The Agriculture Department and the Puerto Rico Pork Producers Cooperative unveiled a joint initiative to put local roasted pork, known as “lechón asado,” back in the island’s restaurants ahead of the upcoming holiday season.
Agriculture Secretary Carlos Flores-Ortega and Co-op President Ángel Rodríguez, along with Cooperative Development Commissioner Ivelisse Torres, said that with the issuance of a new certification, consumers will be able to identify “lechoneras” — or restaurants featuring this Puerto Rican staple — selling 100 percent Puerto Rican pork under the “Cerdo Rico” brand.
“For years, the Puerto Rican consumer has sponsored the island’s ‘lechoneras,’ with the intention of eating local ‘lechón asado’ and in the process, sponsor and consume what is produced here,” Rodríguez said.
“However, unaware that most ‘lechoneras’ sell imported pig, they end up consuming frozen, sometimes very poor quality, pigs. it is important to inform consumers, so they know which ‘lechoneras’ are selling local pigs,” he said, noting that eight out of 10 local ‘lechoneras’ he has visited are selling imported pork.
The joint initiative calls for the vertical integration of the island’s pork industry, which has producers that have identified businesses to assess the volume of pork they need and meet 100 percent of the demand to eliminate the possibility of imported pork purchases.
Flores-Ortega said the certification represents a reassurance for consumers that what is being sold is the highest-quality meat that comes from Puerto Rican farms.
“The important difference is freshness and quality, because pigs from Puerto Rico have never been frozen. The pigs reared on the island have marbling, which is the intramuscular fat needed to cook the meat well, and that it is tender,” Flores-Ortega said.
“Imported pigs do not have this feature because they are not bred to be roasted, as opposed to Puerto Rico,” he said, adding that supporting groups such as the pork producers is part of the agency’s platform.
Meanwhile, Torres said, “supporting local pig farmers allows the strengthening of our agricultural sector and the economic development of our cooperative enterprises. We invite Puerto Ricans to support businesses that have this certification that will allow them to enjoy high quality meat that is 100 percent from Puerto Rico.”
Consumers are urged to look for the “Lechonera Certificada” decal at participating establishments. So far, Lechonera Maldonado in Orocovis, Lechonera Rancho T in Lares, Lechonera El Pocito Dulce and Lechonera Los Flamboyanes in Toa Baja, Lechonera el Rancho Vaquero in Bayamón; Lechonera Sazón Alvarado in Guayanilla, and Lechonera Los Pinos in Guavate have been certified.