Albertans raise 'Kobe' hogs on hazelnuts and beer mash

"I'm of the mind: if I can't find it, I'll grow it," says a Calgary chef who is breeding a new brand of high-end pork.

Calgary chef Darren MacLean has trademarked his pampered pigs

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      Japan's Kobe beef reputedly gets its delicious and delicate flavour thanks to how wagyu cows are massaged and fed beer.

      If that's the case, then Calgary chef Darren MacLean's may have created the pork equivalent of Kobe.

      "I would say they're some of the most pampered pigs in the world, but we don't massage them," he says.

      They do, however, have an affinity for Big Rock Brewery beer mash and hazelnuts.

      MacLean has teamed up with an Alberta farm to breed a small herd of high-end hogs.

      He hasn't tasted the pork yet, but expects the pigs' special diet will yield a sweeter, nuttier flavour, which will complement the Japanese cuisine he'll be serving at his new restaurant Shokunin.

      Pampered pigs eat hazelnuts at 4K Farms in Alberta. It's expected the pork they yield will be sweeter and nuttier. (Darren MacLean)

      "I'm of the mind: if I can't find it, I'll grow it," he said.

      The pigs are currently running free in an open pasture at 4K Farms in Acme, Alta.

      They also dine on organic and locally grown squash and apples.

      Katana was 'a bit of a runt,' says Calgary chef Darren MacLean. MacLean plans to use her as a mascot for his new brand of high-end pork. (BRANDED magazine)

      "We throw out more apples across Canada than we produce here and in Niagara, then we import,"

      "So I can buy human-grade, pick-them-up-and-eat-'em-apples, for $100 a tonne," he said.

      The pigs are a cross between a Berkshire and Tamworth, so MacLean calls the breed Tambuta and has already trademarked the name.

      He says they are raised in the style of Japanese "kurobuta," the most prized breed of pig in Japan.

      The hogs grow as big as 225 kilograms.

      It's for that reason MacLean has befriended a runt named Katana, which he'll be bringing along to various promotional food events in the coming months.

      Shokunin opens in August in the southwest Calgary community of Mission.  


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