News / Africa

    Acorn-Gobbling Hybrid Boars Roam Free at S. African Farm

    Boars on the Brightside Farm in the Magalies Mountains, near Johannesburg. Farmer and chef James Diack, together with his farmer mother, crossed an Italian wild boar with a commercial pig to begin producing unique, free range pork. (Credit: James Diack)
    Boars on the Brightside Farm in the Magalies Mountains, near Johannesburg. Farmer and chef James Diack, together with his farmer mother, crossed an Italian wild boar with a commercial pig to begin producing unique, free range pork. (Credit: James Diack)
    Darren Taylor

    James Diack describes himself and his mother as “accidental” pig farmers.

    “My mother saw this very thin pig at an auction a couple of years ago. She chased around trying to find out who was responsible for abusing it," he said. Eventually, she found the owner, paid for the pig and brought it home, "because she felt sorry for it."

    Next came the boar farming, also accidentally.  

    "Some guy imported them from Italy," Diack said. "And he then duly, unfortunately, passed away, and his family was like, ‘Well, we don’t want these things.’ So I phoned my mom, and that’s how we became wild boar farmers."

    James Diack inside his restaurant in Johannesburg, where he uses organic products from his farm to create award-winning dishes. (Credit: James Diack)James Diack inside his restaurant in Johannesburg, where he uses organic products from his farm to create award-winning dishes. (Credit: James Diack)
    x
    James Diack inside his restaurant in Johannesburg, where he uses organic products from his farm to create award-winning dishes. (Credit: James Diack)
    James Diack inside his restaurant in Johannesburg, where he uses organic products from his farm to create award-winning dishes. (Credit: James Diack)

    And what do you get when you cross a pig and a boar? There's no catchy name for it (a pigbo? a hyboarapig?), but the hybrid is flourishing at Diack's Brightside Farm in the Magalies Mountains, north of Johannesburg.  

    The farm boasts six hectares of manicured garden and eight hectares of organic vegetable garden, along with meadows where sheep, cows, and pigs roam freely.

    "There are no fences," he said, "so the animals go where the animals need to go. It’s absolutely nonrestrictive farming.”  

    Diack, who’s also a chef, farms the land with his mother, Janet.  Brightside supplies his city restaurant, Coobs, with fresh organic produce and meat.

    “Particularly our pork, we’re very proud of. … All free-range. It’s our own hybrid," he said. "So what we did is we took land-raised pigs and crossed them with wild boar. So it’s a 50-50 mix. That reduces your fat and increases your meat content and your flavor.”

    ‘Fuzzy’ hybrids

    Diack said his hybrid wild boars look like commercial pigs, only they’re “fuzzy.”

    “Because they’re free range, they’ve grown a sort of a thin hair covering," he said. "They’re dark; most of them are brown with patches. They’re more adapted to the South African sun, which as we all know is exceptionally hot, as opposed to your pink, sort of Vienna [sausage] looking pig. The hair protects their skin from the sun.”

    The farmer described his pigs as “amazing” and “very intelligent.”

    “They always have their snouts in the ground, foraging, and they’re actually very important to the ecology of our farm because they till the soil for us,” Diack said.

    He said that his pork tastes so good because his pigs eat natural foods.

    “Fallen fruit and vegetables all over the farm, and then something that is the icing on the cake,” Diack said. “We have an oak forest on our farm, so the basis of their diet is acorns. We’re very proud of the fact that we breed acorn-fed pigs.”

    One of James Diack's culinary concoctions using meat from his boars. (Credit: James Diack)
    One of James Diack's culinary concoctions using meat from his boars. (Credit: James Diack)

    He said he learned the “acorn trick” in Spain, a country he thinks produces the best pork in the world.

    “In northern Spain, I tasted pork and I thought, ‘Wow! This is different stuff. …’ Then I found out that the wild boars there feed on acorns. ... It gives the pig this sort of a lighter, less musty, boary flavor — a delicious, almost sweetness and a nuttiness,” Diack said.  

    Treating pigs with dignity

    His boar meat is very dense and much leaner than fatty, mass-produced pork.

    Diack said this is because his animals are always active outdoors, developing more muscle, and aren’t fed artificial growth supplements.

    He said most large commercial pig farms, in his opinion, don’t show respect to the animals.

    “I understand that we can’t all be free-range (farmers) and the pigs can’t skip through the fields," Diack said. "But why can’t an animal grow up in a clean sty and be loaded onto a truck ethically and not overpacked and forced into an abattoir and butchered, inhumanely slaughtered and left lying there?”

    Diack added, “When we were looking for a pig breed to cross with the wild boars, we got some pigs in from a commercial farm. We had to slaughter them within three weeks because they got the most terrible skin cancer from the sun. They had been bred to exist in darkness, in a covered feedlot, from birth till slaughter. That’s the kind of abominations that exist in the world of mass-produced pork.”

    “I’m not a hypocrite," he said. "I’m not a vegetarian; I eat animals. But there’s got to be a certain amount of dignity shown to the animals I eat.”

    Diack maintained that he indeed treats his boars with dignity, in life and in death. A mobile butcher visits his farm to slaughter the animals speedily and humanely.

    “The pigs are dead before they even know what’s happening,” he said.

    The meat then goes to the Coobs restaurant, where chefs use Diack’s boars from “nose to tail.”

    “We use the whole animal. So we make bacon out of the forequarters, and then we make bellies, obviously, out of the belly; we barbecue the back legs. ... If something is going to give up its life, have the respect to use the whole animal,” he said.

    The sun sets over Brightside Farm in the Magalies Mountains, near Johannesburg. (Credit: James Diack)
    The sun sets over Brightside Farm in the Magalies Mountains, near Johannesburg. (Credit: James Diack)

    Food mindset change

    At Diack’s eatery on a busy Friday evening, some of his patrons tuck into slow-roasted pork loin with quince and potato mash, grilled apples and brandy butter sauce.

    The farmer and chef said he expected ethical farming, and eating, to become ever more popular in South Africa. He said growing numbers of his clients now prize quality of food over quantity.  

    “Both as a food producer and as a restaurateur and chef, I consider it my duty to try to change the minds of people," Diack said.  "Let’s eat less but better food. And that’s what you taste here — food that has soul, and reason, from animals that lived great, happy lives. Everything I put on a plate, I’m proud of."

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: anonymous
    February 18, 2016 8:07 AM
    Please VOA surely there must be more interesting articles as opposed to acorn gobbling pigs? hardly relevant in today's age.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora