Tender Belly 6

A Cut Above

Chances are you may not know who The Duffy brothers are, but you’ve probably devoured slices of their bacon. They’re the founders of Tender Belly, which has been serving up tasty pork products for a handful of years now. Mouthwatering cuts are sizzled all over town at places like Snooze, Salt and Pizzeria Locale to name a few. Rumor has it that chefs find their pork hard to resist.

Shannon and Erik Duffy are brothers born and raised in the Midwest—Iowa to be exact—who grew up where they felt farmers created the gold standard of pork. The company itself was born out of necessity in 2010. Erik had a killer bacon recipe and both needed steady work.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, right?” says Shannon Duffy.

And since entrepreneurialism runs deep in their family’s veins, the two crafted a recipe for success.

Duffy says, “We believe our bacon is the best stuff on the planet.”

THE BEST OF THE BEST

While this may be true, they sell more than just their dry cured and cherrywood-smoked to perfection bacon. Tender Belly uses the whole pig. We all know good things take time and commitment. And the brothers know this, too; the tremendous amount of care and devotion to the well being of their pigs is the secret to their sauce and is why they are part of the “Slow Meat” movement. Tender Belly is careful that their pigs are raised naturally and allowed … well … to be pigs. We’re living in an era where this sadly goes against the norm with massive industrialized farms that churn out unthinkable quantities of meat products on a regular basis. The Duffy brothers, however, partner with small, family farmers in Iowa, Missouri and Colorado to supply them with the finest meats available and who allow their pigs to live a stress-free life with an abundance of space to roam around and get exercise. It’s this type of freedom that encourages fine intramuscular marbling that cannot be attained any other way.

These heritage pigs also have a special diet that consists of 100 percent vegetarian, all-natural feed—with no rendered animal byproducts, no antibiotics and no hormones—to influence the flavor of the pork, which creates an exceptional meat to fat ratio. Fully traceable methods to produce their meat are met with strict codes of responsibility and humane animal husbandry. Additionally, they are environmentally responsible, and all products are hand-inspected to ensure each end product “makes the cut” so to speak.

“It’s about using the highest quality ingredients we can find.  From real Vermont maple, to fresh herbs and spices, it is all 100 percent natural,” says Duffy.

These rock solid core fundamentals are not taken lightly and truly provide the backbone of their success.

“It’s all about moderation. If you’re going to eat bacon, you don’t buy the cheap stuff and eat it every day. You get the good stuff and eat a few slices on a Sunday,” says Duffy.

GET YOUR HANDS ON IT

Are you hungry yet? In addition to grabbing a package to fry up on the grill or noshing on some tasty pork when you’re out to dinner, you can also order directly from their website. Choose from a variety of specially curated packages like The Game Day Porker (franks, baby back barbecue ribs and dry-rub uncured bacon) or The At-home Chef (Berkshire pork tenderloin, St. Louis ribs and maple cured bacon). For the DIYers, Tender Belly partnered with Man Create to create “The Baconology Kit” that features a whole pork belly, dry-rub mix and instructions for curing and smoking the belly. It also includes a package of Tender Belly bacon so customers can compare their results with the real deal. And for the true diehards out there, you can also join the Bacon Every Month Club where you’ll get 4lbs of bacon delivered to your doorstep…every month.

“People keep coming back because it tastes good,” says Duffy.

PIGS FLYING HIGH

The original plan of selling their perfected bacon recipes to a few restaurants has been thrown on the back burner. With business booming not just here in Colorado but also in Arizona, Texas, Southern California, there are some changes on the horizon.

They are currently working on making their products accessible commercially so the at-home chef can have some fun with creative swine cuisine. In the future, we might find Tender Belly products not just online, but also in local mom and pop shops. Also, there’s a jerky line on the horizon.

The Duffy brothers are now known as professional pork purveyors. Someone along the way might have said, “When pigs fly,” and now pigs are flyin’ high.

PORK 101: CUT DEETS

The Duffy Brothers educate us on the different cuts of pork.

HEAD ………………………………………………………………………………………………………Scrapple

CHEEK ……………………………………………………………………………….Staple of soul food

SHOULDER & PICNIC ………..Ground and used for special sausage

HOCKS…………………………………………………..Smoked hocks make tasty tacos

LARD……………………………………………………………………………………………………….Cracklins

LOIN ……………………………..Often used for pork chops or Canadian bacon

RIBS ………………………………………………………………………………Mmm… Barbecue ribs

BELLY …………………………………………………Makes the best bacon in the world

HAM ……………………………Works for ground pork, city ham or maple ham