For more information:
Emily Connolly or Morgan Lanier
Melissa Libby & Associates
White Oak Pastures And Oriol Family Join Forces To Re-Introduce
Iberian Pork To American Market For First Time In 500 Years
Fifth-Generation Family Farm and Spanish Partners Form Iberian Pastures LLC
to Raise Exquisite Pigs in South Georgia
ATLANTA (Feb. 20, 2017) – White Oak Pastures’ owner Will Harris and Jaime and Kurt Oriol of Cobacha, LLC are announcing their joint venture, known as Iberian Pastures LLC, formed to import Iberian hogs from Spain into the United States for raising, breeding and slaughtering on Harris’ Bluffton, Georgia, farm. The creation of Iberian Pastures represents another extension of White Oak Pastures’ commitment to the welfare of its animals, environmental sustainability, locally produced food and quality meat.
“The live production concept of Iberian pigs fits perfectly into our system, as the standard in Spain is to raise these pigs in the woods and allow them to forage for their food,” says Harris. “Our goal is to produce these wonderful pork products in South Georgia from our very own herd.”
Prior to 2013, both the Spanish and U.S. governments forbade any exportation of the live animals. With a change in policy came Jaime and Kurt Oriol, a father and son team with a family history of raising Iberian hogs in Southwest Spain who translated the new U.S. importation policy for the Spanish government, knocking on Harris’ door in late summer 2013.
“Right after the regulations changed, we planned a tour of top American farms that we were interested in partnering with,” Kurt Oriol recalls. “White Oak Pastures was our third stop, and we ended up cancelling the rest of our trip. The farm is perfect, not only because of its land, its pastured animals and its success with national distribution, but because of the culture there and the family approach. White Oak Pastures’ values instilled confidence in us, and now we see them as a family. That trust comes before all else,” he adds.
Together, the partners purchased and imported 26 gilts (young females) and six boars (young uncastrated males) that same year. The Spanish-born pigs were first flown to Amsterdam and then New York City, with each leg of the journey ending in a 30-day quarantine per USDA regulations. Harris and his team drove two stock trailers to New York City in the midst of a December blizzard to pick up the pigs and transport them to his Bluffton farm. Ever since that snowy journey, the animals have surpassed Harris’ greatest expectations, and the initial 26 gilts have all had babies that have farrowed. Those offspring are being bred now, and Iberian Pastures currently has three generations of the Iberian breed in production with all of the now 300 pigs faring extremely well. “It has taken patient capital, but we are very optimistic as the curing process begins,” says Harris.
These Iberian hogs are desirable for three main reasons: their genetics, their diet and their versatility. The genetic composition of Iberian pigs makes for the most efficient draining and marbling of fat, and how they process oleic content in their final months is fundamental to the overall quality of the pork. Oftentimes in Spain, these pigs are bred with other types of swine to lower production costs and are therefore not 100% Iberian; Iberian Pastures’ pork is 100% pure Iberian.
Traditionally, Iberian pigs graze on acorns. Iberian Pastures pigs are raised on a diet of peanuts and pecans, putting a South Georgia twist on the Spanish tradition. Although the farm already had some pecan trees on its grounds, Harris also purchased a 30-acre pecan orchard, now a contiguous part of the farm’s 2,500 acres, in preparation for the pigs. Harris has been drawing fat samples from some of the pigs to be sure that his methods are working. “The fatty profiles look to be exactly equal and probably better than the best Spanish boars,” he says. “It may even be more desirable.”
Iberian pigs feature several fresh meat cuts that would be dismissed as trimmings in the average American pig. Iberian Pastures is offering eight of these cuts, including the papada (jowl), lagarto (long strip of meat between chop and loin), presa (cut between top of shoulder and beginning of loin) and secreto (secret layer of meat within the lard on top front of belly), in addition to bone-in rib chops and bone-in loin chops. Although cooked differently than the pork consumers are accustomed to in the United States, the preparation methods for these fresh cuts are simple enough to be done in both a backyard grilling environment or in a more elaborate kitchen format.
While the slaughtering process is the same, the butchery of Iberian hogs differs drastically from traditional American pork. “The difference is in the fabrication of the carcass,” explains Brian Sapp, director of operations for White Oak Pastures. “Instead of splitting the hog down the middle, we must split it down both sides of the backbone in order to pull out the boneless cuts one by one.”
Sapp, a master butcher, traveled to Badajoz, Spain, in March 2015 to study the butchery of these special hogs and spent time at slaughter and curing facility Señorío De Montanera. He also spent time on multiple Spanish farms to learn exactly how the animals are raised and fed. “The free range lifestyle of these pigs meets all the criteria that we strive for at White Oak Pastures; Iberian Pastures has the same production model that defines our farm, and that is exciting to our customers,” he says.
Iberian Pastures is sending hams and shoulders from the slaughtered Iberian hogs to a curing facility in Norwalk, Iowa, called La Quercia. The curing process ranges from three months for dry cured sausages to 24-30 months for hams. “Curing this kind of ham is a real artisan endeavor,” says Harris. “After traveling to several curing houses, we ultimately decided on La Quercia because they are the best in the country and have been doing this old European dry curing process for many generations.”
The introduction of these Iberian pork products into White Oak Pastures’ inventory is a natural addition to the farm’s offerings of high-quality animal proteins that customers can feel good about eating. “The American pork industry has really gotten away from fat, especially marbling in the meat, and our new Iberian offerings will really take it back to tasting like pork again,” says Sapp of what consumers can expect from these new products.
To celebrate the slaughter of the first set of 27 Iberian pigs and the beginning of the curing process, Iberian Pastures hosted a small event at White Oak Pastures in early February. On hand to educate attendees in the traditional preparations of Iberian pork were Spanish chefs Manuel Berganza of Andanada in New York City and Alejandro Hormaecha of Sacha in Madrid, who prepared the fresh meat with Reid Harrison of White Oak Pastures. “We felt it was important for chefs Berganza and Hormaecha to give a sense of direction on how to treat these cuts, but we want to reinforce the idea that these preparation methods are accessible; this is not an untouchable gold standard,” says Oriol.
The farm is also working on an informational kit to include preparation tips and recipes that will be available on White Oak Pastures’ website in the near future. “It’s an honor to introduce these specialty products here in the U.S., and we’re excited to share these Spanish traditions with our customers who might not have the chance to go to Spain,” says Sapp.
Beginning this month, the fresh meat from the Iberian hogs is available for purchase both at the farm and online. As always, the farm is utilizing the whole animal, turning the Iberian pigs’ ears into chew toys for dogs, saving the fat to make lard and preparing broth with the bones. Due to limited product availability, Iberian Pastures also has a retail booking program online to ensure interested consumers have the opportunity to purchase a guaranteed supply.
About White Oak Pastures
White Oak Pastures is a multigenerational, family-owned farm committed to the principles of sustainability and stewardship by raising five red meat (cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and hogs) and five poultry (chickens, turkeys, guineas, ducks and geese) species. It is the only farm in the nation that humanely hand-butchers both red meat and poultry species on site under USDA inspection. This takes place in White Oak Pastures’ own abattoir designed by Dr. Temple Grandin. The fifth-generation farm, led by owner Will Harris, has operated continuously on the same land in Southwest Georgia for more than 150 years. White Oak Pastures cooperates with nature to produce artisan products that are healthy, safe and nutritious. Care is given to ensure that all production practices are economically practical, ecologically sustainable and that the animals are always treated humanely. White Oak Pastures never falters in conducting business in an honorable manner, for the sake of the animals, the land and the people eating the products. The farm now also offers on-site lodging and dining.
Harris and White Oak Pastures have received the following awards for setting farming standards, contributing to the restaurant industry and being dedicated to the sustainability of organic farming in Georgia: Savory Global Network Hub, 2016 Sustainable Land Stewardship Award from Georgia Organics, 2014’s Most Respected Business Person of the Year by Georgia Trend Magazine, 2013 Swisher Sunbelt Farmer of the Year, 2012 American Treasures Award from MADE: In America, 2012 Centennial Family Award, 2012 Distinguished Conservationist, 2012 LDEI Green Ribbon Recipient, 2011 Georgia’s Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration, 2011 Georgia Restaurant Association’s Innovator Award and Will Harris inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs.
White Oak Pastures also holds several certifications including: Certified Naturally Grown for cattle, lamb and goat, Certified Grassfed by the American Grassfed Association, Certified Humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care, Animal Welfare Approved by Animal Welfare Institute, Master Cattleman by the University of Georgia, Certified Organic by Georgia Crop Improvement Association and Good Management Practices approved by Silliker, Inc.
White Oak Pastures products can be purchased at more than 1,000 Publix supermarkets throughout the Southeast and at Whole Foods Market locations from Miami to Princeton, New Jersey. The beef is distributed by Kelly's Foods, Buckhead Beef, Cheney Brothers, Sysco Gulf Coast, PFG, Maplevale Farms, Merchants and US Foods. Customers can also place orders online. White Oak Pastures is located at 22775 Highway 27 in Bluffton, Georgia. For more information, call (229) 641-2081 or visit whiteoakpastures.com.
About Cobacha, LLC
Cobacha is a private investment firm. In addition to its involvement in the Iberian Pastures venture, Cobacha is also the exclusive marketer for Arbor Shield, a tree protection technology that initially began as an effort to protect newly planted trees from Iberian pigs in the savannahs of Spain.