As you may know, I’m a research and product development chef which gives me the opportunity to get creative and develop new products like bacon jam, devil’s butter, new flavours for The Little Potato Company and more.

While the research and development side of my work is fun, there is a serious aspect to the job when I work with projects that can change an entire industry. I recently had the opportunity to work with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada out of the office in Lacombe to analyze how different diets for hogs impacts the quality and taste of pork. This is a project funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, or ALMA.

In this project, we are working with three different breeds of hogs: Lacombe, Duroc, and Iberian. With each of the three breeds, we are feeding them three different diets: one comprised of flax, another with canola, and a controlled diet.

The scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada analyze the tangible assets of the meat, looking at things like protein to fat ratio, tenderness, color and other analytic information. As the research and development chef on the project, I get to taste the difference the various diets make on the meat. We are not genetically modifying the animals or anyway altering the breed. All we are doing is changing the diet of each animal.

My first delivery of pork bellies and tenderloin from this project arrived on August 17th, 2013. The first thing I did was brine and cure the bellies to make bacon. It’s interesting in that when I receive the different cuts of meat, they are tagged with information regarding the breed of hog, their kill weight and which side of the animal the meat came from.

Over the next couple of months, we will be serving these different cuts and breeds at KITCHEN to get feedback from our guests. If you are joining us at KITCHEN for a party or event soon, you too might be a part of this culinology project.  Culinology is the combination of the culinary arts with food science and food technology.

What are we hoping to achieve at the end of the project? We want to produce great tasting pork with a unique Alberta taste. I want to produce hams that will compete with the prosciutto of Italy, the serrano of Spain, and the Smithfield of the eastern United States.  Our goal is not to copy the flavours of these highly recognizable ham products, but instead to make a unique Alberta ham product from hogs raised in Lacombe.