This Prosciutto Is Dope: Pot-Fed Pork Debuts in Seattle

In Washington, one hog farmer is showing off his way of using the detritus of the newly legal marijuana crop.

Livestock feed as far as the eye can see. (Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

May 21, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

NPR says it gives a whole new meaning to “potbelly pig.” “High off the hog” was the phrase that came immediately to mind here. You get the point: If it’s pun-worthy, then it’s newsworthy.

One Seattle butcher is creating quite a buzz for serving up prosciutto made from pigs raised, in part, on feed derived from marijuana plants. William von Schneidau sells the pot-fed pork at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market.

The butcher tells NPR that the meat has been “redder and more savory” than his typical cuts. But for those looking to spike the appetizer plate with a little something extra, it doesn’t appear as if the meat is infused with any cannabis-scented notes—and no, the prosciutto doesn’t make you high.

It could have been a brilliant (if somewhat diabolical) plan: A food that contains within it a drug that just makes you hungrier. Yet, as NPR points out, beyond the publicity stunt of it all is a bit of creative husbandry. Von Schneidau gets his marijuana refuse from a legal medical marijuana dispensary.

“Von Schneidau’s creative reuse of a local waste product is part of a larger trend of small farmers looking for new, free sources of livestock feed, especially since prices for corn and soy have been on the rise,” NPR notes. “In addition to the pot refuse, von Schneidau has linked up ranchers and farmers in the region with a vodka distillery and with vegetable vendors at Pike Place Market who have waste that would otherwise end up as compost or in the landfill.”

How the pigs feel about all this appears to be anyone’s guess. Von Schneidau doesn’t comment on whether they appeared particularly blissed-out before getting the axe. And as you might imagine, there’s not much out there when it comes to figuring out the impact on livestock of feeding them cannabis.

NPR digs up a study from the European Union that found elevated levels of THC in the milk of dairy cows fed hemp plants, which led to a recommendation to ban its use as feed. A government website for Queensland, Australia spells out the specific terms for allowing livestock to feed on cannabis there (it has to be processed and contain no leaves, flowers or seeds), while a decades-old study from Pakistan, where pot grows wild, found children who drank the milk of water buffalo that had grazed on cannabis did end up with low levels of THC in their systems.

Given that it’s only been six months since Washington (and Colorado) legalized pot, though, Von Schneidau’s experiment may just mark the beginning of a whole new avenue in agriculture science—and a bumper crop of undergrads suddenly eager to sign up for Animal Feeds and Feeding 101.