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?
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.
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