Pigs fattened with hard mast are considered to produce the most delicious pork. The legendary pork delicacies jamón ibérico de bellota and prosciutto di Parma, both “best in class” quality meats, are fattened with acorns and chestnuts, respectively.
In recent years, some local farmers in the hazelnut-growing regions of the Pacific Northwest have been experimenting with another type of nut: the hazelnut. These sweet nuts are traditionally used in a variety of desserts, from praline to Nutella, and pigs love them as much as people do. The nuts give a sweet flavor to the meat, and impart many of the same health benefits shared by chestnut and acorn-finished pigs. Pigs fattened with nuts have an unusually high ratio of unsaturated fat to saturated fat, including as high as 55% oleic acid, a heart-healthy fat known to lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Nut-fed pork also has higher levels of many important vitamins and minerals, and is more likely to be raised and slaughtered humanely.
One of the pioneers in the hazelnut-fed pork movement is Tails and Trotters, an Oregon company dedicated to creating a quality Northwest prosciutto.