Take a journey from pig to plate - DatelineCarolina

Take a journey from pig to plate

By Harrison Cahill and Jared Owenby

What’s really the most important thing about barbecue?

The pigs. 

Pigs are normally thought of as messy and uncivilized animals, but they are actually very clean and intelligent, only wallowing in the mud because they have no sweat glands to ease the summer heat. 

Marcus Hostetler knows his pigs like to stay clean and are intelligent enough to avoid the electric fences marking off the pasture they are free to roam in. 

The 19-year-old owns Bluestem Acres Farm in Aiken and on his six acres of brambly farmland raises nearly 20 pigs. Hostetler believes that pigs raised in a pasture, not confined to pens, results in a deeper, richer taste to the meat, which in barbecue makes all the difference. 

There are 812 pork-producing farms in South Carolina. Some of them are small-personalized farms like Hostetler’s, while others produce pork on an industrial scale for Carolina Pride, a major contract pork distributor in the Southeast.

Operations like Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ need somebody like Carolina Pride to keep up with the demand of hungry customers who visit its 13 locations across the state. 

Maurice’s co-owner Paul Bessinger Sr. gets up at 2:30 every morning to relieve the night shift cook at the chain’s headquarters in Cayce to keep pulling pork off the pits and send it out to his other locations. 

As the pork is cooked slowly over hickory to smoke the meat, Bessinger monitors other important ingredients that round out a perfect barbecue plate. All of his sauce, cole slaw, banana pudding and even sweet tea and hand-squeezed lemonade are made in-house. 

Additionally, our journey will take us to the people of pork and their favorite types of barbecue.  From all corners of the state we uncover favorite flavors, how people like it cooked and the best ways to eat it. Scan the QR codes and discover the people of pork for yourself.

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