BONNERS FERRY — One of the perks of residing in Boundary County is the abundance of locally grown food products, from fresh produce to meats.
The Wilbeck family raises and sells a different breed of pig called the Mangalica, also spelled Mangalisa.
The Mangalica breed of hog has been known since the early 1800s, and has been regarded as a premium type of meat for the species. The once popular breed has seen a dramatic drop in numbers over the years, and breeders worldwide are taking to breeding them, which have brought their numbers up throughout the past years. The main outward feature of the hog is its wool-like curly hair, but when it comes to the consumption of the meat, it has more red coloring and beef-like texture.
The Mangalica breed is known as a ‘lard type pig’ due to the animal’s fat content, which is 60-75 percent. During the mid-20th century, lard was deemed unhealthy due to saturated fat. However, lard has less saturated fat than an equal amount of butter and boasts more flavor, which has attracted cooks back to the use of lard in cooking. It has more omega-3 fatty acids and natural antioxidants, and the lard is creamier and melts at a lower temperature.
The woolly pig takes longer to reach maturity than their thin-haired, meatier cousins and also has smaller litters. With those factors and the decrease in sales for the hogs and their products, the numbers dwindled to about 200 animals in Hungary. There is a term, ‘Eat them to save them,’ that depicts what this breed has been through. Farmers in Hungary banded together to save the breed, which has bounced back up to about 50,000 hogs produced a year.
“When you open up the packages, it is a darker color, it is a red meat,” said Kevin Wilbeck. “It looks like a steak, it has fat marbling.”
The Wilbecks moved to the area in 2017 and since then have been raising the breed for consumption.
“We moved here and we understood very quickly that you’re going to get into something that needs to be a niche market, so this was the best that we could think of in terms of what is a high end product, that is very healthy, and that nobody else is doing,” said Wilbeck.
Until recently, the Wilbecks didn’t have the production numbers to sell in retail. Since beginning the endeavor about three years ago, their production has hit a point where they can move into retail sales as well as selling half and whole hogs.
The Wilbecks met the Yoders through a mutual friend, which opened up the relationship between local grower and local seller. The paring of these businessmen has strengthened the Yoders’ quest to produce locally grown food for Boundary County residents.
“I always encourage people to buy locally. I have seen a bumper sticker around that says ‘who is your farmer?’ and I thought about it. How often do you need a lawyer? Once a year maybe? But you eat three times a day, as most people eat three times a day, very few people take the time to ask, ‘where does my sustenance come from?’” said Wilbeck. “So I am here to help encourage buying local.”
Producing a healthy, non-GMO meat product, the Wilbecks bring a unique breed to the area. Their products can be found at Yoder’s market.
“We hope to produce a very clean premium meat and we hope it is to others as well,” said Wilbeck.
Their premium product can be purchased at Yoder’s Market.