Chefs have been bemoaning the fact that U.S. pork has gotten too lean (and the cuts too large) for some time now. But they're getting a bit more assertive in filling their needs, and more producers are responding as well.

The shift to fattier pork is especially evident at high-end restaurants on the East and West coasts. Some of those chefs are working out agreements with producers to provide specific breeds, with more fat content than pork found in supermarket meat cases today.

Some restaurants are making a name for themselves by this move. For example, Manhattan, NY, restaurants like Momofuku Ssam Bar and Daisy May's BBQ USA are charging $120 to $180 for a 5-pound pork butt that will feed five people. They have charged $480 for a 35-pound whole pig that feeds up to 12 people.

"Pork is huge in New York right now," Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May's, told the Des Moines Register. A National Pork Board Celebrated Chef from New York, Lang is a former champion of the Great Pork BarbeQlossal at the World Pork Expo.

"Chefs are in love with the fat because it carries so much flavor and because special niche pork makes it easier for chefs to do very special things,'' he says.

On the West Coast, consumers are paying premium prices for fattier pork. They're also embracing humanely raised products. These and other niche pork products sell for 20 percent to 30 percent more than conventional pork offerings. Despite that, sales are brisk, and producers increasingly report that they can't meet the supply.

While the pork industry has successfully shifted to leaner, meatier hogs, like most things, the shift may have gone too far. 

"People want flavor, and fat is flavor. We've been so brainwashed that fat is bad, as a consequence we are now discovering that food with little fat actually has little flavor," says Joanna Preus, a New York City-based food author.

Source: The Des Moines Register