Circle B Ranch Heritage Berkshire PorkWhen Marina and I moved to Missouri, we knew our land was the perfect setting for our dream—humanely raising heritage pork. But, we had to ask ourselves, which breed would we choose to raise? We could take our pick from a short list. Duroc? Red Wattle? Berkshire? Large Blacks? Considering hardiness, temperament, ease of handling, and the flavor of the meat, it wasn’t a hard question to answer. Circle B Ranch breeds, farrows and raises Heritage Berkshire Hogs.
A Little Berkshire HistoryA rare type originated from Berkshire England, this pig is Britain’s oldest established breed. Historically, the Berkshire was the favorite of English royalty because of the meat’s distinctive flavor. First introduced to America in 1823, the Berkshire was originally favored by the Shaker religious community, but it has been said that the Berkshire became popular with Cromwell and his troops during the English Civil War. The Berkshire became so preferred that The American Berkshire Association was formed in 1875. The Association only registered pure English stock with traditional Berkshire coloring. Due to the ABA’s selective process, the Berkshire bloodline has remained extremely pure to this day.
Why We Chose BerkshireBerkshire Hogs are hardy animals that adapt well to pasture. They have a good temperament for ease of handling and perform well in outdoor operations. Friendly and curious animals, these pigs will follow you all around the pasture while you work. They are very sociable, and you will usually find them romping through the fields with their litter mates. The Berkshire’s coloring and build are also ideal for pasture raising. The hogs are black with six white points (one on each foot, one on the face, and one on the tail) and pink skin surrounding their nose. Their dark-colored skin reduces the chance of sunburn. They have a firm build, short neck and short blocky legs with strong feet that allow the animals to thrive in a natural environment. Medium to large animals, mature sows weigh in at about 500 pounds, with boars topping out at around 700-800 pounds.
Breeding and Farrowing the BerkshireHere at Circle B Ranch, we breed and farrow our Heritage Berkshire Hogs all year round. We can do so since Berkshire sows are good mothers that perform exceptionally well on pasture. Because we raise our sows on pasture, they are stress free. The lack of stress allows the sows to birth larger and healthier litters. We have had litters containing as many as 14 piglets! Farrowing and raising the Berkshire on pasture makes for easier weaning as well. When Berkshire piglets are raised on pasture, they quickly learn how to root for their food. Their diet becomes varied and healthier, and the piglets swiftly become independent.
The Berkshire FlavorThe meat from the Berkshire hog is dark and juicy and has a rich flavor that you can’t compare to any other. As you are eating the meat, you are thinking “So this is what pork should taste like…” Once you have tasted the deep rich flavor of Berkshire pork, you will never buy supermarket meat again. [ ... ]
Four Delicious April Farmer’s Market EntreesIt’s April and the Farmer’s Market is full of produce and people. I love shopping for fresh fruit and veggies at my local farmer’s market. Why? I know that it is 100% farmer and producer based. The produce has not been supplemented or modified and not sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. At my farmer’s market I can select the freshest ingredients and know I am choosing the healthiest options. I usually swing by the farmer’s market at least once a week. As I peruse the selections, I’m often planning dinner for the next day and selecting my entrée based on the produce in season. April is the month for veggies. Asparagus, morels, rhubarb, and cabbage are plentiful, so I will adjust my menu and prepare some of my favorite recipes to include them. When it comes to asparagus, I like to use it in a Bacon Asparagus Strata. I often make this dish for Easter dinner, but it is perfect for any occasion. I especially love this recipe because it is so easy to make. You can prep the dish the night before, put it in the fridge, and slip it into a timed oven when you are ready. And the results are delicious! As for Morels, we are essentially in the middle of the season. I love pairing these tasty mushrooms with pasta whenever I can find them. Pasta with Morels, Asparagus & Goat Cheese combines asparagus, morels, and Terrill Creek Farm Goat Cheese. You can’t beat this combination for flavor! Rhubarb season is just beginning. In season from April until June, the veggie is often included in desserts, but I like to embrace it in entrees as well. It stars in one of my go-to recipes: Berkshire Pork Chops with Rhubarb Compote. This dish is the perfect choice for grilling now that the weather is beginning to warm up. Simply grill the Berkshire porkchops, top it with the rhubarb compote, and serve it alongside farro and your pick of veggies. While cabbage isn’t my favorite, Big John can’t live without it (especially if I cook it with kielbasy). I often make him a Kielbasy & Cabbage Skillet. The dish is no fuss and no muss. It is easily prepared in one skillet. In essence, April provides a complete diversity of veggies for our palates. If you get a chance, swing by your local farmer’s market and see what is available in your area. You can try any of these recipes or create an entrée of your own. [ ... ]
Meet the Circle B Ranch Bacon Snack StickSince we started Circle B Ranch, John and I have always been focused on creating quality pork products for our customers. We aimed to produce healthy, yet affordable, alternatives for the chemically enhanced products found in meat sections of local grocery stores. Now that we have long since met our goal, we want to take this concept a little further and step out of the freezer. We want to bring you more products—pork inspired real-food that fights back against chemically saturated snacking. For those of you who haven’t heard, Circle B Ranch now produces the Circle B Ranch Bacon Snack Stick—a natural, healthy, meat-only snack stick produced without additives or fillers. Made from our own Nitrite-Free (NF) bacon and ground Berkshire pasture-fed pork, these meat sticks are the perfect alternative to popular snack sticks like the Slim Jim.
While commercially produced snack sticks are convenient, they are not healthy.Commercially produced snack sticks include ingredients that are essentially damaging to your health. First, on the snack stick ingredients list: beef. Snack stick beef is usually raised in a feedlot that pumps the animals full of GMO feed, growth hormones, and antibiotics. Next, comes pork. The pork comes from confinement raised hogs that are treated inhumanely and given GMO feed as well as hormones and antibiotics. The third ingredient, mechanically separated chicken, comes from chickens raised on large scale farms that are fed GMO diets and antibiotics. Essentially, these meats are flooded with unnecessary hormones and antibiotics. But this is only the beginning. The list of unhealthy snack stick ingredients continues:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Added nitrites/nitrates
- Artificial Colors
- Wheat Proteins
- GMO corn and soy fillers
Compared to commercially produced snack sticks, the Circle B Ranch Bacon Snack Stick has a list of all-natural ingredients.Comparison shows several differences that make Circle B Ranch’s Bacon Snack Sticks a healthier option. First, the snack sticks contain only humanely raised, pasture-fed pork. Because of the way we raise our hogs, on pasture and without GMO feed, Circle B Ranch pork is healthier and entirely free of hormones or antibiotics. But, perhaps it’s what you don’t see in our ingredients that makes an even bigger difference:
- NO grain fillers
- NO artificial preservatives
- NO gluten
- NO artificial flavors
- NO High Fructose Corn Syrup
- NO Red Dye
- NO Sodium Benzoate
- Only 90 calories in each ONE OUNCE stick
- 5 grams of protein
- High flavor
- Low sodium (170 mg sodium)
- NO carbs
- Paleo friendly
- Keto friendly
- Whole 30 friendly
I love preparing spare ribs in Marina's tomato sauce and serving it over pasta. Enjoy! [ ... ]Read More