Pigs at Moto Perpetuo Farm aren’t getting high on cannabis, but some say their pork is better because of it. This integrated legal marijuana farming operation in Forest Grove, Ore., is not only raising cannabis-fed pigs, they’re also raising a few eyebrows.
Brent Young and Ben Turley, owners of The Meat Hook, a butcher shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., followed the process of “weed-fed pork” from pig to plate on Eater, a YouTube site for food and restaurant obsessives.
“Feeding byproducts of the legal marijuana industry is of interest to many in the pork industry,” says Anna Dilger, associate professor of meat science at the University of Illinois. “To my knowledge, there is no real research on this yet.”
Dilger says the interest in feeding byproducts of legal marijuana is two-fold.
“In addition to the scrap ag products (plants), there is also interest in the bakery waste leftover from making marijuana brownies or cookies,” Dilger says. “These are typically the edges or scraps that are not offered for sale or products that have gone stale.”
Although bakery waste is a common feed ingredient, Dilger says it’s an additional challenge when the bakery waste has THC in it. THC in the diet is of interest to some, scientifically, because the appetite stimulation by marijuana could increase feed intake in pigs.
Dave Hoyle, owner of Moto Perpetuo Farm, says, “We do feel that we see an increased appetite and the pigs seem to be gaining weight faster than the same breed fed a similar free-choice ration without the cannabis.”
However, he’s quick to note this is mostly anecdotal. His pigs also have free access to a grain diet and are frequently fed byproducts from his produce operation as well.
“Their diets vary by season,” Hoyle says. “Melons, tomatoes, etc., in the summertime and greens and roots in the wintertime. The amount of cannabis we feed fluctuates by the time of the year and the availability of material, due to production cycles. We can only feed material from our own state-licensed operation, making a consistent and quantifiable ration a wee bit tricky.”
So, how does this affect the end product? What does cannabis-fed pork taste like? In the video, Young and Turley followed Matthew Jarrell, executive chef at Imperial, a restaurant in Portland, Ore., around his kitchen as he prepared secreto – an uncommon cut of pork that their restaurant specializes in serving that ties back to Spain’s acorn-fattened pigs.
Chef Jarrell said the cannabis-fed pork does not impart the flavor of cannabis, from what they understand the flavor of cannabis to be.
“What I do taste is juicier pork, and a more resistant texture – there’s no mushiness involved,” Jarrell says.
Dustin Boler, associate professor of meat science at the University of Illinois, says the advanced age of the pigs (14 months old) is likely a factor when it comes to the pork texture.
“In my opinion that is more of a contributor to change in texture than the diet,” Boler says.
Although no controlled experiments were run, Boler agrees that it’s an interesting conversation.
“This is an area where producers are definitely curious about using these products,” Dilger says. “But we don’t have a lot of scientific information about how pigs will react to these ingredients and how pork will change as a result.”
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