Acorn Fed Pigs

Reader Contribution by Nicole Wilkey
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Fall is here and the acorns are falling! On our little farm we are plentiful in both White and Live Oak trees. Every fall the acorns rain down on us and I spend hours collecting by hand or as of last year, collecting with this quick and fun nut gatherer or I pay our farm kid {and often friends kids’ too} to collect acorns by the 5 gallon buckets. Why would you ever want so many acorns? Acorn fed pork…that is why!

A famous and possibly the highest quality ham in the world is known as ‘jamón ibérico’ or Iberico Ham. Coming from Portugal and Spain it is known for the pigs having a nearly acorn exclusive diet. A diet of acorns can lead to a very well marbled and deep red meat, try to forget the marketing phrase of pork being ‘the other white meat’…pork should not be white, it should be vibrant and red. If a pig is acorn-fed, it is likely that they are raised on pasture or in the woods and foraging for their own acorns, a practice known as pannage.  They may also be supplemented with extra acorns as we do here at Flicker Farm. Having the ability to express their piggyness in the form of foraging, rooting, sunbathing, and running also leads to a much healthier meat than that of a pig confined to a concrete stall.

An acorn heavy diet has been shown to lend itself to pig fat that is high in unsaturated fat, high in omega 3’s and high in oleic acid.  This pork fat nutritional profile is very similar to that of olive oil, and the Spanish often to refer acorn fed pork as “olive oil on four hooves”. Isn’t that interesting? For so long pork fat, or lard, has been villainized. But if the pig is raised in a natural outdoor environment, lard falls into the health food group alongside olive oil. For more on healthy pastured lard, you can read my lard article here.

Other benefits of acorns in a pigs diet include it being a sustainable food source. As long as you have live oak trees, you will get acorns falling every fall. They are also free! You only need to invest your time in the collection. Acorns are also low in sugar, high in minerals, vitamins and fiber. Depending on the oak tree variety, the acorns may have high levels of tannins. Tannins themselves may have a bitter flavor, but the pigs sure do not mind and the bitterness does not come through in the pork.

So how does the average person get their hands on acorn fed pigs? You’ll likely need to befriend your local pig farmer or high quality butcher for such a delicacy. You can also buy online direct from certain farms. If you have the ability to buy local pork direct from a farmer, ask them about their feeding program and if acorns are part of it. Even better, bring them a bucket of acorns and watch the pigs go nuts!

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run the California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, pasture based poultry and sells goats milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook.

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