C555 LA 2012.jpg
Cochon 555
Much of the chatter about this weekend's Cochon 555 , one in a series of 10 competitive pork preparation events staged nationwide, has


A Guide to the Pigs Featured at Cochon 555

C555 LA 2012.jpg
Cochon 555
Much of the chatter about this weekend's Cochon 555, one in a series of 10 competitive pork preparation events staged nationwide, has centered on the six local chefs looking to wow the judges with their nose-to-tail cooking. But the true stars of the feast - which is so gluttonous that Washington Post food editor Joe Yonan recently cited his Seattle judging experience as a critical juncture in his journey toward vegetarianism - are the heritage breed hogs which the tour was five years ago designed to celebrate.

As the participating chefs and pig farmers know, each breed has a distinct flavor which could make or break a dish. Cochon founder Brady Lowe matches chefs to hogs based on "experience and knowledge of the culinary usage of animals in (his or her) restaurant," event publicist Leah Goodman explains. Here, a guide to the pigs awaiting Jason FraneyJonathan SundstromJoshua Henderson; Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi; Jason Barwikowski; Shane Ryan and Mark Bodinet.

Breed: Berkshire

Farms:Florek Family Farm, Mosaic Farms

Appearance: Berkshires have short legs, smooth necks and large ears. They're mostly covered in black hair, but have white hair on their faces, feet and tails.

History: According to swine folklore, Berkshires became popular after Oliver Cromwell's army wintered in the shire of Berks and spent the season feasting on the best bacon they'd ever tasted. When a half-ton Berkshire named Windsor Castle was brought to the U.S. in 1841, two decades after his first brethren made the trip, it "creat(ed) a stir in the rural press which has seldom been equaled."

Demeanor: Alert and intelligent.

Flavor: Rich, smoky and sweet.

Breed: Large Black

Farms: Alvin & Terrie Simons Heritage Pigs, White Buffalo Ranch

Appearance: Large and black. Very large, by heritage standards.

History: Large blacks may owe their shape and color to African black guinea hogs or Chinese hogs imported to England. The breed was perfected in the mid-19th century.

Demeanor: Docile, friendly and good with children.

Flavor: Tender and micromarbled, large blacks are renowned for their bacon.

Breed: Duroc

Farm: Alvin & Terrie Simons Heritage Pigs

Appearance: Reddish in color, with droopy ears.

History: Durocs trace their lineage back to red hogs bred in New York and New Jersey in the early 1800s. Their name was swiped from a popular thoroughbred stallion.

Demeanor: Sweet and engaging.

Flavor: Duroc pork is dark red, mild and not especially fat or especially lean.

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Breed: Gloucestershire Old Spot

Farm: Dog Mountain Farm

Appearance: White with black spots that a British myth attributes to falling apples, the rotund Gloucestshire Old Spot has droopy ears and silky hair.

History: Gloucestershires were popular with nineteenth-century farmers who appreciated the pigs' ability to get by on the residue of cider-pressing and cheese-making. But health-conscious 20th century eaters weren't taken with the fattiness of their meat, an opinion shift that nearly caused the breed to became extinct in the 1960s.

Demeanor: Maternal and self-sufficient

Flavor: Very fatty, sweet and nutty.

Just Chaos

Breed: Yorkshire

Farms: Alvin & Terrie Simons Heritage Pigs, Olsen Farms

Appearance: Long, pink and muscular, the Yorkshire has erect ears.

History: A British native, the Yorkshire made its U.S. debut in Ohio in the 1830s.

Demeanor: Strong and calm.

Flavor: Clean and lean.

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Breed: Red Wattle

Farm: McKinlay Vineyard

Appearance: The large, red pig has a slim nose, upright ears and a fleshy wattle.

History: The domestic Red Wattle's history is hazy, but a herd was located in east Texas in the 1970s.

Demeanor: Easygoing.

Flavor: Wild, porky and lean.

Just Chaos

Breed: Hampshire

Farm: Jones Family Farm

Appearance: Black with a belt of white hair, the Hampshire is known as a Thin Rind in Kentucky.

History: The Hampshire may have originated in Scotland, but the American members of the breed owe their presence here to a Mr. McKay, who imported the big pigs in the 1820s.

Demeanor: Smart and hardy.

Flavor: As lean as heritage hogs come.

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