Pigs fattened with hard mast are considered to produce the most delicious pork. The legendary pork delicacies jamÃ³n ibÃ©rico 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.