The Producers: Meet Mangalitsa Farmer Zsóka Fekete

10 May, 2022
Zsóka Fekete

Mangalitsa are an appealing lard-type pig breed, mainly distributed throughout Eastern Europe, although mangalitsa farming has become more widespread, reaching as far as the US. The hairy pigs are prized for their superior meat, which has been called the Kobe beef of the pork world. Naturally, Fekete eats mangalitsa every day, with bacon and fresh liver and blood sausages being among her favourites. “It’s very juicy and clean tasting, there’s no after taste,” she says.

Meat hanging

Mangalista pigs cured meat

Their pigs are reared on a 100% organic diet of corn, barley, beet and sunflower seeds grown on their 65 hectare farm by her father. There are no soy beans, vaccines or antibiotics for this slow-grown breed, which takes between one and one-and-a-half years to rear for slaughter - three times longer than normal commercial pigs. The blond mangalitsa is the largest and most common of the three breeds of mangalitsa (the others being swallow-bellied and red) and can reach an average of 250kg fully grown, with a very distinctive curly and shiny coat in winter, and a shorter, less curly coat in the summer.

Mangalista pig

Mangalista Pig

Fekete processes the meat on-site and sells it at a Budapest market with some help from her mother; as well as online and to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants and chefs, in Hungary and Germany. "People are surprised sometimes. They come back and say it’s very special, the texture is very tender, and soft,” she says.

She has become so adept at knowing her customers' tastes and preferences, she can even predict which mangalitsa cut they will want to buy when they arrive at her counter. Her favourite is the bacon, which is easily fried up with eggs, guanciale, blood sausages and the marbled neck - or sometimes after a hard day at the market, a comforting bowl of mangalitsa soup, which is rich in collagen.

Zsoka Fekete at the local market

Zsóka Fekete at the local market

Mangalitsa pork is healthier than commercial pork, Fekete claims. She’s even noticed a growing trend of younger customers and young families buying her pork at the market since the pandemic, including those with specialist dietary requirements, and those trying out low-carb keto diets, driving interest in her produce.

Fekete works up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year - sometimes rising at 2am on market days and returning home at 9pm. But she struggles to recruit like-minded young enthusiasts to partner her in her work. On any given day she can be found at the market stall, sifting through paperwork or teaching agricultural students in her local secondary school or university. It's here that she encourages students to become future farmers. “If you have a dream you have to risk it, and you have to do it,” she tells them. No matter which path they choose, Feteke is an admirable role model to emulate. "Of course, I’m tired, but I go home full of energy," she says. "I love it. That’s why I do this. That’s why I’m so strict with myself.”

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