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Kowalski's Markets is offering a new choice in gourmet pork with a new line of Berkshire pork. Renowned for its refined breeding and natural production methods, Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta) is to pork what Wagyu is to beef: meat with a higher standard for flavor, enjoyed as a true delicacy.
The upscale pork is consistently prized by chefs who rave about its rare, characteristic marbling, which produces superb moisture; richer, deeper color; and unsurpassed tenderness and flavor.
The Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalski's, which owns nine stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro market, is rolling out the line with a customer education program revolving around its new pork line’s storied history emanating from the rare Berkshire pig breed’s English lineage in a county of the same name.
“The pink-hued meat is juicier than traditional pork products and because of its higher fat content, it gives home cooks a little more wiggle room when it comes to higher cooking temperatures and longer cooking times,” Kowalski’s explained in its e-newsletter that resides on its website. “Humane craft processing is an important part of the Berkshire story, too, ensuring livestock experience a safer, calmer more humane environment than is found elsewhere in the industry. Equally important to ensuring quality of pork product, are small batch processing and hand-cutting of portions.”
The dozens of family-owned farms that make up the local Berkshire producers' cooperative that raises 100 percent purebred stock are located in Southwest Minnesota. The USDA Process Verified quality management program enables producers to trace individual pigs and pork products to member farms. Such process means claims related to the livestock (including age, source and location from birth to harvest), feeding practices, raising protocols and processing details are certifiable.
The regional grocer also walks customers through the best ways to maintain flavor and moisture, which it notes lies in cooking temperature, along with an overview of USDA temperature guidelines and post-cooking tips. While Berkshire pork is exceptional when prepared very simply, Kowalski’s also offers customers suggestions for simple, tasty sauces in a variety of flavor profiles.
Kowalski's takes its customer education efforts one step further by reinforcing its “all natural” meat designation. And though Berkshire pork qualifies as natural according to the USDA definition -- which bans artificial ingredients, colors or preservatives while calling for minimal processing -- Kowalski's does not call Berkshire pork all natural. Here’s why: "Our standards for all natural meat is higher than the USDA standard in that we only label meat as natural if the animal never receives antibiotics – ever. We call it ‘never ever.’ Our Berkshire pork producers selectively administer therapeutic antibiotics to animals that meet strict criteria for need and isolate those animals from the rest of the herd. Though we don't call it all natural, we believe the Berkshire product is remarkably different from other pork and is therefore an important variety to offer our discriminating customers.”