The Mangalica pig is a local breed of Hungary, Serbia and Romania. Its distinctive curly hair has led to it being known as the ‘wooly pig’ in many languages. There are three Mangalica breeds - blonde, black or swallow-bellied, and red. A descendent of the European wild boar and cousin of the black foot Iberian Pig, the Mangalica, also known as Mangaliza and Mangalitsa, was close to extinction in the 1990s, when fewer than 200 pigs remained.
The breed fell into decline for a number of reasons. It is not well-suited to intensive agriculture, requiring a lot of space and access to the outdoors, and grows more slowly than the leaner and meatier breeds that began to replace it. It is also one of the fattiest pigs in the world. Lard fell out of favour in the mid-20th century when modern science declared that saturated fats were dangerous to human health. However, pork fat has been having a revival in recent years and with it, more flavoursome pig breeds such as the Mangalica.
Slow Food International, an organisation which works towards preserving traditional foods and endangered animal breeds, and stands against the industrialisation of food has listed the Mangalica pig in its Ark of Taste, recognising it as a breed worth saving (and eating).
Unlike modern day industrial pork, Mangalica meat is deep red in colour, closer to beef than how we would typically imagine pork to look. It is considered to have one of the best flavour profiles of any pig breed and is commonly referred to as 'the Kobe beef of pork'. The meat is exceptionally juicy, tender, and highly marbled with creamy white fat, and is high in omega-3 fatty acids and natural antioxidants. This is due to the natural diet of forage, wheat, corn and barley. Mangalica lard is lighter, and melts at a lower temperature than lard from other pigs, as it contains a greater percentage of unsaturated fat.
Mangalica’s sweet and creamy lard also makes it ideal for making cured meats and it is the key ingredient in some of the world’s best charcuterie, salumi, and cured ham. As a result of its high fat content, cured Mangalica pork products can spend a longer time drying, which allows for a deeper flavour without loss of moisture. A leg of Mangalica pork can age for up to 3½ years, while maintaining a moist and pliant texture, complex taste and rich, red hue,