Travis Dunekacke of Elk Creek, Neb., is used the farm-to-fork movement as a platform to try unique methods in his hog operation, TD Niche Pork.
Farm-to-fork movement presents new opportunities for farmers.
As the local food movement continues to grow, it’s giving new farmers the opportunity to do something unique. That’s the case for Travis Dunekacke who farms and operates TD Niche Pork in Elk Creek, Neb. He’s found his niche in raising the highest quality pork for local chefs.
"The local food is on their radar. It's been really good timing," Dunekacke says. "Starting this business in 2009, I sold the first restaurant pigs in March 2009, and it's grown ever since."
Growth that’s seen its fair share of challenges. Despite skyrocketing feed prices and the drought of 2012, Dunekacke has found a way to make it work.
"Eleven miles from the farm here is a USDA-inspected processor that has the capacity and willingness to work with a small direct-to-market operation like mine," he says.
This is truly a farm-to-fork business. From the farm, the hogs are taken to meat processors and then to chefs in cities like Omaha, Lincoln and Nebraska City. Dunekacke says chefs prefer breeds like the Berkshire because of the marbling of the meat and the yield.
"The chefs are really the deciding people," he says. "They're why we have the breeds we have here and the mix of them."
The quality of the final product begins before the pigs even reach his pins.
"Pork quality, first and foremost, starts with genetics," Dunekacke says. "These breeds here—the Berkshire, the Red Waddle, the Tamworth, we'll do some Herford in the future again—are just excellent meat quality breeds."
Preserving genetics and finding heirloom pork has been what’s kept chefs hungry for more of TD Niche Pork.
"That would be equivalent to someone who does Indy cars and tries to make them faster. They are already fast," he says. "Berkshires are already good, but when you talk about selecting genetics in that breed, you really distance yourself from the major breeds of swine."