Food & Drink

Fresno County farmer’s organically raised pork in demand

Lone Willow Ranch farmer John Teixeira looks over a group of his young Tamworth hogs in Firebaugh. For now, his biggest customer is The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley.
Lone Willow Ranch farmer John Teixeira looks over a group of his young Tamworth hogs in Firebaugh. For now, his biggest customer is The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

When Fresno County farmer John Teixeira delivers his prized pork to The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, owner Aaron Rocchino has a list of customers to call.

“They want to know exactly when it arrives,” Rocchino said. “They like it that much.”

Teixeira’s pork, organically raised on his Lone Willow Ranch in Firebaugh, has engendered a loyal following of home cooks and private chefs who yearn for his lean, yet flavorful cuts of meat.

Rocchino, whose Local Butcher Shop was ranked the third best meat shop in the U.S. by the Daily Meal, said Lone Willow Ranch’s pork has a complexity and richness that he loves. Each bite imparts subtle notes that Rocchino talks about in the same way some people describe wine.

“There is so much depth to it,” he said. “Sometimes, depending on the season, it may be floral; other times it can be grassy tasting.”

So how does Teixeira do it?

These pigs have a good life.

Fresno County farmer John Teixeira

A visit to his farm gives you insight into a man who is equal parts farmer, scientist and lover of food. His 53-acre ranch, complete with farm equipment scattered about, is a haven for organic farming practices.

He digs up a clump of farmland to show off the health of his soil. Teixeira blankets his pastures with nearly a dozen cover crops to provide ample forage for his goats and pigs. He pays close attention to plants that improve the condition of his soil.

After extensive research into the type of hogs he wanted, Teixeira settled on the Tamworth and Berkshire, two British breeds that are known for their size and quality of meat.

Recently, about a dozen 150-pound pigs enjoyed a late-morning snack of daikon, clover, wheat and mustard. Their reddish-brown hair glistened in the sun as they moved through the tall grass, grunting and chewing. Soon he’ll plant sweet-tasting sorghum that will grow several feet this summer before the pigs mow it down in a few weeks.

Along with cover crops, Teixeira will feed his pigs a mixture of grain soaked in goat milk. He says it makes it easier for the pigs to digest and adds to the rich flavor of the meat.

Last year, Teixeira sold about 40 whole pigs. This year, he will sell about as many, if not more. For now, his biggest customer is The Local Butcher Shop.

“We have a deal that when he is ready, we take them, no matter how many,” Rocchino said. “If he has six or just one, we will take them all.”

On average, Rocchino gets four pigs every other month from Teixeira. The butcher shop turns his hogs into a host of different cuts, including loins, pork chops, porterhouse chops and roasts. He also makes a sausage with just three ingredients: pork, salt and pepper. Rocchino said it doesn’t need anything more than that.

The Tamworth is known as the bacon breed because of its long belly and ample lean-to-fat ratio.

“The way John raises these pigs produces some really great flavor,” Rocchino said. “But when you turn it into something like bacon, it turns it into something even better.”

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob

John Teixeira – Lone Willow Ranch

What’s so special: Organic farmer John Teixeira raises Tamworth hogs that are known for the high quality of their meat.

The local connection: The pork can be purchased at The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley and from farmer Teixeira directly.

Expectations: Consumers’ obsession with bacon and pork belly is spilling over into other premium pork cuts.

Quote: “These pigs have a good life.”

John Teixeira, Fresno County farmer

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