With Easter coming up, we've started thinking about where to buy Easter ham from sustainable-raised pigs. We did some research and found several farms that raise their pigs without hormones or drugs, on an organic diet, and do not confine them to cages - the pigs are allowed to engage in natural behavior, such as rooting and foraging.
The farms in our list raise heritage breeds, which taste much better than commercial pork breeds because they are raised for flavor, not mass production. Unfortunately, some breeds are at risk of dying out because there simply isn't enough demand for the meat. We think the demand is low because most Americans simply aren't aware that there are much better-tasting pigs out there - pigs that you won't find in the meat aisle of your local supermarket.
• Prairie Pride of Minnesota raises Berkshire pigs and cures the hams with maple syrup, brown sugar, water and a 2% salt cure. The hams are hickory smoked in a smokehouse. Hams can be purchased online.
• Flying Pigs Farm in New York raises rare heritage breeds of pig such as Large Blacks, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and Tamworths. The hams are smoked and are available for online purchase.
• Hudson Valley Smokehouse sells organic smoked hams via their website.
• Heritage Foods raises rare heritage breeds such as Berkshire Pork, Duroc Pork, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and Red Wattle. They sell fresh and smoked hams via the website.
• More heritage-raised smoked hams can be found at Brown Boar Farm, a sustainable farm in Vermont. They offer custom butchered cuts of meat, including whole ham cuts, but they do not cure or smoke the hams. This is a good option for home cooks who would like to smoke or brine their own ham.
(Image: Hudson Valley Smokehouse)