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Out of the Ordinary

Pot-fed pigs lead to "higher" quality ham

Nathan Oelker

Pigs in Washington state are in a swimmingly good mood munching on marijuana

Weed feed diet experimentation done in Washington state

Pot-fed pigs lead to “higher” quality ham

Weed feed diet experimentation done in Washington state

Customers grunt and snort waiting for it, but these aren’t regular potheads who make pig noises when under the influence, these are actual pigs. Pig farmer Jeremy Gross and Seattle butcher William von Schneider have been feeding this experiment which has been fueled by the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state.

“He’s like ‘let’s see what kind of flavor it gives it.’ So we ran it and it gave good flavor,” Gross said. “It’s like anything else, what you feed them is what they’re going to taste like. It’s almost like a savory alfalfa-fed cow or alfalfa-fed pig.”

These cuts of pot-fed pig are selling for premium prices at von Schneidau’s Seattle Pike Place Market butcher shop: $17 a pound for bacon and $16.90 a pound. At the shop, cuts from the pot pigs are marked with a marijuana leaf image.

And while pot legalization inspired this flavor test, it’s also an experiment in recycling and sustainability. The pigs are fed marijuana excess—roots, stems, and other parts not used for consumption—from a medical marijuana dispensary, thereby utilizing von Schneidau’s belief in locally-sourced, sustainable food.

The pig’s diet has also provided the perfect platform to promote these ideas, as the pigs’ diet has also attracted international attention. A German television crew documented a recent weed feed drug delivery for the for a science show, and Gross hosted their presence while von Schneidau has already been interviewed by them several times.

Sustainability is practiced by both men. Gross’ pigs at his farm were being fed recycled byproduct even before the current practice. In fact, the only way he can make a profit with his pigs is through free food he collects from a local distillery and brewery. Gross dishes out barrels of distillery wheat “mash” every day, mixed with a fortification of a veterinarian-created nutrient mix. And with the state-legalized system in place, it provides a great outlet for spare pot parts.

“Absolutely, it’s a good opportunity to help people get rid of their waste,” said von Schneidau, who wants to start a privately-owned mobile slaughterhouse.

However, the meat won’t get people high. Sorry, but it’s only a flavor infusion.

But how does it taste?

“It tastes like the best pork chop you’ve ever had,” said Matt McAlman, who runs Top Shelf Organic, the dispensary providing the pig’s weed feed.

But while this topic and word-play are fun, John P. McNamara, a professor at Washington State University’s Department of Animal Sciences, doesn’t find the activity humorous.

“Of all the crazy things I’ve seen in my 37-plus years, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said, adding that the federal government must sign off on such a practice after extensive review. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to its website, “approves the additives or drugs that are used in feed products.”

However, while the FDA must do so for animals that will be part of the food supply, Gross is only feeding the marijuana mix to three pigs. And according to him, there are no apparent effects on the pigs, saying that “already all pigs do is sleep and eat.”

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