Pig Heaven

The Mangalitsa pig has bounced back from near extinction to be prized by foodies for its beefy flavor and luscious fat. The only place Mangalitsas are being raised East of the Mississippi is, you guessed it, New Jersey.

Photo by Eric Levin.

The rare, wooly-haired Mangalitsa pig—whose well-marbled, red flesh foodies compare to prime beef, and whose firm, white fat makes the most ethereal lard you’ve never tasted—nearly went extinct in the early 1900s before farmers in its native Hungary slowly began to bring it back. It grows to at least 300 pounds, about 25 percent more than standard pink pigs, but takes more than a year (as opposed to five months) to reach its full size—at which point its luscious fat reaches titanic thicknesses. And because the Mangalitsa is finished on a diet of barley, wheat, and hay rather than the usual corn and soy, says Michael Clampffer, its fat is high in monounsaturates, meaning it’s actually good for you.

Clampffer, a former restaurant chef, has become something of an expert. As private chef to investment banker G. Chris Andersen, he oversees the raising and marketing of Mangalitsas on Mosefund Farm, Andersen’s 275-acre spread in Branchville. It’s the only place the breed is being raised east of the Mississippi. (Mosefund buys its young Mangalitsas from the only American breeder, Wooly Pigs, in Auburn, Washington.)

Mosefund has nearly sold out the butchered meat of its first herd of 85 pigs. Clampffer expects a delivery of 120 more pigs this month. Restaurants have been the focus of his marketing so far—some of New Jersey’s best now serve Mangalitsa: Elements in Princeton, Restaurant Latour in the Crystal Springs Resort, Copeland in Morristown, Lorena’s in Maplewood. You don’t have to be a chef to stop by the farm for a tour (and to pick up some parts) or to participate in January’s three-day Pigstock 2010. For details, go to mosefund.com.

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