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

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    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.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora