After a successful event at the burgeoning chain’s Prince Edward County (PEC) home base, Buddha Dog’s Andrew MacKenzie and Andrew Hunter hosted a like-minded gathering in Toronto to raise pork’s profile and awareness of the pig farmer’s plight.
“Much of the large-scale pig farming has now ceased, with pork prices being too low to justify costs,” said Dan Taylor, economic development officer, for PEC. “We’re in a situation where farmers are basically giving their product away, and that’s a serious problem,” he told those in attendance.
As a result, Taylor says its only smaller producers — relying on the slow-food and local-food movement’s fondness for heritage breeds — that keep small-scale, local farmers tenuously afloat. So, piggybacking off an American idea, Taylor contacted the guys at Buddha Dog, about bringing National Pig Day to Ontario. Through the newfangled magic of social media, and a few old-fashioned business connections, the team quickly pulled together the county’s inaugural Pig Day in Picton, Feb. 22 and in Toronto Feb. 25.
After hearing Taylor’s initial idea, MacKenzie contacted PEC pork farmer, Blaine Way and Wellington Ontario abattoir owner, Ted Aman about the feasibility of creating a top-notch pork-based hotdog on short notice. After the two agreed, MacKenzie took to Twitter to ask the heritage-breed pork-loving public whether to make the wiener with Tamworth or Berkshire pigs.
With the results tabulated, and Tamworth coming out slightly ahead, the team busily set to work creating the company’s first pork-based hotdog, which was met with rave reviews at the official launch in Picton.
Sporting a slightly altered recipe in Toronto, thanks in large part to Hunter’s tendency to toy with sauces, the Hogtown crowd was blown away with the Tamworth dog, served on a sage bun (from PEC baker Peter Grendel), with a Waupoos cider-based sauce (from the County Cider Company) and finished with a slathering of Stratford Ontario’s Montforte Dairy cheese. It was a truly pan-Ontario experience.
While the dogs (and pigs) were the centre of attention, the important message regarding the trials and tribulations of Ontario’s small-scale pork farmers was not lost on those in attendance in Picton or Toronto. In fact, at the PEC event, Oliver Haan, director of the Ontario Pork Board, explained that support from local food initiatives, coupled with direct marketing and sales is what keeps pig farms afloat.
In Toronto, Taylor framed the situation similarly, but with an encouraging spin, at least for those committed to building PEC as a gastronomic destination. “Fortunately there is this local movement and, low and behold, we found some people that didn’t think pork farming was doomed,” he said. “Value-added, experiential gastronomic tourism is where the future is.”
With those motivators in mind, there is little doubt that PEC, with the help of local food devotees, is building itself into a model for agri-tourism in Ontario. What’s more, if the food continues to be as fun and tasty as the pork-dogs, this summer’s road-trippers will find it Tam-worth the drive to Picton.