The next time you fail a drug test, you might try to blame it on the BB Ranch prosciutto. Nice try, but eating butcher William von Schneidau’s “pot pig” products won’t get you high. The Pike Place Market butcher teamed up with Jeremy Gross of Snohomish’s Bucking Boar Farms and began feeding marijuana scraps to a number of pigs when Washington legalized use of the plant in 2012.
Von Schneidau started experimenting with different feeds two years ago when he fed the pigs melons, which made the pork products “sweeter.” Since then, he has experimented with other sustainable feeds, including used compost from Pike Place Market produce vendors and spent vodka grains from Project V Distillery in Woodinville.
Since 2011, von Schneidau’s goal for BB Ranch has been to connect people with local farmers. He first became a butcher to process and sell whole animals, so chefs and consumers could enjoy quality grass-fed meat while supporting Washington farmers. BB Ranch sources meat from 40 different ranches, including Bucking Boar Farms in Snohomish County. “We hope to generate interest among consumers to buy locally,” von Schneidau said. The “pot pigs” are fed scraps of leaves, root bulbs and stems from Top Shelf Organic, a medical marijuana co-op. These parts of the plant aren’t sold to humans and would otherwise be wasted. The co-op donates the plant scraps to BB Ranch, which saves on waste costs, while simultaneously providing a free and sustainable feed source for the pigs.
Von Schneidau said he’s unsure whether the marijuana has any effect on the pigs, because it’s unclear if THC, the active ingredient that creates a high in people, is absorbed into pigs’ bloodstream. Regardless, the “pot pigs” gain weight 20 percent faster than other pigs. This extra weight provides the products with a nice marbling of fat that customers can’t get enough of. “They [consumers] love it,” von Schneidau said. “It sells out immediately.” He describes the difference between “pot pig” products and other forms of pork. The pot pig tastes more savory.
To generate more awareness about sustainable and grass-fed meat, von Schneidau helped begin “Ranch to Plate,” a non-profit organization that educates people about animals that have been treated well and raised organically. It also promotes reducing waste by encouraging chefs and consumers to use the whole animal. A large part of “Ranch to Plate” is demonstrating how to prepare and cook meat in this way through cooking classes and dinners.