A little-known breed of hairy Hungarian pigs could be the next obsession for Edmonton meat eaters and food aficionados, if Malorie Aubé has her way.
"They're actually one of the old world's best kept secrets," said Aubé, owner of Country Accent Farm in Bawlf, Alta, and one of only handful of Mangalitsa producers in the entire province.
Covered in a dense coat of coarse and curly fur, the Mangalitsa could easily be mistaken for a pig in sheep's clothing.
"It originates from the Austro-Hungarian empire," Aubé said during a Tuesday interview on Edmonton AM. "It was offered to the royal family in the 17th century. It's the way pigs were years and years ago.
"They were almost forgotten about for years, almost to the point of extinction, but they've been coming back since the '90s, and gaining in popularity ever since."
But it's not just the pig's appearance that sets it apart. The heritage breed is often described as the kobe beef of pork.
The Mangalitsa — also known as the woolly pig — is lauded as a lard pig. A single animal is capable of producing 70 litres of rendered fat. And Aube says the composition of the meat makes it ideal for curing.
"The meat and the lard is very different. The meat is more red than white, it's very well marbled. And the lard. The taste is different, very buttery. You'll have to try it for yourself."
Mangalitsa has become a coveted meat in restaurants across the world, but according to Aubé an appetite for the hairy pigs has been slow to catch on in Alberta.
Only a handful of butchers and restaurants in Edmonton have become regular customers since Aubé began farming the woolly pigs two years ago.
"It's slowly growing in popularity, but education is a big part of it."
In attempt to garner more interest in the exotic pork, Aubé is hosting a two day workshop — and Magnalista dinner — at Vivo Ristorante with Isabell and Christoph Wiesner, the owners of Arche De Wiskentale, Mangalitza Breeding and processing farm in Austria.
"Most of the stock in North America comes from their farm, so they know what they're doing."