Recently, a publisher friend invited me to join him for an afternoon touring this picturesque pig farm located in the rolling hills of St. Matthews near Orangeburg, SC. Run by local farming enthusiast Emile DeFelice (he’s the “State on Your Plate” guy that ran for Agricultural Commissioner last year and sadly, lost), the entire 90-acre farm is infused with a passion for living close to the land and ensuring natural, happy lives for DeFelice’s heirloom pigs.
The pigs graze on nuts and grasses in rotating fields. Their diet is enriched with organic eggs and dairy supplied by EarthFare, organic fruits and vegetables, corn by-products from Anson Mills, and malted barley leftovers from a nearby brewery. It’s the same kind of wholesome, natural fare humans like to eat. In fact, as DeFelice explains, pigs want and deserve to be treated humanely and like the creatures of God that they are. They want to live a real life, not a crated one. Caw Caw Creek pigs are allowed to root about with their families, feel the sun and the breeze on their backs, wallow, loll, run and sleep in freedom – lives so different from the unnatural, lonely lives of pigs imprisoned in the beastly, often cruel world of industrialized pork production.
Even their chemical-free, happy lives end much later than their industrialized counterparts. They live to see their first year or more (unlike the 3 month mark slaugther green light awaiting their unlucky porcine cousins) and they develop up to 3 inches of fat back and richly marbled meat (unlike the inch or so of fat back and lean, “unhealthy” white meat of industry produced pork).
It was so much fun interacting with the pigs as they frolicked among our group that I felt almost guilty ordering some of DeFelice’s much lauded chops. Still, curiosity and, by the end of the afternoon at Caw Caw Creek, a desire to support a very important cause, got the best of me. Six, 2″ fat chops arrived in a refrigerated container a few days later with a handwritten “thank you” on the box. I marveled at the marbling; it was all through the meat.
I served the celebrated chops this weekend to some friends, including the publisher who took me to the farm. Grilled over an open flame in a kettle drum and glazed with a thin layer of hot pepper jelly, they were beyond divine. The texture of the pork enthralled the entire group. It was more like filet mignon and nearly as rosy and nothing like the “pork” any of us had ever experienced before. The meat was sweet and milky and had a distinctly rich, pork flavor that was further enhanced by the smoke from the grill.
It felt so good to eat such spectacular food; the kind our farming ancestors ate and the kind that’s going away due to the economics and facility of mass production. I also knew that, as DeFelice says, this little piggy had lived one happy life. I could taste it. For more information or to order your own, go to www.cawcawcreek.com.