Can you milk a pig? And would you eat their cheese?

Now we know: Answering the foodie questions you didn’t even know you had

What’s to stop us from making pig’s cheese?

What’s to stop us from making pig’s cheese?

 

While meandering through the hallowed halls of The English Market on a recent jaunt to Cork city, some friends and I slowed to a stop at the On The Pig’s Back stall. Laid before us in the display counter were owner Isabelle Sheridan’s award-winning terrines, mounds of Arbutus bread, and wheels of farmhouse cheeses from Ireland abroad. “Wait a second,” my friend said, pointing at a cheese sitting under a sign for the stall “Is that pig’s cheese?”

Well, somewhat cruelly, I laughed. And then laughed a little more. The very idea of pig’s cheese tickled me pink. Once I’d recovered from laughing in my friend’s face, I suddenly wondered – can a pig be milked? And, if so, what’s to stop us from making pig’s cheese?

I called Alfie McCaffrey and Margaret O’Farrell who raise outdoor rare breed pigs on their GMO and anti-biotic free farm, Oldfarm, outside Nenagh in Co Tipperary (www.oldfarm.ie). They raise the pigs to order (you can have a full or half a pig within eight months of paying your deposit) and they host pig rearing courses every month on their farm.

“Pigs can be milked,” McCaffery tells me, “but it’s not a commercially viable operation, simply because they don’t give enough milk for long enough. They only give milk for 15 seconds, whereas a cow gives milk for 10 minutes. The sow also doesn’t like to be milked – they get very spooked and aggressive if humans come near them when they’re lactating.” McCaffrey tells me about a Dutch farmer, Erik Stenink, who produced a cheese made from pig’s milk back in 2015. It was priced at £1,500 per kilo.

“I would never consider milking our pigs,” says McCaffrey. “There is enough products out there that people can make cheese from. Personally I think pig’s cheese is taking epicurean curiosity to the Nth degree. Can you imagine putting a cheese on a shelf called porkorino?”

So, a pig technically can be milked, but that doesn’t mean we should milk them.

Have a food question you need answered? Contact @aoifemcelwain on Twitter or by email at magazine@irishtimes.com with “Now we know” in the subject line.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.