September 17, 2013


Black spots and floppy ears. And of course a 'pied-noir', which gives the name. Kintoa-pigs seem to look very cute. But they are a lot more than just this. In the Pays-Basque they are a very traditional farm animal. But even though they might be quite popular in connoisseur-circles for the distinctive and deep flavour of its charcuterie: Its hard to make a living out of this outstanding pigs. Todays customers demand white meat, nor fat or cholesterol. And this indeed is somethings the Kintoas cannot offer at all. Farmers like André Eyheramendy try to stand against those popular demands and hold on to their traditions.

They both seem to be very lucky, André, the farmer from Pagolle and his pigs. They both stroll around in the woods around the little village. And even though their life ends on the plates of food connoisseurs - the pigs seem to be happy. Species-appropriate animal husbandry is the key-word. What André would call 'normal'. He lets his pigs run free. 
Sprout of Kintoas in the woods
Living outdoors in some sort of forest all year round, the Kintoas feed on what nature provides them in the area. Mainly chestnuts, beechnuts and acorns, some greens. They don't need a fence. This is the way, his father and grandfather used to elevate their pigs. And some day, André's son will do. What sounds like archaic tradition, is in the eyes of modern the best way to raise productive livestock. This way of raising the pig is the key to obtaining a unique 'product'. The result is a tasty, light-red colored meat, slightly marbled, with nut and spices flavors. Perhaps also Andrés' way of handling the pigs is part of this miracle. Even though one day they all will end at the butcher, he keeps a personal relationship to his animals. He knows everyone of them by character, by age, by peculiarity. He looks after them every single day. And when the time has come, he is accompanying them on their last way. Without any harm the selected pig follows him. Just a rope is all he needs, to bring them to the butcher. The word dignified comes in mind, looking at the scene. Even the end of these pigs life has absolutely nothing to do with the contemptuous way their conspecifics are treated in modern slaughterhouses.

Ready for the oven: Kintoa suckling pig roast

The main problem: Marketing

In some way, Kintoa meat is quite popular. In London for example, you'll find ham and sausages out of Kintoa at really impressing prizes. Top chefs use Kintoa in their menues, presenting it in a luxury way. With appropriate prices. But this is far away from the receipts André gets for his pigs. The day-to-day business is a problem for him. In supermarkets around you don't find his meat - for the average customer its just too greasy and/or too expensive. Even in France, consumers more and more first look on the price of groceries.  And the choice between Kintoa and cheap danish or german turbo-pigs is always decided from the point of economics. But André found a way out of this unwinable fight. He is delivering schools and kindergartens with his goods. Which also wasn't that simple, when you keep in mind the pan-european tender regulations. 
A real artisan farmer: André Eyheramendy (right)
But artisans - and farmers as well - sometimes are quite clever. I don't tell you the trick - ask André, when you get to see him. And this could happen very easily. Guests are always welcome on his farm - as long as they apply their visit. Then you also can receive a traditional plate with all the goods the kintoa pig offers. Ham, sausages, roast, chops. A real insiders' tip, I can assure you.

No comments:

Post a Comment