When I first started making my own bacon the hardest part was finding a pork belly. I went to every grocery store in Baton Rouge and came back with NOTHING! Eventually I ended up doing a special order through Whole Foods and finally got to start on some bacon making adventures.
Times have changed and now I have several reliable sources of pork belly and I wanted to pass them along to you! Before you make the purchase there are a few things you need to consider.
What To Consider Before Buying
Here are four things to think about before you order a belly.
How Much Belly? Do you need a pound or two to make some Asian sticky pork or do you want a 14 pound slab to make a bunch of homemade bacon? The meat vendors listed below offer bellies in very different sizes so make sure you order from one that has teh size you want.
Skin On or Off? If you are going to be making bacon then you will want the skin off. If you want to make a crispy, crunchy roasted belly then you will want the skin on.
Heritage or Factory? If you buy from a retail chain then you will be getting pork from a factory farm. If you buy from one of the specialty shops listed below you will be getting Heritage pork from pasture raised pigs.
What Breed? Most commercial pork is comes from Yorkshire hogs. If you want to go with some of the Heritage breeds listed below you can choose from Berkshire, Duroc, Red Wattle or Chester Whites.
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for while you are shopping let’s dive into the different places I have found to get this cut.
My local Costco sells whole bellies and sliced bellies which is extremely convenient. If I want to make a slab of homemade bacon then I can buy a whole belly. If I want to make a small batch of pork belly burnt ends then I buy the sliced belly.
A huge benefit of buying the sliced belly from Costco is that I can inspect the packages and make sure that I am getting plenty of meat and not just a pile of fat. The huge downside of buying at Costco is that you are dealing with factory farmed meat from pigs that probably didn’t lead a happy life.
If you do not have a local Costco, or don’t want to buy factory farmed meat, then there are are several online options for you.
(By the way, I have never seen bellies at Sam’s Club.)
Meat n Bones
Meat n Bones is a small butcher shop in Miami, Fl that has recently started providing online sales.
Their pork comes from midwestern farms and the bellies are available in 4-6 pound portions for a cost of about $10 per pound.
You will need to pay for shipping but if you buy enough (depending upon your shipping zone) then free shipping kicks in. If you need some ideas of what else to put in your cart to get the free shipping you could consider adding a suckling pig or an acorn fed , bone in, Iberico ham.
I am a HUGE fan of the folks over at Porter Road. They have taken everything that is wrong with the commercial meat industry and fixed it in their shop.
Porter Road is based in Nashville and they only buy animals from local farmers in Tennessee and Kentucky. These are small farmers that treat their animals humanely. The pork bellies Porter Road sell comes from pigs that lived their lives in a pasture, not confined in a metal crate. This is a choice between small farmers raising animals in the sunshine versus large corporations and inhumane factory farms.
I don’t know how much shipping will be to your house but for them to ship to Baton Rouge has only cost me $5.
Porter Road sells uncured bellies in the 3 pound range that do not have the skin attached. Because Porter Road works with so many small farmers it is not possible to identify exactly which breed of pig the meat will come from.
Snake River Farms
The only problem with buying from Porter Road is that they are a small shop and they have been known to run out of specialty cuts. If Porter Road is out of stock then another source of bellies is Snake River Farms. (Affiliate Link)
The bellies from Snake River Farms come from a premium breed of pig (Berkshire) that are also raised on small family farms. Berkshire hogs are renowned for their higher fat content and better flavor than the bland supermarket pork most commercial farms produce.
These bellies are uncured, skinless and come in the 5-6 pound range.
Heritage Foods is similar to Porter Road but they are working on a larger scale and with a greater mission. Heritage Foods is dedicated to fighting the industrial meat factory farm industry and preserving as many heritage breeds of animals from extinction as possible.
I am not going to get on a soap box and preach at you but you can learn more about why this meat is important here.
In addition to being a great company with an awesome mission, Heritage Farms offers the best selection of pork belly that I have seen. You can get a belly from a heritage pork breed (Berkshire or Red Wattle) in sizes from 6 to 14 pounds and with the skin either on or off.
Cheshire Pork is a family owned company in North Carolina that specializes in producing pork from a single heritage breed of pig, the Cheshire White. This breed is known for its greater flavor and rose colored meat.
When you buy a belly from Cheshire Pork it will be in a 9-10 pound slab and you can specify whether you want the skin on or off.
Farm Foods is an organization that helps small farms and ranches sell their sustainably raised meat to a national market. They provide a resource for ethically raised beef, pork, poultry, lamb, duck, elk and bison.
You can buy small, 1-2 pound, bellies from Farm Food. The bellies come from heritage breeds, mostly Berkshire, and I believe the skin is off on these cuts.
The last time I searched Amazon for pork bellies it was pretty slim pickings.
The only belly I could find was a six pound slab with the skin on. What was interesting though is that the bellies are Spanish and is Iberico pork. Iberico pork comes from black footed pigs (Pata Negra) that have been raised in the forests where they eat a diet based heavily upon acorns.
The meat from Pata Negra hogs is always described as more complex and richer than our standard commercial pork. Standard phrases are that the meat is rosey and almost beeflike in flavor. These hogs are a step up from the Berkshire hogs at Snake River Farms.