fledgling business, I’ve already encountered some of these issues – it’s reassuring to hear, whoever I speak with within the meat industry that it’s the same problems that we encounter worldwide.
I didn’t leave empty handed from our visit, he’d brought with him a gift of lardo, what a gent!