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$4000 per ham! yes, four thousand dollars  RSS feed

 
master steward
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From sep 2009 AcresUSA pp 35:

"The most famous hams in the world are the Serrano hams, most notably the Iberico black hog hams, all of which are created in the oak savannas of Spain, where ground-fall acorns stand several inches deep, luring in these free-ranging forest hogs.  The nearly-as-famous Jambon de Bayonne is a "French cousin" ham.  No Iberico ham can be sold before 22 months of careful aging has transpired.  One leg from the top-quality Iberico black-toed pigs can sell for - hold on to your hat - $4000 per leg!"

 
pollinator
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I've seen free samples of this offered in a distastefully gentrifying part of the Mission District of SF.

There are free-ranging acorn-fed hogs in the savannas of Northern CA, too...The Omnivore's Dilemma has an account of hunting one, and curing it with traditional Italian methods.
 
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I find that sort of thing beyond bizarre. I just can't fathom someone paying that much for a ham. it is totally beyond my scope of comprehension.
 
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I have never been able to fathom the cost of any expensive gourmet foods. Organically grown or not. I don't have a very discriminating palate, I guess. You eat it & poop out the waste just like any other food. Whatever! 
 
pollinator
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i KNEW acorns were a good thing..so much for the people having a fit cause there are acorns all over their yard !!

here the deer and squirrels eat them..or i plant them for trees..but we don't have pigs..right now anyway..maybe in the future.
 
paul wheaton
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When I was selling pork, a lot of my customers would get seriously ill eating any pork other than mine.  Maybe it had to do with pesticides, or maybe something else. 

I also remember that my bacon tasted far better than anything else I had ever tried. 

So I can see niche markets starting to develop. 

Plus, some folks are just freaky rich and want to entertain.  I rather like the idea of selling meat at three or four times the going rate. 

 
Leah Sattler
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I wonder how you would even begin to market it? for me at least a local market would be not be available so I would have to somehow market it long distance. it does sound really nice getting more bucks per lb of meat. less work, less animals, less time, same or more money!

our pigs got to eat gobs of pecans. the pecan trees would shed thousands and although we couldn't allow them out to forage for themselves we collected bucket after bucket for them. they were very tasty. the pigs I mean
 
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Come up with a great pitch, a story really, entertaining and informative.

Market with a way cool websire and ads in high end gourmet mags...
Send samples to talk show hosts and news anchors...

That is all I can think or right now, oh and state on your web site that your print catalog is "unavailable" (till you make enough profit to pay for a high end one)
 
paul wheaton
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Marketing seems easy. Sell the pigs at the market rate until you have your pig operation at a comfortable size.  Then it is a matter of supply and demand.  If you sell 40 pigs a year and you have folks wanting 100 pigs a year from you, raise your prices until you have folks wanting 40 pigs a year from you.
 
pollinator
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this stuff tastes better than salmon. I had it in spain and it is gooood
it also doesn't cost as much as some fish used for sushi I don't think...
 
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I know people who raise pigs on goat milk and can't keep up with demand.  Feed definitely affects the flavor (I'd LOVE to taste pork that had been raised on pecans!  LOL!).

Kathleen
 
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In the story Akenfeild writen in the begining of the last century, the twentieth century,description of a english village and the poverty for the farm workers init whose pay was really the house they lived in and the garden they coudl grow vegetables in. it is also the autobiography of the author, the land owner had one perk tha most of the village did not bother to take advantage of, he gave out milk free to the villagers, and one old lady did used to go and get milk from him fed it to her pig. Had more nouse than the others i suppose, who had so much trouble feeding their pigs that they used to end up with half a pig, they bargained wth the sellers of feed who gave them feed and took half the pig when it was slaughtered.
  Her a pig was all the poor had a pig for the whole years meat for the poor. 
  In Emil Zolas book, "Germinal" about a mining village in France, as i said some where else, there was only a sort of big stew - soup for the families of the miners and all the children, as well as the father worked down the mine and the stew had one bit of meat in it, for the father who worked th hardest. The mine owned the store and the miners always owned money to the store and the store keeper used to barter the exchange of food for a quick role in bed with the daughters or wives of the miners , they hated him and in the end of hte book killed him and chopped of his offending member and paraded it on a stick. So much for bartering.  I have heard that in mines in South America the miners find themselves owning money to the mine who has the only shop around, this debt makes htem into slaves of the mine they have to pay it before going away to look for a better job. THe real world outsid e capitalist states with trade unions and state schooling . The poor as allways do most of the work and get less of the goods.
  A cook book i have mentions another in which the writer says that he wished that everyfrench family, it seems it was a french cookery book  had a chicken at least on sundays and he meant a chicken a week as their only bit of meat. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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I don't think that most acorn fed hams here are that expensive. Maybe they are more expensive in America.
  Though there are acorn fed pigs in italy i don't think parma ham is acorn fed very often. there are acorn fed or chestnut fed pigs in sienna i believe, an dsomeone said in china.
    The pigs are losed in winter nowdays they are not all year. In the old days they were fed outside most of the year.
  I suppose you could start off offering your porducts to a few delicatesens and then go on to selling them elsewhere.
  One important ecological factor of the farms is they mix oaks and pasture land, have a permaculture mix of trees and other things.
    This mix maybe specially important in dry countries, a bit of shade in these maybe doing more good than harm, in Las Pedroches, Cordova, apart of Spain that is at least as famouse as those places that make serrano ham the trees are pruned when they ovbserve that the shade is too much for the pastures, also the roots of the trees pull up water and feed it to shallow roots in summer as the shallow roots are actually losing water rather than taking it up from the dry hot soil, so that the grass under encinas, evergreen oaks stays green for longer than the grass in other places. I have a photo of this i can't find. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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I want to say here because the sustainable topic is a bit long and this is shorter an because the Spanish pastured oak woodland use the trees and their forage sustainable that in farming sustainable means that if you eat the leaves of a tree you don't eat so many that you kill the tree it is a not killing the hen that lays the golden eggs thing like if you ruin your pastures your children wont be able to make them produce food at least not for a longish time.
  Another question would be if it sustains your family or not and that must have to do with how much land you have. If you don't have enough well you will be tempted to farm it unsustainable.
  MY Jesus charco book on woods in the north of Africa "El Bosque Mediterraneo en el Norte de Africa, biodiversity and the fight against desertification", that includes encinas, all about natural woods and they have those of lots of species in Morocco and Argelia, has lots of good words for the state of  woods as they change as the soil gets better and the vegetation is sustained and as it gets worse.
    If it were treated really sustainable the growth on the land could be referred to as, climax for example, that is one word used, optimum would be another, then you have a whole lot of words for more degraded landscapes, degraded land or woods, with a resultant poorer or different vegetation. You have woods in recession because of human pression or that of live stock,that is such that the wood is getting less and less is not growing , raquitic, skeletal, when the soil has got really bad and the trees have few branches or leaves, relic woods, when all that is left is a relic of the fine natural woods that used to exist and even cemetery woods full of dead trees. Jesus Charco says that as the wood of the juniperus thurifera is very durable there are cemetery woods of these trees that are more than a hundred years old or rather a hundred years dead , if i remember right .The vocabulary was one of hte things i enjoyed in his book. I shall not at all mind if you change the ubication of this piece . agri rose macaskie.
 
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That could buy 6000 pounds of tofu instead of 4K$ 25lb. chunk of pigmeat; freeze it and eat high on the hog (whoops..) for twenty years.
You'd figure out how to make it taste like Smithfield Ham before too long.

I'd prefer to see more emphasis on locally grown foods that are available season by season; encourage folks to spend their grocery dollars on local farms and market gardens instead of mail order gourmet boutique ham. Better yet show them how to raise
pigs for their own table or their community's; could become a neighborhood cooperative project. Urban chicken raising is very popular these days.

dirtfarmer
http://venaurafarm.blogspot.com
 
paul wheaton
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Imagine somehow following the right steps such that demand is so high for your pork that people are willing to pay ten times more than market rates.

I suspect that the key here is flavor, and health aspects.

When I raised pork a few years ago I built a pretty big market with people that could eat my pork, but they would get sick on any other pork. 

I really wanna taste this ham - or at least ham that has been raised on different nuts.  I wanna get my head wrapped around the fiscal interest in all this.


 
rose macaskie
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    I think i woudl like to try your pork after hearing what success you have had with it and i have not eaten organic meat at least not with complete confidence that it is ireally is organic, my lack of confidence comes from the fact that what i ahve bought tastes of other meat. Maybe thats bedcause it is beef and beef is often fed on helathy things like grass eating pig fed outside would really be a different thing from the normal. the ecological meat i  have bought tasted the same as other meat.
  I would not be too sure about the healthy bit, as concerns spainish hams, as i ¡ think they use quite a lot of herbicides here, on the quiet, but you would not get the rubbish that is somtimes put in feeds. It's price is for it's taste. MInd you I have only read about the farms not about the meat, and the guarantees it has.
  The fattening of the pigs by letting them run loose on the mountains does include eating grass, they say the grass is more proteinic than acorns.
  they do say that the pigs dont suervive running lose except the iberic pig and a duro jersey mix. maybe it is the tannins they don't survive. Eating acorns makes the meat sweeter.
I thought it should be a healthy method of feeding animals because it is a natural feed,but as to the use of chemicals on the land i don't have a clue how this question applies to the production of expensive hams . I don't know if jamon serrano, bellota, bellota, acorn acorn is certified organic. eatign grass would reduce their water needs
  you would have to get the ordinary jamon serrano and the special one to see the difference in taste. i wonder if it can be posted to America. A lot of oak woods here aren't used to fatten pigs, they did have a big problem with pig pest quite a short time ago which enormously reduced the production of acorn fed hams. They could produce many more hams they have the woods for it. Agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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As the pigs range around on the farms i should not think the acorns got to standing many inches deep, the pigs eat them as they fall, some today and some tomorrow so there doesnot usually get to be a build up of acorns. agri rose macaskie.
 
Emil Spoerri
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there would be no way this would cost this much, if we hadn't cut down all the trees

this is the way pork is supposed to be raised or at least a lot more like it is supposed to be

reading old issues of "the new farm" even regenerative agriculturalists of the time thought that free range pork was stone age and more destructive than positive, though they did condone feeding them fresh cut alfalfa...

i wonder how well you can have pigs self harvest root crops and how possible it is to have them live off of that most of the year

what are ways to free range and not feed your pigs year-round, is this possible in cold climates?
 
Lf London
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paul wheaton wrote:
From sep 2009   :AcresUSA pp 35:
"The most famous hams in the world are the Serrano hams, most notably the Iberico black hog hams,  $4000 per leg!"



Well, since the news came from  ACRES USA its got top level approval! Go for the gold!
Fried thick slices of country ham cooked in bacon grease and brewed coffee (added at the last to make gravy), red grapefruit, fresh squeezed orange juice, hickory smoked stuffed lean pork sausage, grits and Redeye gravy, scrambled eggs, biscuits, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup
That's standard fare on dinner tables in the South.
Good for Christmas morning...

Merry Christmas!

LFLondon
 
Jennifer Smith
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asmileisthenewak47 wrote:i wonder how well you can have pigs self harvest root crops and how possible it is to have them live off of that most of the year

what are ways to free range and not feed your pigs year-round, is this possible in cold climates?



I can tell you how the ferral pigs get into the corn, the chuffa, and even the cotton, making a big mess.  They multiply like crazy so must be happy and well fed.

They have tryed hunting and trapping yet they still multiply.  This in South Alabama but I hear they are becoming a problem in parts of Missouri.
 
rose macaskie
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Jenifferb Smith, i wrote aobut free ranging pigs here, in a bit in the forestry bits of these forums, under keeping oaks because the oaks are kept here to feed the pigs which range lose on the mountains  here in winter to fatten on acorns and grass. In the old days they used to be taken out to pasture in summer too, there are instructions in a book i have, on which which type of pasture serve for the pigs, it seems they must have the best pastures they cannot do on scurb land as goats can. mind you only iberican races of pigs survive this treatment.
  Here we have wild boar all over the place. Where  i go the villagers plant wheat feilds specially to be able to shoot them when they try to eat the wheat, this is not legal i think. There is lots of legal hunting of boar in winter.
  There is a swedish, if i remember right, i can look it up, system of keeping pigs out in winter, on deep straw, that keeps them warm, it also reduces the off gassing of their feces. WHen experts came to measure the air polllution from the pigs kept in this way by an american farmer, they found that they were producing much less gass than pigs kept in the normal way. I can't remember with out checking it out, the gasses that you get off manure but there are several not particularly healthy ones that come from pig manure. I supppose the decomposition of the straw uses up some of the compontents that would otherwise turn into gass, if you pee in a bale of straw it turns into sweet smelling earth in three mounths according to one gardening book, the decomposing bacteria need lots of nitrogen.
  Maybe super scientific Joel Hollingsworth could check out the science bit of all this.
  I really started reading about all this when i started writting about Spanish farming traditions. If you are to write, what you hope one day to publish, you have to read about it you have to try your best to get things right. Before set out to write about farming here,  i just sort of picked up organic from my mother, things on the television, chidrens programs have lots of green stuff in them and at school. agri rose macaskie.
     
 
                                  
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I hope I am not changing topic, but since dear eat acorns, do cows, sheep or goats also eat acorns?
 
Jennifer Smith
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I have read time and time again that they are not good for them but my horse and goat enjoy them.  Maybe not all my horses but I know for a fact that Taffy loved them and would eat lots of them.  My goat Buttercup and I would go walk out to the oak tree for her afternoon snack everyday. 
 
rose macaskie
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    Another picture of this farm . i have never seen pigs there this is a cattle farm.THe grey trees are the ashes that have lost their leaves because it is winter and the ones with leaves on are evergreen oaks of the spanish variety rotundifolia round leaved wiht less bitter acorns. cork oaks are farmed like this too but not on th emountainsides they are more delicate as regards frost and they give cork an dacorns and fire wood.
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rose macaskie
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      Leaves of the spanish evergreen oak or holms oak  the round leaved one, the spanish subspecies is called rotundifolia or bellota and of the more normal evergreen oak the quercus illex ilex not the quercus ilex rotundifolia.
  THe firt foto of the quercus oak trees are quercuses ilex ilex is in flower the trees look orange or yellow when they are in flower, they flower in spring and have acorns in winter they don't all flower together so the fruiting season is also fased between early and late fruiters making the fattening season longer.
squirrel-14.jpg
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rose macaskie
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This is a mountain side with encinas starting to grow on it, the bushes here are all encinas It is places like these that are cleared to make sylvan pastoral farms.
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rose macaskie
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  here i post a picture of the escorial built by Philip t esecond who married bloody mary though he hardly ever visited her, a marriage that didnot alst long leaving him a widower.
  all the trees you can see below the palace are of this type of farm above the palace is higher up the mountain side and all the trees are pines this is about an hour from the centre of madrid driving like a sedate person who does not drive too fast. agri rose macaskie.
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rose macaskie
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    Another bit of mountain side covered in young and self seeded oaks in the province of Avila.
      It is summer, the pastures are dry, grass does not compete with trees in the toughest season of the year. agri rose macaskie.
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rose macaskie
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  Leaves with acorns.
acorns-4.jpg
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rose macaskie
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    youngish tree shaped to correstly for that part of spain you can see the horizontal branch an dit has been prunned so the new branches come off the main ones at regular intervals growing up and slightly out.
  bull rings are used as cattle markets as well as for bull fighting. this is a small bullring in a village called Solo Sanchez, in the province of Ávila.
  the main branches are kept horizontal because iprunning and pollarding is easier if you can walk along the branch easily. They are pollarded fo r fire wood and pruned to increase the amount of olives they produce.
  the pigs and other live stock eat the acorns as they fall unless the district is mountainouse an dthe acorns might sufffer from frosts when they might be knocked down storing them can be difficult they can suffer from molds. and if the pigs pick them up themeslves it saves labour costs. agri rose macaskie.
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rose macaskie
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  a wood of mixed oaks and junipers trees in a different type of farm, different because it is in the province of Guadaljara and the way encinas are farmed depends on the province they are farmed in.
  The short trees are young pollarded encinas the shaping of the trees is different here and one thing i thought might interest jennifer smith is that what trees look like depends usually on how their shaped so if she is starting a garden if she look at different fotos of trees she can decide which shape of tree she likes.
  th eother trees are quejigos, the quercus faginea, that is deciduouse whiuch is to say it drops its leaves in winter, its acorns serve for live stockand they eat its fallen leaves another reason live stock can cause desertification if thye sleep in stables and what they eat does not get returned to the soil is this eating of fallen leaves .
    The quercus pyrenaic,a that is marescente, its leaves dry but dont fall offering protection from frosts during the winter mounths. Its leaves you cut the branches from trees the thinner ones to give the leaves to live stock are specially liked by goats.
  The sabina albar juniperus thurifera a tree that grows high in the mountains way above 2,000 metres high in southerly places so it bares lots of cold and also high insolation, a lot of solar radiation and hot dry summers in bad soils. it also produces a great amount of fruit that help feed live stock. The sheepo eat its folliage there are farms of this tree sheep and goats are farmed where it grows and it was used in construction, its wood is hard and very durable of bridges, houses etc., it beams where taken out of a roman bridge and a medieval well.  agri rose macaskie.
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Lf London
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rose macaskie wrote:
      Leaves of the spanish evergreen oak or holms oak  the round leaved one, the spanish subspecies is called rotundifolia or bellota and of the more normal evergreen oak the quercus illex ilex not the quercus ilex rotundifolia.
  THe firt foto of the quercus oak trees are quercuses ilex ilex is in flower the trees look orange or yellow when they are in flower, they flower in spring and have acorns in winter they don't all flower together so the fruiting season is also fased between early and late fruiters making the fattening season longer.



Hello Rose:

Thanks for the inspiring pictures of your area in Spain. Your evergreen oaks must be very similar to our (USA) Live Oak.
The variety prevalent on the US mid Atlantic coastal region is probably the Quercus Virginiana or Southern Live Oak.
From a woodworker's or boatbuilder's perspective this is a wood far superior to many other oak varieties as well as other hardwoods. It is the hardest oak in the USA. As a white oak it is second in hardness only to the famous Japanese white oak, used in the best dais (dai = block or plane body) for the best plane irons in planes used in traditional Japanese joinery. It is a wood with great value and should be sustainably harvested and conserved.

From the Wikipedia entry for Live Oak we have a long list of evergreen oaks around the world: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_oak.
Evergreen species in genus Quercus
* Section Quercus. The white oaks. Europe, Asia, north Africa, North America. Styles short; acorns mature in 6 months,
  sweet or slightly bitter, inside of acorn shell hairless.

    * Quercus arizonica - Arizona white oak - southwestern North America
    * Quercus fusiformis - Texas live oak - south central North America
    * Quercus geminata - Sand live oak - southeastern North America
    * Quercus ilex - Holm oak - southern Europe
    * Quercus minima - Dwarf live oak - southeastern North America
    * Quercus oblongifolia - Mexican blue oak - southwestern North America
    * Quercus polymorpha - Mexican white oak or Monterrey oak - Mexico
    * Quercus pungens - Sandpaper oak - south central North America
    * Quercus turbinella - Shrub live oak - southwestern North America
    * Quercus virginiana - Southern live oak - southeastern North America

Among them is the Holm Oak, Quercus Ilex, of southern Europe, that you mentioned. This is a white oak.
In southern Europe you also have: Quercus coccifera - Kermes oak - southern Europe

Section Cerris. Europe, Asia, north Africa. Styles long; acorns mature in 18 months, very bitter,
inside of acorn shell hairless or slightly hairy.

    * Quercus calliprinos - Palestine oak - western Asia
    * Quercus coccifera - Kermes oak - southern Europe
    * Quercus semecarpifolia - Himalayan oak - eastern Asia
    * Quercus suber - Cork oak - southwestern Europe

I enjoy your posts and hope to see them continue.

LFLondon
 
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$4000 might be a little more than any of us could expect for a ham, but we can dream.
Area of production is very important to consumers here in Japan, and everyone "knows" that Iberico hams are the best, and they always sell for a lot more than comparable (i.e. outstandingly good) hams from other areas.
Here in Japan a good quality leg of Iberico ham will generally cost around $1000.
It's brand value that raises the price. Even with excellent quality, it would take a very long time to build up the almost religious status associated with this particular product.
A goal worth working towards perhaps, but definitely a long term goal.

As far as feeding acorns to livestock goes, the high levels of tannins are the limiting factor. Goats and some breeds of pig can deal with relatively high levels of tannin in their diet, but feeding enormous amounts of acorns can cause anaemia, breeding problems, and sometimes death, so make sure the percentage of acorns in the diet isn't too high for the animals in question.
Acorns are low in protein, but high in fat so they can be useful in increasing fat stores before winter (or slaughter if that's the goal)
Milking my goats this autumn, and I had to make sure that they didn't spend too much time in the Oak forests or it would lower the protein content of the milk and my cheeses would be too soft.

 
rose macaskie
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pawnjip, you mention the lack of proteins in the acorns, here they say that they eat grass that is has plenty of proteins as well as  acorns. the grass has what the acrns lack water an dproteins and rouphage.  The woods are open and there is plenty of grass in them in  winter. i will, this afternoon, look up how many pigs they say you can keep a hectar, two i think, for how many trees, they have done a study to find out how few acrons they can be fed and give meat taht tastes right.  You must eemeber the hectarsee are used for cows and horses an dsheep to cows in one province sheep in another.
  As the pigs  eat the acorns as they fall that limits the amount of acorns they eat, not all the acorns on the tree fall at the same time, and the different trees have acorns that ripen at different times .
  Humans used to, still do, a little bit, eat acorns here, bread was made of acorn flour i think the spainsh variety of quercus ilex the quercus ilex rotundifolia or ballota  is meant to be sweeter than the ordinary mediterenean quercus ilex however they have the ordinary variety in catalunia, maybe the Spanish varieties of oak are specially low in tannins. agri rose macaskie
 
                    
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This is one of the most exciting things I've researched lately......here's an article about this from The Stockman Grass Farmer

http://www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/cgi-bin/page.cgi?id=656

Apparently, the fat from these acorn fattened pigs has very little saturated fat - and lots of "good" fat!  Spainards call them "olive trees on four legs."

Pigs used to be raised in this way in southeastern usa as well, until housewives decided that hard white lard was preferable for buiscuts and the like.  The fat from acorn finished pigs is darker, and softer - sometimes liquid at room temperature!  That just blows my mind.  And further convinces me that what an animal eats - what it uses to create the fat and protein in its body - has a HUGE effect on the nutritional content of the finished product.  I really don't think that grass/forage fed and grain fed ANYthing should be legally labeled as the same food.  Because they just aren't!

We have 40 acres in Northern California, and 37 of them are mixed conifer and black oak forest.  We're going to experiment with forest grazing next summer....our first attempt at raising pigs.  I'm concerned that their rooting will eliminate wild flowers and smaller shrubs in the understory....but we intend to keep the grazing times very short.  I will assess areas for biodiversity before and several weeks after they are there.  I have a feeling things will come back as long as they are allowed to grow again before the next round of rooting.  Are talking about using harnesses and stakes or cable runs for containing their range while allowing to move them around easily?  I might make or search for a dedicated pig raising post.....we need all the help we can get. 
 
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