HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Where to find better pork products

DH and I are still eating meat, but are much more aware of where it comes from, how the animals are raised and slaughtered. We avoid factory food products, choosing grass-fed beef at our local Farmers Market, and organic chickens. We love to use ham, bacon and other smoked/cured pork products for flavor, but don't know what kind to buy - Swift and Smithfield are examples of ones we don't want. Niman Ranch bacon used to be the answer, but since it's been sold, I don't think the quality is the same. Any suggestions?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You can't find any at your local farmer's markets where you get your beef and chickens?

    1 Reply
    1. re: carolinadawg

      Some fresh pork yes, but not ham/bacon.

    2. Doesn't your farmers market carry pork products? If not ask the guys selling beef I am sure they can point you in the right direction.

      In case you are from my neck of the woods check out Outlook Farm. Some of best pork I have had recently.

      Also-this is Mass but maybe your state has something similar?


      1. Do a google search for pastured pork in your state. You may find mail order options if nothing else.

        1. Snake River Farms sells Kurobota pork (Bershire black). Heritage Foods USA has Berkshire as well as other breeds including Duroc and Red Wattle.

          If you have an Idependant Grocer near you, they will often work with you and order what you want.

          5 Replies
          1. re: mike0989

            Sorry, I wasn't quite clear. I was talking about ham, bacon, pancetta, etc. not fresh pork. We do have a few sources for that in the area.

            1. re: judybird

              If you have already have access to good fresh pork, have you considered making your own?

              1. re: judybird

                You mean the places you get fresh pork don't offer ham, bacon, pancetta?? That seems odd. That's the money maker for many pork producers. Profits are higher as is turnover. Have you asked them?

                1. re: judybird

                  Snake River Farms kurobuta ham is really great, but also quite pricey. Heritage Foods also sells cured products made with heritage breeds.

                  1. re: judybird

                    If you are just looking for a one stop shop for bacon and ham, try Zingerman's. They wrote a book on bacon (literaly).

                2. Our farmers market bendors that sell meat definitely sell pork too.

                  1. We recently bought a pig raised for us at a local farm. Definitely better living conditions!

                    We support Amy's Farm in Ontario....find one close to you.

                    A freezer full of pig is better tasting and cheaper than store bought.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DadTheBaker

                      I had no idea Amy's sold meat. I think of school tours and produce when I think of this farm. I know people who buy goat from a farm(s) in the area.

                      1. We get nice bacon and guanciale at a locally owned CSA store and a small "Whole Foods" type grocer.

                        1. Unless you're specifically wanting a nationally distributed brand, your local board (Los Angeles) would probably be a better place to ask this question. And you could support a local business that shares your philosophy. If you were in the San Francisco Bay Area, I could rattle off a dozen-plus smokehouses, charcutier, butchers, game processors, etc., who make these items for the local market that are recommended on our board. One would be Llano Seco ham. It also makes other salt/smoke pork products but I haven't tried them yet. Mostly available in Northern California, but the website shows outlets in Riverside and San Diego too.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Good point about the local board, I'll try that. We have a Whole Foods nearby and they do sell some of the products we want, but I'd like to find something more local. Thanks everyone for the recommendations.

                            1. re: judybird

                              Heh. Or you could fly to San Francisco and bring goodies back like I do sometimes. Because seriously, even with the airfare, good meat raised well is a lot cheaper there and the charcuterie is much better.

                              So, in LA, Whole Foods is obvious. Lindy and Grundy does various charcuterie. Making yourself is easy. I honestly don't like a lot of the cured meat products at either. Whole Foods sausages has gotten a lot better overall. I have tried them ALL.

                              I do like Let's Be Frank hot dogs. But not as well as the hard to get Marin Sun Farms. And we like the Niman Ranch ham steak which I continue to give the benefit of the doubt.

                              1. re: judybird

                                If you like hot dogs, I can ask my sister where she buys hers. She buys organic hot dogs from a butcher somewhere in the Los Angeles area, just don't know which butcher and where. They are expensive (I think they're smoked, too) but they love them.

                                1. re: ePressureCooker

                                  We like hot dogs, don't eat them often, but probably would if they were good ones. Thanks, I'd love to know where your sister gets them.

                            2. prairiepridepork.com dartagnan.com

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mwhitmore

                                I've had some great success with them.

                              2. Beeler Pork products are pretty good. They are based in Iowa so not sure about their national distribution. They apparently do mail order. http://www.beelerspurepork.com/

                                Beeler has hams, bacon and some sausage products. I usually buy them frozen at one of the local natural foods stores.

                                We also can get bacon from one of the local small hog farms so finding a local producer might get some options.

                                1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for looking for better pork products! It is very difficult for the average consumer to shop for beautiful pork by themselves. As a small butcher shop manager/owner - PLEASE go to your local butcher shop. ...And I'm not talking about your supermarket or local W-store. Go to a local butcher shop. We love what we do and take pride in what we do. We love to "talk shop". And we love to order anything and everything for our guests. And we also love to cure/ferment/smoke everything you do. I am currently fermenting 20 lbs of Soppressata, 10 lbs of guanciale, 20 lbs of tuscan fennel salami, 10 lbs of coppa, 10 lbs of bresioala, and have started curing half a dozen fresh pork hams (legs) for Christmas. Point is, you NEVER know what your local butcher shop is up to unless you stop in and make a connection. Just ask. We need more customers like you! Oh, and BTW...Beeler's pork is amazing. It is very old-skool and very tasty. The Kurabota pork from Snake River Farms is also very delicious. But, you will most likely save some cash (and get some cooking direction/meet people like you) if you go to a local butcher shop. There! Rant is done...

                                  1. Find out who raises hogs locally. Find a farmer who isn't into 'production' just the best quality. Buy a wiener pig from him and for a price he'll raise it for you. He'll send it to be processed when the time is right. Most small processors will 'custom' smoke the bacon and the hams.
                                    This will cost you but it's well worth it IMO. We do this and are very pleased.
                                    Careful which breed you choose. Some are too 'fatty' especially if they aren't processed at the right time. (At some point pretty much all the weight gain on a pig goes into fat production.) You don't want to be buying fat.

                                      1. re: rasputina

                                        You can't be serious. You just can't be.

                                        1. re: rasputina

                                          Go hunting on someone's hog farm...cause wild pigs can not compare to domesticated hogs.

                                          1. re: JayL

                                            Aren't many "wild" hogs escaped domesticated hogs several generations back? I'd think that they'd be some of the best pastured pork around, as long as you shot a young animal. In most areas they are considered an invasive species that are destroying the ecosystems they inhabit.

                                            1. re: earthygoat

                                              You're referring to feral hogs, or escaped domestic pigs gone "wild". Different creature from true "wild boar".

                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                I think they're all subspecies of one another and can cross breed. Either way, I haven't heard anything good about them and the impact they have where they've escaped. I say "Eat em!"

                                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                                  Don't have them in my neck of the woods, YET. Are these the critters on that reality TV show where people are paid to hunt / trap them?

                                            2. re: rasputina

                                              Where do you live where pig hunting is an easily accessible option? Around here you can hunt a lot of things-turkey and other fowl, deer, rabbit and other small critters. At certain times of year its open season on skunks and raccoons. I have never seen pig season nor have any of the hunters I know mention it.

                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                Come to California, open season on wild boar all year long. They're considered vermin (and fortunately are much tastier).

                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                  Here in Georgia, it's open season on wild hogs all year, as well. They are called wild boar, too, but as carolinadawg says, they are pigs gone wild many generations ago.
                                                  Hunting is a big deal here, and 'wild boar' is pretty popular game.
                                                  I used to have a boss who cooked lunch for everyone now and then, and when he roasted those hunks of wild boar in his countertop rotisserie, that was some good eatin'!

                                                  1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                    Melanie/KGG- interesting! Nothing like that around these parts. But I had to laugh because wouldn't you know a FLA friend posted a pic of his first hog kill today. I thought the gator he caught last month was big! This pig was big. He is looking forward to some (hopefully) good eating.

                                                    Learn something new everyday!

                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                      Come on out, we got wild pigs aplenty for hunting in California. Here's an old thread that might interest you,

                                                    2. re: kitchengardengal

                                                      The ones in California are part feral pig and part genuine European wild boar introduced for sport hunting long ago. Other than bagging one with a rifle, the other variants on obtaining them that I've heard about are trapping a small one live and raising it to eating size at home (well, if you live on a farm). Or, sometimes a domesticated, free-ranging sow will be impregnated by a wild boar and the offspring are really tasty.

                                                2. I agree that you need to look locally for this.

                                                  At Detroit's Eastern Market in the fall and winter, one pig farmer has a stand with a sign that says "oinking on Thursday, processed on Friday, for sale on Saturday". Great flavor, great prices, but not available during the summer so we enjoy it seasonally.

                                                  And around here I've bought "Amish" bacon--not sure if it's anything more than a marketing term, but it's tasty and I feel more virtuous buying it :)

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: coney with everything

                                                    Amish markets have popped up here in NJ with claims of old world healthy products that don't contain this or that in the same manner as Whole Foods but significantly cheaper.

                                                    That begs the question, how can a small group beat the purchasing power of Whole Foods?

                                                    The easiest and most profitable way is to go to places like Restaurant Depot and leave with vans filled to the hilt with dairy & meat products, which then gets portioned, repackage and sold as something it is not at an INCREDIBLE profit.

                                                    Want to know more about them, google PA puppy mills.