Real Pigs

Shifting Values in the Field of Local Pork

Real Pigs

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 37 illustrations Published: August 2016

Author: Brad Weiss

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies > Food Studies, General Interest > NC and Regional U.S.

In addition to being one of the United States' largest pork producers, North Carolina is home to a developing niche market of pasture-raised pork. In Real Pigs Brad Weiss traces the desire for "authentic" local foods in the Piedmont region of central North Carolina as he follows farmers, butchers, and chefs through the process of breeding, raising, butchering, selling, and preparing pigs raised on pasture for consumption. Drawing on his experience working on Piedmont pig farms and at farmers’ markets, Weiss explores the history, values, social relations, and practices that drive the pasture-raised pork market. He shows how pigs in the Piedmont become imbued with notions of authenticity, illuminating the ways the region's residents understand local notions of place and culture. Full of anecdotes and interviews with the market's primary figures, Real Pigs reminds us that what we eat and why have implications that resonate throughout the wider social, cultural, and historical world.


"Because each example of food-centered action is fraught with contradictions, ambiguities and paradoxes, Weiss’s descriptions are appropriately rich and multidimensional to portray those complexities. . . . Brad Weiss invites us to hear the voices of the people involved from all directions." — Paul Durrenberger, Bronislaw Magazine

"[Real Pigs] is based on fieldwork on farms, farmer’s markets, in butcher shops and restaurants. This impressive number of fields allows the author to describe the whole system of local pig production from the historic ancestry of the pigs in question to the eventual headcheese spread on crackers at the end. It offers a detailed account of the values, practices and networks that go into the creation of slow, local food systems." — D. Sutton, FoodAnthropology

"While Real Pigs would be scintillating for anyone interested in the recent rise of the local-food movement, for anthropologists who study food, especially in the United States, it should be required reading. It provides a welcome model for how to integrate the production, circulation, and consumption of food into a single analysis. The book is accessibly written and would be appropriate for advanced undergraduate courses on the anthropology of food or economic anthropology and graduate courses on the same topics, as well as those on the anthropology of the United States. It would work well in courses on ethnographic research methods, too, because it provides a laudable example of research across multiple fields as well as an innovative way to highlight research participants’ views." — Jillian R. Cavanaugh, American Anthropologist

"Real Pigs will be of interest to practitioners who are developing new markets, with its biographical stories of the people who are building the connections and its portrait of how taste is constructed in place. Making pigs local, according to Weiss, involves animal husbandry, marketing strategies, and social networking. Yet he is sensitive to the cosmopolitan values that inform 'locality.' The book will be of interest also to those who are exploring how markets are built and sustained over time, and how complex relationships support often precarious niche markets and foodways." — Sarah J. Martin, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

"Weiss’s ethnography is genuinely readable and, without intending to insult the ethnographer as to the intricacy of his craftsmanship, Real Pigs makes an ideal text through which to engage with undergraduates. Written in plain English, introducing holistic ethnography, participant-observation and ethnographic interviews, the theory is neither overwhelming nor underwhelming in measure." — Adele Millard, Anthropological Forum

"While much has been written about food systems and small-scale agriculture, Real Pigs is a striking portrait of contemporary debates about food systems from the perspectives of those mostly deeply engaged in one particular system." — Ashley Stinnett, American Ethnologist

"Ethnography can show how the things people think of as natural are shaped by history, politics, and culture. This is probably most difficult when the ethnographer is working in their own society and when their readers are most likely going to be the natives themselves. The fact that Weiss mostly succeeds in this challenge is one of the most remarkable aspects of this book. . . . Essential reading for food studies scholars, as well as for anthropologists interested in some of the more interesting recent theoretical debates noted above." — David Beriss, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Moving beyond normative debates over whether eating local is a moral good, Brad Weiss shows us that locality itself comes into view through American understandings of what 'good' food is and should be. Real Pigs gives us rich fodder to think about the interconnections of taste and place, consumption and production, capital and labor, humans and animals in the contemporary United States."  — Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America

"I have covered the Triangle's food scene since 2007, interviewing and profiling many of the same people as Brad Weiss. Revealing layers to the local food movement and the production of pastureraised pork that were previously unknown to me, Real Pigs is a fascinating examination of a local market and, by extension, any local market in the United States."  — Andrea Weigl, News & Observer (Raleigh)


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Brad Weiss is Professor of Anthropology at the College of William & Mary and the author of The Making and Unmaking of the Haya Lived World: Consumption, Commoditization, and Everyday Practice, also published by Duke University Press, and Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: Global Fantasy in Urban Tanzania.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii

Acknowledgments  xiii

Introduction  1

1. Pigs on the Ground  21
Profile: Eliza MacLean
Profile: John O'Sullivan

2. Pigs in a Local Place  59
Profile: Sarah Blacklin
Profile: Jennifer Curtis

3. Heritage, Hybrids, Breeds, and Brands  107
Profile: Will Cramer
Profile: Ross Flynn

4. Pigs in Parts  155
Profile: Kevin Callaghan

5. A Taste for Fat  187
Profile: Vimala Rajendran
Profile: Sam Suchoff

6. Farm to Fork, Snout to Tail  219

Conclusion. Authentic Connections  243

Notes  255

References  265

Index  277
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2017 Association for the Study of Food and Society Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6157-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6138-1
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