By Jennifer McDonald, Marketing Coordinator
A few decades ago, when the majority of hogs lived outdoors and were able to eat whatever they wanted, pork was deliciously fatty and juicy. As industrial agriculture grew, pork became known as “the other white meat.”
Director of Culinary Operations Bernie Laskowski from the Art Institute of Chicago would like to do something about this state of porky affairs. That’s why he’s helping Faith’s Farm in Bonfield, IL, with its initiative to preserve the Gloucestershire spotted pig — one of the oldest livestock breeds in the world, revered for its flavor and desirable fat content.
Gloucestershires are hardy, self-reliant pigs that can graze on their own and withstand cold outdoor temperatures, making them perfect for pasture. They’re also known for being very good mothers to their babies — all desirable qualities for small-scale farmers.
Unfortunately, these characteristics have fallen out of favor in modern industrial operations, where the piglets are taken from their mothers soon after birth and raised in small cages indoors, leading to the near extinction of the breed. Bernie met Kim Snyder of Faith’s Farm five years ago, at the first farm dinner she hosted, and has now become part of the planning committee for the annual event. Bernie’s role in this endeavor was rather a departure from the kitchen. He was there to help with the crossbreed fertilization of the female pigs to keep them fertile until they can be impregnated with their own breed, an important part of the process to save the species.
It was just another day at the farm for Bernie. “Kim took me under her wing and let me be a pig rancher in training. All animals that I have purchased from her, I’ve assisted in the process from birth to kill,” says Bernie. Bernie may be new to the Bon Appétit team, but he’s certainly “hogged” many miles in the Farm to Fork world!