Last week I had the amazing opportunity to hang out with Iowa Pork Producers Association and some totally awesome other bloggers for the Iowa Pork Tour. Please note that this post is not being sponsored, and even though I was seriously treated to some amazing experiences, I am only sharing my opinions with you today because I want to! I think its important to have pride in our state, how our food is produced, and I want to be able to share my experiences with you!
|Piggy Cookies! Cute and Delicious!|
We have the power to make changes in the way the food industry works. Consumers are starting to want to know exactly what it is in their food, where it comes from, and how it was raised. And this is GOOD! Because the food industry needs continually to be held to high standards, to strive for excellence for consumers, producers, and the environment alike.
Iowa Pork decided to host a two day tour with local food bloggers to help educate us (and by proxy, you) on modern industry practices. I learned so much! For example, did you know its now recommended to cook pork chops & tenderloins to an internal temp of 145F instead of 160? Thats awesome! Because of the modern control of quality and care of animals, we don’t have to worry about the diseases that we used to. Pork chops can once again be juicy and tender! I’m not sure what my favorite part of the tour was – I seriously had so much fun making new friends, eating amazing food, and holding newly born piglets!
|I got to help 3 little piglets come into the world! It was so amazing!|
We started the tour off by checking out Brenneman Pork in Washington, Iowa. Brenneman Pork is the largest family run pig farm in Iowa. Now you can definitely call them “Big Ag” – their operation is one of the largest in Iowa. But, like I said, they are a family run operation – starting when Rob Brenneman was just a kid in 4H. Since then they have grown into what they are now, but they still remember exactly where they came from. It was actually so exciting for me to watch this family have so much passion and integrity for what they do. While they have thousands of pigs, they strive to create a lasting legacy not only their family, but their pigs, their environment and their community around them. Erin Brennamen gave us an awesome tour and explained so many aspects of modern pig farming. (And no, Dad, it didn’t stink in there. All the buildings have HEPA filters, a constant supply of fresh air, and are kept at a comfy 72 degrees).
Growing up I took horse back riding lessons, and I worked at the barn to pay for my lessons. So I am very familiar with the habits and practices of the equine world – where horses are considered noble beasts, and often treated as large, expensive dogs. They are coddled and cared for and loved. I also had the opportunity to work with a vet at a cattle auction barn during college, and I have seen first hand the “rough and tough” livestock world and how vastly different it was from the pet world. So I was very interested to learn more about the pig industry, and see where that fit into my experiences and mental perceptions. I was so surprised and pleased to find that it was nothing like what I had experienced in college. The facility was clean, and quality controlled. We actually had to shower into and out of the facility, to ensure we did not unintentionally bring in (or take out) any diseases. The animals here were cared for as individuals, not as a mass herd. And most importantly, the treatment of the animals was superb. You can tell that everyone who works there really takes pride in what they do, and that they receive joy from knowing they are raising pigs as humanely as they can. In short, I was super impressed.
We were then treated to a super special dinner created by Chef Dominic Ianarelli (of Jethro’s and Splash), who created a special 7 course meal featuring pork in ways I’ve never even imagined before. My favorites (as if I could really choose!) were the house made pate and the milk braised pork cheeks with shrimp tortellini in sun-dried tomato pasta and a herb goat cheese fondue (ooooh my land, they were like butter! It took every ounce of strength not to lick the plate). I loved that even though all these dishes were definitely 5 star, all the ingredients were locally sourced and things you could find in any grocery store. I’m definitely going to have to play around with pork cheeks!
The second day we were all let loose in the kitchen of Chef Terrie Kohl’s house. Terri owns Country Club Market and helped us to create a pork inspired meal for lunch. We all had a blast cooking together in close quarters, and of course eating our meal, too! Monica from Rockin’ In the Kitchen and I did some seriously awesome work on maple bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with rosemary cherry sauce. Yeah, it was good. I’ll share the recipe if you want! We also had a visit from Susan from Main Dish Media who gave us some awesome tips of food styling.
Thanks for following along on my journey! I hope I was able to share some good stuff with you! If you have any questions for what I saw and did, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I had so much fun on this tour, and hope you enjoyed reading about it!
For other Iowa Adventures, check out my Franklin County Harvest Tour!