Culinary tour coming to Snowmass is trying to save the future of pork

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Grand Cochon, the final stop in a 10-city culinary competition centered around heritage breed pork, is June 18 in Snowmass Village. Heritage breed pigs are harder to find than those produced on a larger scale, but event founder Brady Lowe says they are safer to eat and tastier.
Courtesy photo |

Have you heard of a red wattle? How about a large black? A Hereford or Berkshire?

These are all heritage pig breeds that are becoming harder to find as commercial farming practices, which they are not suited to, are increasingly used.

That’s bad news not just for farmers and their pigs but for the consumer, according to Brady Lowe, who said pork from small breeders is generally safer and tastier than what you can buy from a mass-production farm.

“We love eating pork, but it’s not that safe, and people want to have a choice,” Lowe said. “I know one day, I’m going to have kids, and if I don’t do anything, I don’t see anyone else out there who’s doing this for heritage-breed pig farmers, which would then face extinction.”

Lowe is the creator of Cochon 555, a culinary competition in which chefs must use as many parts of a whole heritage-breed pig as possible in three or more dishes. The 10-stop tour ends this summer with Grand Cochon in Snowmass Village, when winners from each city will compete to be crowned this year’s king or queen of porc.

When the tour first started seven years ago, organizers had to go long distances from the major cities where events were held in order to find heritage-breed stock. For instance, in Denver, chefs cooked pigs from Iowa at the first event. But this year, all the pigs in the Mile High City’s competition came from the Colorado Front Range.

“Now it’s a raving conversation,” Lowe said. “Chefs are using it, they’re all over, and people are raising pigs because now there’s a demand for it.”

Pigs for the Snowmass event will come from the same 10 farms sourced for the cities on the tour, so chefs will cook the same breed that they won with in their respective home cities.

But those aren’t necessarily the farms that they work with in their restaurants. Lowe said Cochon organizers try to find a new farm or breed for chefs to show them that there are plenty of options if one resource ever goes away.

“I’m hoping that with this event, we get more people who demand to eat heritage-breed pigs,” Lowe said. “Which are no antibiotics, no steroids. They’re the best-cared-for in the pig community.”

And not to mention tasty.

“It reboots your memory to what real pork should be like,” Lowe said. “It’s kind of the same thing when you have Kobe beef or really pricey beef, like ‘Wow, that has really amazing flavor to it.’”

And served up by some of the top chefs in the country, a pork dish at Grand Cochon is hard to beat.

Grand Cochon is June 20 in the Grand Ballroom of the Viceroy Snowmass. For more information or tickets, visit