By Charlyn Fargo
“Pork is synonymous with the barbecue grill and great taste,” says Lyle Dorjohn, a hog farmer and feed salesman near Atwood, just east of Champaign.
Dorjohn not only likes to throw a ham steak on the grill, he’s cared for hogs all his life, raising about 200 pigs a year. He sells his hogs to 4-H and FFA members to groom for the show ring at fairs or other competitions. He spends much of his summer watching how his pigs do in the show ring – and encouraging the kids who show them.
He also keeps up on pork trends. He’s seen the kind of pork that consumers want go from meaty to lean and lean to meaty. (Related: City Ham or Country Ham?)
“When I was growing up, everyone wanted a lean, muscular type of show pig,” Dorjohn says. “Then we had a trend to a little fatter, more flavorful pork. And now we’re back to the meat type. We want to be able to raise a hog with lots more muscle – to get more pork from fewer pigs.”
He got his start in the business managing a pig farm near Nokomis in Central Illinois. Then he moved back to his home area of Atwood and began working for Suidae Tech, a company that provides nutritional quality feeds for livestock.
The average pig farmer raises 100,000 head of hogs a year, Dorjohn says.
“There have been volumes of genetic research for muscle quality to better meet the customer’s desire for a better-quality hog,” he says. “We’re seeing that now in the pork that’s in the grocery aisles.”
One of his favorite meals is a big ham steak on the grill with a baked sweet potato.
“My second favorite,” he adds, “is when we take a half fresh ham and half cured ham, grind it and make it into a ham loaf. The flavor is amazing.”
We’ve come up with a few of our favorite ways to make ham delicious. You can chop up leftover Christmas ham for these recipes or try them any time of the year.