Hyogo pig farmer targets regional specialty status

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yukari Odagaki shows products using Yoka pork in Yabu, Hyogo Prefecture.

By Satoshi Matsuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterYABU, Hyogo — A pig farmer in Yabu, Hyogo Prefecture, has been making various products using locally produced pork, aiming to develop a regional specialty, following in the footsteps of Tajima beef and chicken, also from the prefecture.

Yukari Odagaki, 31, from the city’s Yokacho district, is calling the pork produced on her farm “Odagakisan-chi no Yokabuta” (Yoka pork produced by the Odagaki family). She expressed a willingness to contribute to job creation and tourism with her farm’s produce.

In 1978, pig and poultry farmers in the area around the former town of Yoka were all relocated to a centralized livestock farming complex built in the town’s Mitani district, and an agricultural producers’ cooperative corporation was formed. At that time, there were seven poultry farmers and seven pig farmers. But due to a shortage of successors and rising feed prices, among other reasons, the pig farms began to close, and in 2012, there was only one pig farmer left in the district — Yukari’s father Mamoru, now 61.

Around that time, Yukari, who had studied at Hyogo prefectural Tajima Agricultural High School, graduated from the Junior College of Tokyo University of Agriculture and started helping out with her family business. Thinking Yoka pork would disappear if the situation remained unchanged, she hoped to take advantage of the fact that there was only one pig farmer in the city and develop pork products with added value.

She presented proposals to entrepreneurs in the city and obtained cooperation from business managers in different industries, then started working on developing pork products together with her younger brother, Yukihiro, 30.

She visited Iga no Sato Mokumoku Tezukuri Farm, a progressive agricultural facility in Iga, Mie Prefecture, to learn about product development and sales promotion of ham and bacon products. After the visit, she started thinking about not only selling products, but also establishing a “theme park” featuring livestock farming, open to tourists, as well as elementary and junior high school students in Tajima for school excursions and other purposes.

Yukari purchased leftover materials such as sponge cake and cookies from a confectionery manufacturer in the city and gave them to her pigs as feed. She gave cheese to mother sows for nutritional support. In summer, she tried to ease their stress and keep them cool by using shower mist. Thanks to such efforts, both alanine, which has a sweet taste, and glutamic acid, which has an umami taste, increased in the pork produced on her farm. “It tastes sweet and has a rich flavor and is so soft it’s as if it melts in your mouth. It doesn’t dry out when it cools either,” she said.

Her farm’s pork is used in various dishes at restaurants in the Tajima region, and has received favorable responses from chefs. She has also developed a citrus-based ponzu sauce that goes well with Yoka pork, in cooperation with a local manufacturer.

While she currently raises about 1,200 pigs, she hopes to increase the number to about 2,000 in the future. She also hopes to do business as an independent company separate from the cooperative. “I want to grow the industry to help create jobs and give a boost to tourism in the city,” Yukari said.

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