Lian Jin-shu holds a cute three-
Boiling is the best way to enjoy
fresh flavors of
Lian's pigs get a shower.
The difference between
lard (left) and
regular lard (right) is
An all-new, healthy meat choice:
Waipu Seaweed Pork
Words by Zhong Wen-ping
Photography by Yang Zhi-ren
Translated by Angel Pu Information/photography location provided by Gaoden
Pig Farm and Beigang Traditional Taiwanese Cuisine Restaurant
As pork is Taiwan's most popular and common meat, its quality ranks among
key national issues. With the public's understandably shared concern that
their food is healthy and toxin-free, Seaweed Pork serves as an interesting
The recent issue of whether imported U.S. beef might contain ractopamine has triggered a tremendous uproar in Taiwan, leaving many in the local livestock industry feeling uncertain and insecure. This, however, has not been the case in Taichung's Waipu district, where everything at the Gaoden Pig Farm seems quiet and normal. Owner Lian Jin-shu goes through his daily routine of checking and cleaning pig pens, and washing his pigs without any sign of aggressive journalists or Department of Health officials--scenes that have been common on TV lately.
According to research by the National Animal Industry Foundation, pork is the most popular and common meat for Taiwanese families. Lian started his pig farm in 1984 and is considered one of the top local pig farmers. Three years ago, he decided to replace traditional grain feed with an all-new seaweed feed because, according to him, it was more beneficial for ensuring his pork's quality and safety. And, when it comes to food, there's no way one can be too careful.
Left: Lian thinks that putting piglets and their mothers together in the same
pen will make them healthier.
Right: The pigs will stay healthy if they have comfortable environment and quality
The most humane way of raising pigs
The pig feed used by Lian uses a species of brown seaweed that can only be harvested in the coastal areas of Penghu's West Island. The seaweed feed, manufactured by the first aquaculture company to pass HACCP (Hazard Analysis And Critical Control Points) certification in Taiwan, is a mixture of treated fish meat, fish fat and seaweed that contains a high amount of collagen and minerals. The pigs eating this kind of feed are healthier and stronger than those injected with antibiotics and given feed additives like ractopamine. The pork fat is spread evenly, and its texture is tender and deliciously chewy.
For Lian, the best way to raise top-quality pigs is to let them grow up as comfortably as possible. "The last thing I want to do is to make the pig farm into some kind of factory," he said. Located next to a windbreak forest, the spacious Gaoden Pig Farm has a everything--a clean environment, air conditioning, and a sewage treatment system. There are nine pig pens on the farm, separating the animals by age and condition—adult pigs, three-month-old pigs, piglets under three months old, and pregnant pigs.
In order to protect swine from injuries when they play or fight, pig farmers normally remove piglets' teeth and cut their tails, but Lian does the opposite. He thinks that if the pigs have enough space, their chances of hurting each other will be reduced. Sometimes, he even plays music for them.
"The pigs can't be unhealthy if they have a comfortable environment and quality feed," says the farmer as he uses a hose to wash his animals. When asked whether the pigs get cold in the chillier weather, he adds, "I'm pretty confident that they are healthy enough to defeat the cold.”
Because animal fat is generally saturated fat, it forms into a white solid at a certain temperature (22-25 degrees Celsius). However, the fat of the pigs fed seaweed feed comes in a clearer, more liquid form. That is because this pork contains polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and DHA, which regular pork doesn't have.
Left: One of the principles for farming pigs
humanely is to let piglets keep their
Right: Every pig on this farm keeps its tail
Taiwan's only seaweed pork restaurant
Although pig farmers normally sell the pork of pigs that are six months old, Lian insists that he doesn't sell his pigs until they are seven months old, because they have a better quality and flavor. Although you can only buy seaweed pork in organic foods store, and the price is twice as expensive as regular pork, many people concerned about food safety issues are still very fascinated by this new choice.
Located in Xitun district, the Beigang Traditional Taiwanese Cuisine Restaurant is the only dining spot that offers dishes made with seaweed pork. Owner Chen Yu-qi provides some useful cooking tips. For example, pork hooves can be braised or stewed in soy sauce, a pork shoulder can be stir-fried with some fruit and vegetables, and a boiled, sliced pork belly with skin tastes very good with some soy sauce and minced garlic. For Chen, the best thing about seaweed pork is that, while dishes made of regular pork taste and smell bad after they cool off, seaweed pork ones always maintain the same sweet, non-oily flavor whether they're hot or cold.
A member of the Taichung City Pork Production and Marketing course, Lian Jin-shu is the only one in the class who uses seaweed as feed. Although he thinks this is a very difficult way to farm pigs when compared to regular methods, the owner of the Beigang Traditional Taiwanese Cuisine Restaurant says she's very happy to see there is an another safer, healthier pork choice for her customers.
If you love pork as much as almost every Taiwanese person does, selecting meat of the highest quality is also very important for the sake of your health.
Gaoden Pig Farm (farm only; no products for sale)
68-8, ErKan Rd., Shuimei Village, Waipu District
▲ Tianhe Seaweed Pork Website
(online shopping and retail stores location)
Beigang Traditional Taiwanese Cuisine Restaurant
(dining only; no products for sale)
190, FuYa Rd., Xitun District
Hours: 5 pm-12 midnight