The Trouble With Texas Pork

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Two celebrity chefs are planning to serve pigs from out-of-state at a pair of upcoming dinners celebrating Texas food and small farms.

Craft hasn't made any local food claims for its Whole Pig and Beer dinner on October 27, although a release touting the event points out the featured Berkshire pig, a heritage breed, was purchased from "a coalition of independent family farmers." Chef Jeff Harris plans to carve five courses out of the Midwestern-raised hog.

But Kent Rathbun's aspirations are slightly loftier; A release describes next week's Texas Bred dinner at Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen as a "tribute to Texas" that will "connect diners to the land and the origins of their food."

Rathbun's menu includes basil from Tassione Farms; goat cheese from On Pure Ground Dairy; chicken from Windy Meadows Farm; persimmons from Lightsey Farms and pork belly from Niman Ranch in northern California.

According to Ken Horton, executive vice president of the Texas Pork Producers Association, Texas farmers last year sold 1.4 million pigs, including the pigs Horton sells in Japan under the "Texas Farm" brand. So why won't any of those Lone Star swine show up at meals meant to appeal to locavores?

"It's harder than you realize, because we don't have any processing plants," Horton explains.

The consolidation of the pork industry has forced most of Texas' commercial processors to shut down, Horton says. The two remaining processors in San Antonio and Dallas only accept custom orders.

"You have to literally go in with the pigs you want process," Horton says. "Now, I've got producers that can and do sell pigs."

If Dallas restaurants wanted to serve Texas pork, Horton says he'd be happy to help them.

"We'll see if we can't get them a ready, steady source," he says.

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