Monday, March 22, 2010

Farm Aid and Cochon 555: Celebrating heritage breed pigs

KariFun Farm Aid news in the Boston area! We are working with Cochon 555 for their Boston event. Cochon 555 is a competition featuring 5 chefs, 5 pigs and 5 winemakers. The event serves as a link to preserving heritage breed pigs by promoting breed diversity in the national community. The folks at Cochon 555 reached out to Farm Aid to participate in their Boston event on March 28. Our very own executive director, Carolyn Mugar, is going to be an official judge of the competition! The event will also be raising awareness for Farms for City Kids, a great local group in Boston.

Brady Lowe, creator of Cochon 555, and his team carefully select each participant to the event. The chefs are selected based upon their support of local agriculture and heritage species. The pigs are sourced from local farms devoted to sustaining heritage breeds. Participating wineries are all family owned. The chefs each prepare an entire heritage breed pig from head to toe for the competition. Twenty notable judges and guests taste the chef creations and vote on a winner. Winners are known as "Prince or Princess of Porc."

What’s a heritage pig and why have a big event to celebrate them you might wonder...well I wondered too. I ate a heritage breed turkey for Thanksgiving this year and I hear the word thrown around a lot lately. I just assumed it had something to do with the past or things that are old. But this morning, in order to write this blog post, I did a little research of the highest order; Google led me to www.sustainabletable.org and an excellent explanation of just what it means to be a heritage breed.

Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture. Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct. In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct.

In the US, a few main breeds dominate the livestock industry:
  • 83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins, and five main breeds comprise almost all of the dairy herds in the US.
  • 60 percent of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds.
  • 75 percent of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds.
  • Over 60 percent of sheep come from only four breeds, and 40 percent are Suffolk-breed sheep.
Heritage animals were bred over time to develop traits that made them particularly well-adapted to local environmental conditions. Breeds used in industrial agriculture are bred to produce lots of milk or eggs, gain weight quickly, or yield particular types of meat within confined facilities. Heritage breeds are generally better adapted to withstand disease and survive in harsh environmental conditions, and their bodies can be better suited to living on pasture. There is no official definition or certification for “heritage” animals, but for a livestock breed to be truly heritage, it must have unique genetic traits and also be raised on a sustainable and/or organic farm.

The winner of each city’s Cochon 555 event will have the opportunity to compete at Grand Cochon during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 18-22. The winner of that event will be celebrated as the "King or Queen of Porc." Porc? Yes, porc. Cochon and porc are French for “mmmmm”. Actually, pig and pork.

We are excited about this celebration of family farmer food and heritage breeds. Check out cochon555.com to see if the tour stops near you! And if you're in Boston, please come out and see us.

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