In Hungary, the breed is called Mangalica, which means “hog with lots of lard,” and that is quite an understatement. The carcass of a mature Mangalitsa is 70 percent fat, and the fatback is three times thicker than that found on today’s leaner breeds, such as the muscular, industry-standard Yorkshire pig.
Mangalitsa pigs, descendants of wild boars and lard pigs, emerged in Eastern Europe in the mid-19th century (1833) and were prized for their light and clean-tasting lard and succulent texture and flavor, but demand for Mangalitsa products waned after World War II, given the advent of lard alternatives and the trend toward fast-growing, lean pork.
What goes around comes around, however, and today, chefs at five-star restaurants on the East and West coasts increasingly are discovering that meat harvested from the Mangalitsa is more highly marbled, is of superior color and is significantly tenderer than that from Yorkshire hogs and are paying premium prices for dry-cured Mangalitsa meat.
Thus, while still primarily focused on the Mangalitsa’s promise as a translational animal research model for human diseases, Brandebourg also is collaborating with fellow Auburn meat scientist Christy Bratcher to investigate the breed’s potential as a quality food animal. Their initial data indicate that Mangalitsa meat is considerably higher in monounsaturated, or “good,” fatty acids and lower in undesirable saturated fats than pork from Yorkshire hogs, factors that suggest Mangalitsa meat is healthier to consume, Brandebourg says.