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3-course interview: Charles Munford, farmer 

Charlie’s Sausage tackles Louisiana’s wild boar problem

click to enlarge charlie_munford.jpg

Mississippi-based Two Run Farm built a following connecting local farms with diners by delivering Two Run Farm meat to restaurants interested in sustainable farm-to-table methods. Six months ago, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) approached company founder and president Charles Munford about the state's invasive wild boar problem, and Munford rebranded the business as Charlie's Sausage (www.tworunfarm.com), shifting the focus to producing smoked wild boar sausage. Munford talked to Gambit about the business.

What made you decide to shift the business' focus to wild boar?

Munford: In 2011, we founded Two Run Farm to provide locally grown meat. I purchased a slaughterhouse a few years ago, and we began butchering on a weekly schedule. The LDAF approached us about this problem the wild boar were creating, and we worked together to build up this program. We became the first plant in the state to harvest wild boar. Chefs really loved the flavor, so we started making more and more of it. We found out that (wild boar) tastes great in sausage. [Charlie's Sausage] is available in nearly 70 grocery stores in south Louisiana.

  It comes in original, mild and green onion (flavors). It's made with real ingredients, no fillers, (with) a recipe based on a traditional Cajun smoked sausage. As of now, it's all made in our own smokehouse in Springfield, Louisiana, where we process the wild boar.

What is the scope of Louisiana's wild boar problem?

M: Right now they're saying there are about 3 million (wild boar). They destroy farmers' crops and they ruin levees. Five percent of net profits from the sales of our sausage go to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem, a forest in the Gulf South with really high biodiversity that's being torn up by wild boar. The ecosystem is really being threatened. (The boar) actually eat longleaf pine seedlings and make it hard to re-establish good regeneration in the forest. We believe in good stewardship of land, and that's part of our mission. The opportunity to help farmers and the environment while making a local Louisiana delicacy is right in line with our mission as a company. We want to promote sustainable agriculture and help farmers and the public.

How do you get and process the hogs?

M: Any landowner or trapper can bring us wild boar. Over 50 different trappers have brought in wild pigs for us to slaughter. We only buy ones that weigh between 50 and 200 pounds, so not too big and not too little. They are inspected by the agricultural department before and after slaughter for health and safety. Legally, it's considered pork. The rules are the same since the animals are the same species, but we just treat them with a little extra caution and care, since they are wild animals. Normally we take as many as they can bring in.

  We made a specially designed wood-fired smokehouse to pull real hardwood smoke into the plant and slow-cook the sausage in an artisanal process. The smokiness and natural ingredients really set it apart.

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