Commodity pork producers implement an ingenious marketing strategy to make their pork more appealing to the consumer by branding it as “the other white meat.” In reality, the very pale appearance of commodity pork is indicative of a poor diet and living conditions. Everything about commodity pork is designed for economic efficiency at the expense of the animals' comfort. Their lives are not pleasant. They are confined to small, crowded spaces to maximize the output of pork produced by area. The efficiency of these processes have made it difficult for farmers to opt for better treatment of the pigs when competing with the low prices set by commodity pork producers. Luckily, awareness of factory farming practices and a desire to eat better quality food has prompted a few producers to team up with farmers who share a commitment to better treatment of the animal while it lives.
The term "heritage pork" is analogous to calling vegetables heirloom. Heritage breeds, like the Duroc we cook at Pit Fiend Barbecue, are known most for their superior flavor, juiciness and tenderness over commodity pork. The ruby color of Duroc pork, which is much more flavorful, is due to raising in conditions in which pigs are grown more slowly.
At Pit Fiend Barbecue, the Duroc pigs we source are cared for in a way that is a far departure from factory-farmed commodity pork, which offers little more than an attractive price tag. At Comfrey Farms, which provides the majority of the pork served at Pit Fiend Barbecue, the facilities were designed in collaboration with Dr. Temple Grandin to accommodate the animals in a stress-free environment for rest and roaming. Living conditions, in conjunction with other important factors such as genetics and nutrition, ultimately determine the quality
of the meat.
It is generally understood that a “happy pig” makes for better quality meat. We can largely determine this by the pH level of the meat at 24 hours after slaughter. Glycogen is broken down to lactic acid as the muscle turns into meat. The rate and extent of this drop in pH influences the quality of the pork. The industry term for low-quality pork is Pale, Soft, and Exudative (PSE). PSE pork results from a rapid breakdown of glycogen into lactic acid, which is usually seen in pigs that carry the halothane gene (stress gene). Lower pH results in meat proteins with lower water-holding capacity and a lighter color, whereas a higher pH results in less drip-loss and darker meat color which translates to tenderness, juiciness and great taste on the plate. Certified Duroc from Comfrey Farms display optimal pH levels resulting in pork that is tender, juicy, and full of flavor. Other heritage breeds, like Berkshire pork, also share these characteristics, but differ from Duroc in ways that affect the taste of particular cuts such as pork shoulder and spare ribs.
Berkshire is the most well-known and prestigious heritage breed in the world. Even though Berkshire is often considered the finest pork, there is no difference in the meat color and tenderness between purebred Duroc and Berkshire. (Suzuki K, et al. 2003) Furthermore, Duroc has more intermuscular fat and a lower fat melting point due to Duroc having a higher concentration of unsaturated fatty acid. (Suzuki K, et al. 2003.) The rendering of fat at lower temperatures makes Duroc ideal for the “low and slow” smoking that we do at Pit Fiend Barbecue.
Our commitment to putting in the work and dedication to cook the best meat we can source is the reason we choose Duroc pork. Great barbecue is the amalgamation of many details that result in a memorable eating experience. At Pit Fiend Barbecue, we take pride in carefully implementing these details every single time, because our measure of success is the joy and happiness we see in our guests when they eat our food. We do this because we love what we do, and we love to share it with you.