BAI eyes massive native pig production to expand 'lechon' market

October 1, 2010 6:57 am 

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 29 – "Lechon", a popular roasted pork delicacy in the Philippines, is eyeing a larger market

Lechon is highly preferred when made out of native pigs by homegrown connoisseurs for special occasions, owing to the superb taste of its crispy skin and leaner meat.

No grand Filipino festive gathering is ever complete without a lechon of native pig that once roasted, tells a different story altogether. The belly is filled with herbs and spices lending this delicacy the aromatic delight. Most importantly, the skin crackles with every pinch and bite.

As a commercial commodity, the lechon commands a handsome price and to help the industry conserve and expand its market, an ongoing study of the Bureau of Animal Industry-National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center (BAI-NSPRDC) based in Tiaong, Quezon is establishing a production system for native pigs under farmers’ management.

Entitled “Conservation, Evaluation and Commercialization of the Philippine Native Pigs”, the project being funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP) seeks to propagate the Filipino indigenous pigs on a commercial scale by way of modernizing its antiquated manner of production.

Characteristically small, usually black in color, spotted and are resistant to parasites and diseases, native pigs can adapt to local conditions and can tolerate heat and cold environments better than the imported breeds.

They can thrive well on locally-available feeds, including kitchen and farm refuse and can cope with low quality feeds and maintenance. The usual farm practice, especially in the far flung villages, is the "bahala na" system – allowing pigs to scavenge for their own survival.

This animal can be raised without the use of chemical inputs and as a breed, has high economic potential for those engaged in organic swine production. In addition, native pigs are very rich sources of genetic materials for local breed development and improvement programs, hence it is a necessity to conserve and preserve this breed, Santiago said.

Native pigs do not require much commercial feeds to survive as they are typically free-range and their diet, as natural as possible.

In a BAR statement here Wednesday, Dr. Rene Santiago, the agricultural center chief of BAI-NSPRDC who leads the implementation of the two-year project said the socio-economic importance of production and commercialization of this livestock commodity is a crucial aspect of the project.

Production of native pigs can be a viable alternative for those who wanted to get involved in swine raising but cannot cope with the high price of commercial feeds and for those who do not have enough capital for housing and maintenance.

At the introductory stage of the project, the BAI-NSPRDC selected 20 heads of breeder sows with two boars from their stock farm in Tiaong for use in the production of breeders distributed to the cooperators of the project. The breeders later produced piglets that were raised, selected and distributed.

Participants who were given trainings and required to attend seminars on the production and management of native pigs along with project technicians were identified based on their capability, willingness and cooperation.

After the training, each farmer-cooperator was provided with a set of five female and a male native pigs as breeder stocks. Each farmer was also provided with a one-time subsidy for housing in the amount of P10,000 and feeds worth P1,000.

A prototype pig pen was also constructed inside the compound of BAI-NSPRDC for demonstration purposes to farmers. This type of pig pen used locally-available materials such as bamboo, nipa, coco-lumber and coconut husk and coir dust as bedding. One module of pig pen requires a floor area of roughly 4 x 4 square meters.

With the project now on its halfway towards completion, Santiago said it is expected that it will boost the needed stocks of native pigs which would be made available for multiplication and beginning of a commercial scale production.

In a related development, ”Etag” or “inasin” , a salted meat of native pigs which is a delicacy in the Cordilleras, is now undergoing value-adding interventions to enhance its unique taste and flavor, prolong its shelf-life and improve its packaging for commercial purposes.

The Highland Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (HARRDEC), based at the Benguet State University has initiated a program on the commercialization of the pork-based ethnic food delicacy of the Cordilleras led by director Sonwright B. Maddul.

The research started in 2009 and is developing science-based value adding interventions to ensure food safety, quality, and high market acceptability of Etag and also to promote its commercialization.

The delicacy is very much a part of the Igorots’ culture and age-old traditions. For instance, when a child is born, etag is processed and preserved. It will only be taken out of storage and cooked when the child gets married and served as one of the dishes during the wedding celebration.

The fastest way of preparing etag is by rubbing the meat, bones, fat and all, thoroughly with a generous amount of salt. For the curing process, the pieces of meat are hung to dry, either to air-dry or sun-dry.

Some cure the etag by smoking for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of three hours per day, for at least two weeks. However, the meat should not be reached by the flames and should not be exposed to excessive heat. After smoking, etag is ready for storage for future use.

In addition to creating livelihood, the benefits from commercializing this ethnic delicacy can go beyond preserving a culture. Commercialization of etag would mean wider and assured market for pork from native pigs, thus promote conservation and profitable use of a threatened local animal genetic resource.

In some provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region, one of the priority programs of local tourism offices is the promotion of ethnic food products to complement the scenic sights in the region.

However, while etag is popular among the Igorots, there is no deliberate effort to develop a standardized and optimized processing method to ensure its safety, consistent quality, and preservation of its unique taste and flavor. Thus, this is where HARRDEC took its cue. (PNA)

LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

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