While the term is Japanese for “black pig” and today’s gourmets call it the “Wagyu of pork,” the breed arose in an English county, where it got the name Berkshire. But whatever you call Kurobuta, this distinctly pink-hued and heavily marbled meat has been prized for centuries for its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, juicy flavors and clean-tasting fat.
Jet-black, save for white hooves and snout, the Berkshire is one of the world’s oldest pig breeds—and the first to record pedigrees. Berkshire pigs were originally a sandy-brown color until they were crossbred with a Chinese and Siamese breed in the 1700s. In the 19th century, a strain of Berkshire pig was imported to Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture and some are now named for that district. The Asian nation had long had a healthy taste for pigs, with Shoguns dubbing them “walking vegetables” for their high nutritional value. Soon after, the breed was also introduced to America, and in 1875, the American Berkshire Association began documenting pedigrees.
Kurobuta pigs, though, are not raised like other Berkshires. The Japanese typically allow the breed to free-range while feeding them a diet of corn, nuts, clover, apples or milk. American purveyor Snake River Farms raises its hogs on a co-op of small family farms in the midwest and Idaho, where they are fed a combination of corn, soybean meal, oats, vitamins and minerals.
That product appears on the menus of such lauded restaurants as The French Laundry in Napa Valley, San Francisco’s Mourad and New York’s Per Se, Eleven Madison Park and La Bernardin. However, you can also lay your hands on this gourmet pork through the company’s delivery service. Cuts include hams, pork bellies, hardwood-smoked bacon, baby-back ribs and more. The cost is about double what you would pay for standard pork, but the quality is worth it.
Kurobuta’s fatty marbling makes it perfect for slow roasting or smoking, while the cleanliness of the meat means you can grill a Kurobuta pork chop like you would a good steak. No matter how you cook it, just do everyone a favor and refrain from referring to as “the other white meat.”