Saturday, October 6, 2007

Farmer pork Vs. Commercial pork - Cacciatorino: The Results

Well, it's finally time for the tasting of the cacciatorino salame. As you may remember the last post was the set up for an experiment. I wanted to see if using farmer raised heirloom pigs would make a difference in the flavor and quality of the salame. The formula was identical for both salami with the only variable being the meat used.

The salami were cured for 12 days at 54 deg. F and about 70% humidity. The Costco salame lost 43% of its weight, and the farmer one lost 40%.

So, is there a difference between the two salami?

The answer to that question is yes, but with qualifiers.

In the picture above are 2 slices of each salame. It is hard to show in the picture, even putzing with it in photoshop (I'll retake them tomorrow in natural light), but there is a visual difference. The farmer one is a lighter shade of red, almost a pink. The Costco is a deep ruby red, which is actually prettier looking. I would attribute this difference to the fact that the farmer pork has more intramuscular fat than the Costco pork.

The mouth feel is also different. The Costco one is a little chewier, while the farmer one is a bit softer and more tender. This is probably due to the fact that the farmer one lost a little bit less water. I prefer the chewier Costco.

Aroma. It is very similar for both. Mild, a bit peppery, and very nice.

Flavor. This is where the real differences come to light. I'll say it right out. The COSTCO salame was better. Yes. It was better. 5 people blind tasted both, and all 5 chose the Costco one. I'm rather amazed. The farmer one is considerably more sour. This might be because the breed of pig, or the way it is raised has an effect on the pH of the meat, with the farmer one being lower (more acidic) right off the bat. It is then fermented/acidified the same amount, but if the starting point of the farmer one is lower, the end point would be lower. I'm going to try testing the salame pH with some pH strips to see if it is actually lower, or if I'm imagining it. If it were not more sour the flavors I think would be almost identical (what I'm saying is that the only flavor difference most of us could taste was just the sour).

Now the qualifiers: First, the % weight loss of the two salami was different, not much, but different. I have another pair (1 farmer, 1 costco) still curing, which I'll remove at 49-50% weight loss, and I'll try to make sure they are as close as possible.

Second, I don't care for the products of this particular farmer. I've had their pork chops and was unimpressed. I used them because that is what was readily available for my experiment. I will repeat the experiment using the pork from a farmer I know is fantastic. His pork is so much better and different you'd think it is a different animal altogether. I'll also have to try to make sure the pHs are the same.

So the conclusion to the experiment is that, based on this, farmer pork is no where NEAR worth using at about 6 to 7 times the cost (after scrap and higher initial cost). Now, if you use it because you don't like how factory farms run, then go for it, but this farmer, this time, just wasn't worth it.


Jane said...

I find this very interesting test that you have done. One would think the farmer pork would be better! Once it cools down here I will be doing some of my tests and see how they go. See you on the "G" broads.


Jasonmolinari said...

Keep me informed with any interesting tests you run, Jane. As i said, it may have been this particular farmer's pork that wasn't any better than Costco. I'm going to re-run the test with a better farmer.

Anonymous said...

how about throwing a novice a recipe or two?

Unknown said...

Scott, the recipes are posted in for the items i've made. Take a look in older posts, and in the "recipe" category.

Chris K. said...


You're close, regarding pH of the meat. In tests, pigs that experience high preslaughter stress have shown higher pH levels. Abstract here:

It could be that in this case 'farm raised' does not necessarily correlate with better (or more humane) husbandry methods.

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks for the link Chris, that's interesting. Maybe Costco pigs are happy pigs :)