I recently really tried pork belly for the first time at one of my absolute favorite dinner spots, 1789. And by really, I mean eating a good sized chunk of fat straight from the belly of the pig. The dish was unbelievably wonderful, and left me curious about the history of this delicacy, and also, why pork bellies seem to be popping up on the menus of DC’s finest restaurants as of late!
Without further ado, everything you never knew you wanted to know about pork and pork belly:
1) Today’s pigs are 31% less fat than hogs raised two decades ago, an answer to the low-fat diet recommendations of the 1980s, leaving the belly pretty slim. (Imagine if we were eating the belly of the pigs from the 70’s!)
2)American bacon has, however, still been consistently prepared using the belly, the fattiest portion of the pork.
3)The primal pork belly is located below the loin. Accounting for approximately 16% of the pig’s weight, it is very fatty with only streaks of lean meat. It contains the spareribs, which are separated from the rest of the belly before cooking.
4)Pork bellies are also famous for their presence in commodities exchange. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) began trading Frozen Pork Belly futures in 1961 – the first futures contract based on frozen, stored meats. This was also the trading-pit featured in the 1980’s film, Trading Places, with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd.
5) and last, but not least, award-winning chef Daniel Boulard, with five French restaurants and several private dining locations in New York City and elsewhere, is credited for debuting fresh pork belly as fine cuisine.