By Darcy Maulsby

Iowa is the leading pork-producing state in America, yet most University of Iowa dining chefs rarely, if ever, have the chance to tour the farms and processors where that pork comes from.

“We love the versatility and flavor of pork,” said Barry Greenberg, executive chef for University of Iowa dining. “We only knew the product as it comes to us in the package and never had the opportunity to see the whole picture.”owa is the leading pork-producing state in America, yet most University of Iowa dining chefs rarely, if ever, have the chance to tour the farms and processors where that pork comes from.

La Quercia owner Herb Eckhouse talks about the creative options pork offers.

All that changed this year when the Pork Checkoff organized a unique, daylong farm-to-fork experience for Greenberg and his team of chefs who work in the campus dining halls, catering department and restaurants. It included a farm tour and in restaurant stops and a visit to La Quercia, which produces artisan-cured prosciutto, pancetta, coppa, speck, lomo, guanciale, and lardo.

“Many people want to know how their food is raised, and this tour offered a memorable farm-to-fork experience,” said Neel Sahni, manager of national channel marketing and innovation for the Pork Checkoff. 

Credible Farm Stories

Chef Jon Moloney learns about pig care.

Near Washington, Iowa, just down the road from the University of Iowa, the group visited Brenneman Pork, a family-run pig and grain farm. In the nursery, they learned about how pigs are cared for. As the chefs held piglets, the Brennemans described their veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), emphasizing animal well-being and the judicious use of antibiotics.

“The chefs learned like other pig farmers, the Brennemans focus on doing what’s best for people, pigs, and the planet, from eco-friendly nutrient management to giving back to their community,” Sahni said. “It’s interactions like this that give chefs and retailers confidence in pork.” Greenberg said, “I was impressed with the focus on sanitation and cleanliness, which are very important to me as a chef.”

The chefs, including Chris Horras, learned about everything from the roles veterinarians play to the care of nursery pigs.

Showcasing Versatility

In Des Moines, Iowa, the chefs enjoyed award-winning pork barbecue from Smokey D’s BBQ and pork-inspired fine dining at RoCA, where they sampled pork shoulder from Mangalitsa, an Old World breed native to Hungary.  “This unique option reflected the diverse flavors available with pork,” said Sahni, noting that the RoCA chef had attended the Pork Checkoff’s Pork Summit, which showcases pork as a preferred, profitable protein to the foodservice industry.

“I love that pork lets you be creative,” Greenberg said. “We welcome any culinary learning experience and appreciated the chance to be part of this great tour.”