Compared to the typical, industrial pig farm, Becker Lane Organic Pig Farm in Dyersville, Iowa is a country club. The Chester White and Berkshire breeds there luxuriate in open fields, snacking on certified organic corn, soy and oats, grown on the farm.
"It's a challenge, because they're living outdoors, and this is something that most farmers have forgotten how to do, let's say since World War II. So, the pig lives in a pasture, you've got to construct a fence for it, you have to deal with year-round conditions," said Jude Becker, the owner of Becker Lane Organic Pork.
Becker's pork is for sale at Chicago's Green City Market every Saturday, and the farmer himself has become a bit of a rock star in the local food scene.
"It's such a great feeling to make that connection between our farm and our philosophies. We're all about making a pathway to whoever's on the other end of the food chain," Becker said.
At The Publican in West Town, where Becker's pork is so revered, he has his name all over the menu.
"I think our whole concept is the relationships that are formed between us and the farmer. It's kind of this hidden bonus to cooking. He sets the bar as far as pork goes, and so that's why we want to use his pig," said Publican Chef Brian Huston.
They use it a number of ways, but the showstopper is porchetta. First, they butcher the middle of an enormous pig, removing the ribs, making it boneless. Then, the outer fat layer is scored, to help it cook evenly. The inside is generously rubbed with salt, garlic and chili flakes, plus fresh thyme, rosemary and coriander.
It takes two people to roll it up, then tie it up with kitchen twine to secure it. Over a bed of carrots, celery, onions and garlic, the porchetta is roasted for three to four hours. Once removed, it's cooled, sliced into portions and grilled on either side to finish and crisp the skin.
A salad of peaches dressed in honey vinegar is showered over the top, along with vibrant pea shoots.
Huston says even on his pork-centric menu, Becker's pork is a standout.
"His fat is delicious. We say fat is flavor, and his fat is the best stuff I've tasted," Huston said.
Becker's pork is currently available in about 15 restaurants in the Chicago area, most downtown, but some in the suburbs. And you're going to be seeing that Iowa farmer's name on a lot more menus, as he attempts to hit the East Coast over the next couple of months.
Becker Lane Pork is available at Chicago's Green City Market every Saturday
837 W. Fulton Mkt.
Becker Lane pork also available at:
Girl and The Goat
Inovasi (Lake Bluff)