• Matt Hinckley

Introducing Arlene

Contrary to popular belief, the NOAA's National Hurricane Center does not name hurricanes. The names are given by the World Meteorological Organization in a six-year rotation, with Atlantic hurricanes alternating male and female names. And this is how I name the whole pigs that I work with at Hinckley's Fancy Meats. I don't do it because I was heavily influenced by Portlandia's episode about Colin the chicken, I do it because it helps me track both the cost and tastes associated with the products that I produce.

I work with whole animals as often as possible. When I deviate from that approach it is often to help support the local farmers by moving the products that aren't selling as well as the tenderloins and chops. I'm the guy to call when the backfat, leaf lard, and pig heads start to pile up.

A whole pig gives me some products that I can sell the same day, more products in a week or two, and even more that might not be ready for months, if not a year. A big fat Berkshire ham used for prosciutto will lose a lot of weight in salting and dry curing, and it might not be ready for two years! So if part of this animal is ready today, and the rest isn't available until much later, how does a small operator track the cost?

When I receive whole pigs they get a "birth certificate" that documents the date, the animal's weight, the farm it came from, the breed, and the usage. Although the birth certificate has novelty (much like Colin the chicken), it is a practical way for me to track costs associated with the animal. The breakfast sausage is ready today, the Canadian-style bacon next week, belly bacon in another week, pancetta a few weeks later, and on and on....

By creating these birth certificates I can not only track costs, but take notes on flavor profile. Does a summer Mangalitsa pig yield a better result in some applications than a winter Berkshire? Which farm produces the best pigs for prosciutto? Beyond that, its a way that we can dignify these animals and bring attention to the small farms producing them.

There are a lot of government restrictions on the way folks like me are allowed to label our products. So you won't see Colin's name on my pork, but if you ask maybe I will tell you.

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