A Maine farmer is on a mission to save a rare breed of pig, and her plan is to encourage people to eat them.
Susan Frank, owner of the Dogpatch Farm in Washington, Maine, has been awarded a $50,000 USDA grant to promote mulefoot pigs to farmers, chefs, and consumers.
“It’s to help bring the mulefoot back to sustainable numbers,” she said. “The more the merrier.”
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Frank’s plan is to get the word out about the quality of the mulefoot meat.
“It’s more flavorful — robust,” she said. “They’re more marbled. It’s actually a darker red meat.”
Frank says the more people demand the mulefoot meat, the more incentive there will be for farmers to breed and raise the breed, considered “critically rare” by the Livestock Conservancy.
There are an estimated 500 mulefoot breeding stock in the country, and Frank’s farm has about a dozen of them.
Frank said large, commercial farm operations haven’t used the mulefoot breed because it doesn’t do well in confined spaces, has smaller litters, and takes longer to grow to market size — she says they are “worth the wait — absolutely.”
She’s one of the only mulefoot farmers in the Northeast, but never intended to be in the business. Frank initially purchased a few mulefoots to feed her family better meat.
“We were fed up with what was available, and with what the labels did or didn’t tell us,” she said.
As more people prioritize eating local, and the “foodie” scene blossoms in cities like Portland and Portsmouth, Frank sees opportunity for mulefoots to make it on to menus. Her meat has already been featured at restaurants such as Portland’s Fore Street and 555, and Evoo in Cambridge, Massachusetts.