Follow Me Foodie to Akakuro-Buta (Japanese style Canadian Pork)!
Introducing Akakuro-Buta: the “Kurobuta” pork of Canada.
Could this be the new “Ferrari of pork” in Canada? It’s kind of neat introducing a new breed of quality pork.
The Akakuro-Buta pork is the Canadian version of the highly prized Japanese premium pork, Kurobuta. In Japanese, “Aka” means red and “kuro” means black, “buta” means pork or hog. Kurobuta means Berkshire, but the marketed name has grown in reputation, now carrying more weight and value.
Kurobuta is known as the “kobe beef” of pork in Japan. The Kurobuta is a black Berkshire hog in Japan, and the Kyushu states and Kagoshima prefecture are most known for Kurobuta. The highest quality of pork is not only Kurobuta, but Kagoshima Kurobuta which is 100% Berkshire pork also known as Black Diamond Berkshires. Even in Japan there is cross breeding so 100% Kurobuta pork is not necessarily easy to find. It is highly valued for its rich flavour and beautiful marbling, and is often used for shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot), steak, tonkatsu (breaded, fried pork cutlet), ham, bacon etc., and can be served and eaten medium which is usually the case.
I was lucky to try Kurobuta pork in Japan last year during Follow Me Foodie to (Tokyo) Japan, and in my article about Japanese food, people and culture, I mentioned the Japanese dedication to perfection. I’m not exactly sure how they breed and care for their Kurobuta, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their Kurobutas were given regular massages.
In terms of diet, the Kurobuta is fed barley, Japanese sweet potato (satsumaimo), and/or shōchū pulp (Japanese distilled spirit made from barley and/or rice). Kagoshima is also known for their shōchū and sweet potatoes, as to why the Kurobuta are fed these premium ingredients.
Kurobuta pork is unique to Japan, but since nobody owns the copyright to the name, anyone can technically call their Berkshire pork “Kurobuta”. However, authentic Kurobuta is most respected from Kagoshima.
Since there is high demand and low supply for this “world’s best pork”, export of true Kurobuta is in limited quantities and even in Japan there is only a small percentage of Berkshire pigs. Therefore, it is not that known, but the most popular genetics in pigs in Japan are Lethbridge hogs; however, they are not called “Akakuro-Buta” and ideally not sold as authentic Kurobuta.
Due to the limited quantities of Kurobuta, Canadian farmers created a one-of-a-kind breed of Akakuro-Buta pig, which is an imitation of the premium Kurobuta. The Akakuro-Buta name is not widely known in Japan, but it was only exported to Japan until now.
The Akakuro-Buta is specially bred on free-range family farms in Lethbridge, Alberta for the Canadian market. It is not a Berkshire pig, but a cross-bred with Landrace sows and Duroc boars.
The main similarity is the feeding formula. The Akakuro-Buta pig is fed a 100% barley diet, which results in a whiter and firmer fat and better flavour and visual appeal, compared to corn-fed pigs which have a greasier and yellow coloured fat. As I mentioned, the Kurobuta diet may contain sweet potatoes and shōchū pulp as well, so there are differences despite efforts to mirror feeding methods.
Unlike most North American hogs, Akakuro-Buta are growth promotant free (i.e. – ractopamine free), but they cannot make any claims in regards to antibiotics or 100% natural. Just like humans, animals get sick, so the whole “antibiotic” argument is a sensitive topic for a whole other article which requires more research.
In terms of flavour, they taste different which is somewhat expected. Mind you, even quality of Kurobuta varies in Japan, just like Sterling Silver beef. It is impossible to replicate the exact flavour of something once you take it out of its environment. That being said, Kurobuta is so limited in general, that this is still a good option and alternative to it.
Akakuro-buta scores 3+ points on average for marbling while most other pork is only 1-2 points. It is ranked amongst the top in all other pork in Canada for tenderness, juiciness, and high marbling, so in the context of Canada this is premium quality pork, but not exactly comparable to Kurobuta.
Since it is available at T& T Supermarkets I assume the target market is primarily Asian, who are the biggest consumers of pork in Canada. The traditional Asian community is not as concerned with where their pork comes from, so I am pleased to know Akakuro-Buta is reaching out to this market.
Although I support BC farms and the Sakura Farms brand of pork also exclusively available at T&T Supermarkets, this Akakuro-Buta cannot be compared. I have to do a side by side comparison, but my recommendation would vary depending on what is valued (price, locality, quality).
While the product is meant to be for everyday consumers rather than businesses, selected restaurants in Vancouver are featuring the Akakuro-Buta for the month of March. I was invited to tour the first three restaurants serving Akakuro-Buta pork in Vancouver, BC and each restaurant cooked it in a different style for their clientele. It’s a great way to sample the pork cooked by a professional before purchasing, however I still encourage home experimentation. An excellent dish has to start with an excellent ingredient, but the execution is a big part of it too and it tasted different at each establishment.
(Only available at each restaurant for the month of March.)