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Pork from Lockport pig farm in high demand

Nathan Peracciny/Feed Your Soul

A Lockport farmer has made a name for himself due to the high-quality pork his pigs produce.  WBFO contributor and Buffalo Spree food editor Christa Glennie Seychew visited the Niagara County farm to find out more.

It’s a gorgeous day at T-Meadow Farm in Lockport, but the mud is still knee-deep in places. Each spring, farmer Rich Tilyou’s pastures become muddy and hard to navigate. He laughs at me as I weave my way around the worst spots.

Credit Nathan Peracciny/Feed Your Soul

Tilyou, a high school science teacher, bought his first pigs after reading online that they were an old-fashioned way to clear land of poison ivy. For Tilyou, what began as a landscaping shortcut has turned into a business providing Buffalo’s restaurants with some of the best pork in the country.

I first met Tilyou in 2009 at a conference designed to connect area farmers to Buffalo chefs. Afterward, I talked to him in the parking lot where he was transferring a dozen piglets into a woman’s vehicle, a farmer from downstate. She was raising T-Meadow’s piglets to full size and then selling them to top chefs in Manhattan, award-winning chefs whose names any foodie would recognize.

What makes Tilyou’s pigs so prized? There are a few factors. The first is that they are heritage breed hogs. Today the pork Americans buy comes from animals that have been bred to survive factory farming and to produce lean meat. Pork, which has had a rise in popularity over the last two decades, has done so under the tagline, “the other white meat.”

Credit Nathan Peracciny/Feed Your Soul

Heritage breeds are different. They carry the genetics and the characteristics of breeds that pre-date factory farming. At T-Meadow, the hogs are Gloucestershire Old Spot and Tamworth, both breeds that originated in the UK and do well in cold climates.

"There's several differences. The commercial hogs today are cross-bred from several different lineages. The commercial hog is bred for less fat. They're bred to get them up to market weight within five months. They're bred to do well in high-stress situations indoors, not outside. The piglets are raised without the mother. The objective there is to crank pork out the door as fast as you can get it out the door," said Tilyou.

Another difference? T-Meadow's pigs are raised on pasture. They roam fields, sunbathe in mud, and forage for food. This, along with a diet of spent grain, makes the pork they produce rich and even marbled, almost like steak. In the field, Tilyou tells me what makes his pork so unique.

"The meat is definitely darker. It's got more texture. Much of the commercial pork almost squeaks when you chew it. It's dry. This is a very moist meat. It's very flavorful and it is discernable. You can have taste tests and people will taste the difference immediately. It's a much deeper, meaty flavor," Tilyou explained.

Credit Nathan Peracciny/Feed Your Soul

In 2009, it took little effort to convince Tilyou that his pigs could be sold to Buffalo’s chefs. In the years that have followed, T-Meadow has grown from a farm of 20 pigs to over 170.

There are still obstacles that make raising and selling pork challenging, but the local market for Tilyou's pork is growing every day. He no longer needs to sell any of his product outside of Western New York.

You’ll find T-Meadow pork on the menu at The Black Sheep, Buffalo Proper, Osteria 166, Carmelo’s, CRaVing and Bourbon & Butter. Cuts can be purchased at Spar’s on Grant Street, the Lexington Co-op, Farmers and Artisans, or at the Elmwood-Bidwell and North Tonawanda farmers markets, where you can meet farmer Rich and his farmhands, who tend the stand themselves. His advice for shoppers?

"I would really encourage people to know the farmer and know where their animals are coming from. Ask to visit the farm. Take a visit and get to know the farmer," suggested Tilyou.

This feature was produced by WBFO's Omar Fetouh.

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