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Fishy-tasting Pork + Ethical Question About Giving Away Weird Tasting Meat

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We try really hard to buy meat from animals that are ethically raised, decently fed, and humanely slaughtered. Usually this results in pretty expensive and TASTY meat...but not always.

Our last half pig was a bummer. If I had less experience I would probably swear off the whole animal purchasing idea. That bad.

Fancy bay area farmer. Small scale. Whey fed from stellar cheesemaking outfit. Friend spent 12 hours on the road there and back but there were no defrosting issues. Very expensive.

But...badly cut and with this weird fishy undercurrent. Every time we've had a (badly cut) pork chop it tastes like the cutting board we used was rank. But it wasn't. The badly cut is really bumming out because we used to share the big with a chef and he would do the chops so beautifully.

So, two questions:

1) what is the source of the weird off taste?

2) Since we've been avoiding eating 100 pounds of expensive meat and it is clogging up our freezer and we hate to throw away and it was expensive and we know, from a health and safety perspective, that nothing is wrong with it

Is it weird to give away meat (on say Craig's List) that we think tastes weird?

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  1. Just a couple of guesses on my part.

    1. Maybe the taste comes from the feed that the pigs were raised on?

    2. I don't think there is anything wrong with giving away food that is not spoiled but something you simply find unpalatable. Think of clothing as analogy. People give away perfectly fine clothes all the time simply b/c it no longer fits, they've outgrown the style, etc. In other words, they just don't like it. Same with your pork. You might think it tastes like Chicken of the Sea, but the next diner might think its the tastiest swine that's ever roamed this green earth.

    All that said, too bad about your experience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I was thinking the whey might have something to do with it, is that a normal feed for pigs?

      If it was me, I would call my local Salvation Army or other soup kitchen and see if they could use it. The one by me gets donations of venison all the time from hunters. (Not to sound greedy, but then you could write it off as a donation too, it's a lot of money to just give away)

    2. I would tell the farmer. I know this has nothing to do with your question, but the farmer would probably want to know why s/he's losing customers.

      As for giving it away, if you're upfront about it I don't see any problem with it. I'm sure most people would rather have weird-tasting meat than no meat at all. And that way you won't be wasting it.

      1. I'd blame the feed, definitely. Too bad. Whey? That's odd. I've read many cases of a direct correlation between odd feed and flavor to discredit this theory (for instance, cows who eat a lot of wild onions give onion milk ;-)

        You might want to do what I've done in the past (got a batch of bacon--an entire pork belly's worth!) that we hated the cure and I gave it away on Freecycle, assuming that the odds of it going to someone in need would be greater that way, than on Craigslist.

        1. Fish meal is a popular protein supplement in animal feed with the bonus of adding omegas.

          I strongly urge you to speak to the farmer 1st. Explain about the flavor and butchering issues, you may being doing him a favor by bringing a problem to light. You will probably also glean new info for your next purchase. He may wish to replace or exchange so that he can see the problem first hand. Good butchers can be hard to find and a bad one can create real problems of taste and safety.

          If the farmer ends up stating its safe and no exchange etc. then donate it to the local food bank. Good cuts of meat are almost unheard of and would be a special treat, I know I was once a recipient. For something this large they may come to you for pickup and of course it's tax deductible.

          Please post back on how it all ends. I'm looking forward to purchasing in this fashion and would love to know what to look out for and how this all ends up. Thanks M

          1. I'd nix the giving away idea. "Why thank you for 100 lbs of free meat. Why are you giving this away?" "Well, it tastes like fish." "O K then. You mean you are giving this to me because it tastes bad? Why thanks alot."

            2 Replies
            1. re: PeterL

              Not everyone will find the same tastes objectionable, and I'm sure many people who could not otherwise afford any meat would be glad to take even weird-tasting meat. Surely it could be cooked in a way that disguises the fishiness: chili and other spicy preparations come to mind. Would you advocate throwing it out? That seems to me a much worse idea.

              1. re: PeterL

                A better answer would be "We are giving it away because our family cannot possibly use it all and would like to share it with others rather than see it go to waste." As other posters have mentioned, not everyone may think it tastes bad.

              2. Definitely check with the farmer. I know that different breeds of pig can produce pork that smells and tastes quite different, and that boar can be much stronger-tasting. Have you bought from this farmer before ? I buy local bay-area pork also, and I often get an odd smell (sort of musky ?) from it, but it tastes fine once cooked.

                If you offer it on Freecycle or Craigslist, it will be snapped up right away. Most likely it won't be used for human consumption. If that's OK with you, shoot me an email, I could put you directly in touch with interested parties without the hassle of Freecycle or Craigslist.

                Cheers !

                1 Reply
                1. re: Darlinghurst

                  FYI- In Italy, whey fed pigs meant for prosciutto are not fed the whey for the last weeks of their lives (and are fed acorns), because it does contribute to an undesirable flavor. Nothing wrong with it, technically, but if it isn't something you want, then it isn't something you want.

                  But I agree that you should talk to the farmer, and specifically ask when they whey was removed as the primary food source.

                2. Like someone else mentioned, fish-feed will also contibute fishiness from the unsaturated fat oxidizing. If you do talk to the farmer, ask him what he uses in his feed. They often add soybeans, canola, etc this to boost the omega-3 and polyunsaturated fat content in the meat, but can contribute to off-flavours due to a-linolenic acid and components. If you are one of those people who can detect "fishiness" when using canola or soy oil in cooking, then you will detect it in the meat as the fat oxidizes.

                  I don't think it is the whey as I have had whey-fed pork. It does contribute a different flavour, but I wouldn't characterize it as fishiness.I can detect fishiness in omega-3 boosted eggs from chickens fed with canola meal.

                  1. So sorry for your bad, costly experience. I hope you update us with what happens, hopefully you talk to the farmer like JudiAU says, and also I hope you give the meat to a food bank rather than craigslist. You can include it as a charitable deduction if you donate it to a charity. But I hope mostly that the farmer makes it good for you, they may have been experimenting based on what other people told them, so they should be told, definitely.

                    1. Thank you all for your comments. We ate a couple of good tasting if (again) oddly butchered pork chops from whole foods while trying to decide what to do. Why can't anyone cut a pork chop, seriously? Cut between the bones fools. Leave on some fat. It can't be that hard!!!

                      So...the farmer was really uninterested. We won't buy from him again nor will the meat buying group I work with do so. (I doubt they realized that this was our test pig before the big order.) I think it was probably the whey, probably too much and too late in life. I've learned a lot about feed in pigs and hopefully it will help me source a better pig in the future. (Omega 3 eggs don't bother me either...) And I know a lot more about butchering too....

                      We decided to throw it all away.

                      Why?

                      We took a great beautiful full loin, carefully defrosted it, brined it for two days, allowed the skin to dry out uncovered for another two days to release moisture for crisping, smoked it slowly with meat club for 12 hours, cut into the beautiful center all rosy and gorgeous with a smoke ring and crispy skin... it tasted like it was deep fried with 1,000 rank herring. It was just bad.

                      We decided that giving away gross food is not an act of charity and I don't think any cooking was going to make it taste good.

                      24 people fought over some overcooked brisket and some delightful Rancho Gordo piqiuito beans and we had a good discussion over cheap factory meat vs. well cooked other proteins. I just decided I would much rather someone eat a lot of bean meals than that nasty stuff.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JudiAU

                        The attitude of the pig farmer speaks volumes. I deal with a number of local meat producers, and if I ever voiced a complaint such as yours, all of them would be mortified and insist on returning my money. A farmer as "uninterested" as your guy is probably feeding his animals cheap crap. (My mother once cooked a very fishy turkey in England. We checked with the farmer, and sure enough -- he fed his birds fish meal.) I hope that you plan to tell this tale to everyone you know.