Raising Berkshire Pigs in Hawaii

Hog Wild in Haiku: Malama Farm is the first to raise pastured Berkshire pigs in Hawaii.

Left: Malama Farm pigs are free to be “exactly who they are,” which means lots of wallowing and rooting around.

Right: These pigs’ views are better than yours.

photos: courtesy malama farm

After most of us watched Food, Inc., the exposé on America’s industrialized food system, maybe we put a few more local and organic vegetables in our shopping carts. Maybe we stopped buying factory-farmed meat, until sticker shock sent us back to our old buying habits.

Lehua and David Fitch, however, went whole hog. A software consultant and furniture maker, respectively, they picked up their lives in Kailua, Oahu, and moved to Haiku, Maui, to raise pigs.

“We drank the Kool-Aid, woke up and realized what was going on in the food system,” Lehua says, referring to poor animal welfare in factory farms, where the majority of our meat comes from. “We’re meat eaters and we’re also animal lovers. And so one of the things that we wanted to do was put our philosophy in practice.”

What that means: raising Berkshire pigs on pasture, where they’re free to root around and play, planting macadamia nut and avocado orchards to supplement feed, and doling out belly rubs for the pigs, who have views all the way to the ocean. Though the Fitchs will point out the difficulties of farm life, they’re also making the most out of its imagery, building a prototypical red barn, wearing farmer–chic Hunter Wellingtons, classic rain boots made fashionable by the likes of Kate Moss.  They’ve given their breeding pigs names: the male breeder goes by Hugh Hefner while the females have stripper names: Lola, Trixie, Bubbles, Candi. On the farm, it’s hard to tell the difference between the livestock and the Fitch’s pudgy bulldog; they’re all are treated like pets.

The difference is one bad day for the pigs: slaughter day.

At The Whole Ox Deli, Bob McGee uses Malama Farm’s pork for breakfast sausage, Canadian bacon and terrines. He shows me a leg, which is so marbled with fat I almost mistake it for the belly. The marbling is a result of the pasture as well as the Berkshire breed, also called kurobuta by the Japanese and prized for its flavor and fat. McGee praises its “great flavor,” its “clean and porky” taste.

The Fitchs are currently the only piggery in the state to raise Berkshire pigs on pasture. David says when they started two years ago, people told them doing so was impossible: family farms were going out of business competing with cheap, imported pork and they wanted to raise less pigs on more land?  “Part of our mission is to change that mentality,” he says. With the business profitable and chefs like Bob McGee, Neil Murphy of Merriman’s and Gerard Reversade of Gerard’s in Lahaina on board, it seems that the proof is in the pork.