The pig with the curly hair
Originally the breed is native to Hungary, Austria, Serbia, … the Balkan area. Mangalitsa was once the major breed of this region, providing meat and fat, first for the royal families only, later for all the population. After the second world war, they were almost extinct. In recent years however they made a spectacular comeback, when consumers started to realise that modern breeds have no flavour and ‘pork fat’ is not bad at all for your health; on the contrary.
There are 3 colours in Mangalitsa pigs: red, blond and swallowbelly (dark on top, white below). They all originated slightly different, but give almost the exact same end result. We have all three colours on our farm, both males and females.
The breed is slow growing; if properly done, it takes them about two years to reach a slaughter weight of around 150 kgs. Only 5 to 8 piglets are born per nest and they should stay with their mother for at least 3 months to receive the most valuable start. The curly hair is the main feature that sets them apart from any other breed, although every once in a while we see one being born with straight hair. No worries, meat quality is equally superior.
Also, slightly droopy ears, a black tip of the tail, black nose, skin and hoofs, … Adult males can weigh up to 350 kgs, but only with 4-5 years of age. Females usually only reach 300 kgs, like the one on the left in the picture below.
Newly born babies have a striped pattern across their body, just like wild boar. The piglets loose these stripes when the curly hair starts growing, after 5 to 6 weeks.
Mangalitsas at our quinta
Mangalitsa mothers are protective of their babies, but not in an aggressive way. They recognise us as ‘the people that feed us every day‘ and in the meantime we have become part of their family. We feed them mainly silage, a slightly fermented mixture of sunflower, sugar beet, ray grass, Persian clover, oats, hay of wheat/oats/barley, vetch, brewer’s malt and corn (the whole plant cut while maize is still unripe). And a lot of carrots, tons of pumpkins, acorns and chessnuts for finishing. Females reproduce three times in 2 years and need a supplement of meal. We have our own formula made of barley (60%), whole wheat, carob, some alfalfa (cut young) and bran.
Our animals roam free all year long and they ‘manage’ the land they occupy. We do not interfere when they root trees, eat plants, dig holes, … Twice a day we feed them extra next to the things they find themselves, that’s it. Even if they decide to make their nest outside under some bush (and most of them choose this option), we just bring them a straw bale to make their nest, no more. In doing so, we raise extremely healthy pigs that have no need for extra vitamins, medicine or even preventive antibiotics as most industrially raised pigs do.
After the piglets are separated from their moms (3 months), they stay together in a group of youngster in their own plot of land. With a separate stable, their own ‘swimming pool’, a mud pool, trees and bushes, and an area to play around. The stable is only used to feed them and to make them comfortable with the presence of humans.
For the last 4 months of their happy life, we gradually change their diet. Mainly to help the infiltration of intramuscular fat. No more carrots (because of the colouring effect) but extra carob (natural sugar), pumpkins (fibre and vitamins) and acorns and chess nuts (omega 3 & 9, oleic acids).
You can’t eat meat without slaughtering animals, but we do it in a respectful way. One of us is always present at the slaughter site, talking to them, feeding them acorns, outdoors, in a private field, away from the noises and smells that come with this kind of premises. They don’t see the electroshock coming and die with no stress; we make sure of that. They leave us in the same way they’ve lived their lives, … peacefully.
Mangalitsa is called ‘the Wagyu of pigs’ by chefs because of their fat infiltrated meat, but the main aspect of the superior taste is the presence of fat molecules inside the cells. Mangalitsa is the only breed that has this trait. It makes for a spectacular mouth feeling when properly cooked, roasted … We strongly advise to follow the chef’s directions on our website, so you can fully appreciate the top product on your plate.
Read more about it in Portuguese on the Mesa Marcada blog.