Barbecue Digest: The self-cannibalizing pigs of Texas BBQ
September 18th, 2012
12:15 PM ET
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Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance will be delving deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. Dig in.

A strange phenomenon pervades the signs of barbecue joints across the state of Texas: pigs acting like people. In my memory, nary a bovine graces a barbecue sign that’s not in the cooked or soon-to-be smoked form.

At Big John’s Feed Lot Bar-B-Q in Big Spring, Texas, a painting on the window shows the pitmaster wielding a cleaver in one hand while dragging a dazed steer with the other. This is how the poor cattle are portrayed, while the overt anthropomorphism is reserved for swine - in this, the land of beef barbecue.

A pig surveys the pit on a banner at Hog Heaven across town in Big Spring. On a mural inside Mumphord’s Place in Victoria, a hog raises a fork and a platter of meat victoriously, presumably because he’s not on the platter himself. On the side of La Exclusiva in Pharr, Texas, a jovial, sombrero-clad pig stirs a pot of carnitas, while a batch of barbacoa sits unattended. I guess we are to assume the cow is in the pot.

Photo courtesy Daniel Vaughn

Elsewhere, you can find a hog on a motorcycle in Leakey, another with fork and knife at the ready and a napkin around its neck in Marshall, and even a cigar-smoking pig in a toque in Cedar Hill.

After so much repetition of the theme, it’s easy to get used to the oddity. But when I darkened the door of Johnny’s Barbecue in Midland, I recoiled. A scene up on the wall went a step too far. It was a seated pig clad in Western wear, happily biting into a rack of ribs.

cannibal pig

A few days later, yet another blatantly cannibalistic pig was spotted in San Angelo, where a muscular swine snacked on a saucy rib on the sign above Bubba’s Smokehouse. Those ribs turned out to be disappointing - otherwise, I would have thought the pig was on to something.

This Lone Star Dispatch comes from Daniel Vaughn, the brain (and mouth, and tummy) behind Full Custom Gospel BBQ. Follow Daniel on Twitter at @BBQSnob.

Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog.

Previously - Speaking in tongues: a barbecue communion and (Possibly) the oldest barbecue joint in North Carolina

And more on Texas cuisine:
Meat-meister has beef with non-Texas barbecue
Some of Texas' finest tacos, in the back of a 24-hour gas station
Taking a break at County Line Bar-B-Q
Holy mole and nopales: A taste of Austin
Best dang food joint in Texas
Salt and battering at the State Fair of Texas
A fraternal bond in Texas barbecue
Don't mess with a Texas chef: Bryan Caswell stumps for Houston



soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Jess

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/31/business/fi-feed31

    Farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to their cattle annually, according to FDA estimates.

    FDA urged to ban feeding of chicken feces to cattle
    Food and consumer groups say the practice increases the risk of cattle becoming infected with mad cow disease. A beef industry trade group say a ban isn't needed.
    October 31, 2009|Jerry Hirsch

    A fight is brewing over the practice of feeding chicken feces and other poultry farm waste to cattle.

    A coalition of food and consumer groups that includes Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban the practice. McDonald's Corp., the nation's largest restaurant user of beef, also wants the FDA to prohibit the feeding of so-called poultry litter to cattle.

    Members of the coalition are threatening to file a lawsuit or to push for federal legislation establishing such a ban if the FDA doesn't act to do so in the coming months.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      This is why, until such legislation is passed - or at least legislation that lets us KNOW what is in our food is passed, I'm buying from my local pasture-raised farmers (whom I check out on more than just their say-so).

      September 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  2. USA

    Mittens you have my vote : )

    September 23, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  3. Mike S.

    It's called a CARTOON.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Rick

      or, to the politically correct crowd, dimensionally challenged

      September 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Kurt N

    Reminds me of this Flickr group, that started several years back: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cut-me-wicked-servant/

    September 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Mike

    Good write-up. This isn't just a Texas phenomenon, either...it's everywhere that serves pork BBQ. I've always found it disturbing. Amusing...but disturbing.

    September 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Amniculi

    Most pointless article ever. I thought this was a news website?

    September 19, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Amniculi

      My bad. Didn't notice this was Eatocracy. Still a dumb article though.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Mike

      Do you make similarly inane comment every time you find the "Living" section in the newspaper?

      September 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
      • Amniculi

        Apparently you didn't see the "my bad" part.

        September 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  7. JMK

    Maybe they all have something to do with the Piggley-Wiggley pig? Or the other way around? On a side note, anybody notice the cannibal Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares in their television ad?

    September 19, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  8. Byrd

    Never heard Texas republicans described as self-cannibalizing pigs before, but they'd probably be kinda stringy.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  9. Karen King

    I live in Ms. and just moved back from Wisconsin. I've noticed these signs in a lot of states and always thought they were weird. I mean, why are the pigs so happy pictured on BBQ signs? Same thing with Fried Chicken joints. I saw a chicken joint with a sign depicting a happy chicken holding a box of fried chicken! I enjoyed the article and am glad to see that there are others who find this kind of advertising a bit odd.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  10. doug

    Luling tx has the best BBQ,in south TX

    September 19, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  11. Amir Ali

    Beef fragrance and pork also good in s korea but if try chicken leg piece in pakistan its very tasty with beef and mutton recipies in khi BBQ's..

    September 19, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  12. Matt Simpson

    Good BBQ has nothing to do with cookoffs, "worlds greatest" and pig drawings on a wall. And it certainly not about bloggers and tweeters and BBQ snobs. Once you feel like you have to write something to tell the world about BBQ you have lost it. You are a lonely soul with a BBQ to go to, so you try to go buy some. BBQ is about friends, and good times and sharing. I am from Texas and we do have some excellent BBQ – lots of beef for sure, ahd in the Hill Country they make some fine pork sausage that is great smoked – you nibble on it while you drink a Shiner Bock and wait for the brisket to be done. But I would not turn my nose up at some tasty Carolina pulled pork, or some KC ribs. All damn good. So you bring your BBQ pork, and I will bring some BBQ beef, and some chicken too, invite all our friends, crank up some tunes, ice down some beer, and even make iced tea. That is real iced tea without sugar – none of that "sweet tea". Tea with nothing more than ice and a slice of lemon – served up all you can drink – is the only tea. Anyone who says different is crazy – and them's fighting words. :)

    September 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • NODAT1

      summarize you post to each their own

      September 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Stan Walton

      AMEN...

      September 20, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  13. Jess

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/31/business/fi-feed31

    FDA urged to ban feeding of chicken feces to cattle
    Food and consumer groups say the practice increases the risk of cattle becoming infected with mad cow disease. A beef industry trade group say a ban isn't needed.
    October 31, 2009|Jerry Hirsch

    A fight is brewing over the practice of feeding chicken feces and other poultry farm waste to cattle.

    A coalition of food and consumer groups that includes Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban the practice. McDonald's Corp., the nation's largest restaurant user of beef, also wants the FDA to prohibit the feeding of so-called poultry litter to cattle.

    Members of the coalition are threatening to file a lawsuit or to push for federal legislation establishing such a ban if the FDA doesn't act to do so in the coming months.

    Farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to their cattle annually, according to FDA estimates.

    September 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  14. Bryce

    Did the thought ever occur to you that the pig could have been eating beef ribs? Beef ribs are common BBQ fare in Texas.

    September 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  15. Rick

    It's not self-cannibalizing....it's sooey-cide

    September 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I actually laughed aloud reading that.

      September 18, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Bill

      Excellent!!!

      September 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Rick

      Okay, I probably should not admit this, but I stole it from Granny of The Beverly Hillbillies

      September 20, 2012 at 6:12 am |
  16. DisgruntledGirl

    Actually the pig is in reference to the BBQ – and how messy it is to eat it.

    September 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Analystgirl

      Thank you for explaining that! Honestly I didn't notice anything odd about it at all.....pigs WILL eat anything!

      September 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Lou Cypher

    spend some time with the irregulars of Sierra Leone
    and have some of their bushmeat stew
    then all of this pork bbq will seem pretty quaint once again

    September 18, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  18. lovin liberty

    reminds me of animal farm. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" and the dinner party at the end of the book. I'm getting hungry for some pork barbecue....

    September 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  19. womp womp

    You do relise in texas we eat beef barbecue; and that the pig is a joke about Carolinians? Or do you write all your articles without any research?

    September 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      The author spends pretty much every waking moment focused on Texas BBQ. I'm sure he's quite well aware of the beef-centric nature of Texas, but truly - folks do serve other meats, too. They do not make you relinquish all swine at the border, I promise.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Daniel Vaughn

      If by 'research' you mean eating at over 500 barbecue joints in Texas, then I think I have your prerequisite covered. As a Texan you'd also know that most every one of them serves pork alongside the beef. I think I can count on one hand the Texas BBQ joints I've been to that don't offer pork ribs.

      I'm also interested in your research about the genesis of swine on Texas BBQ signs being a specific affront to the Carolina culture of pork barbecue. Please share.

      September 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
      • womp womp

        having 500 mcribs at different mcdonalds doesn't count as bbq joints.

        September 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • MC

      Uh, right, half-wit. Half the BBQ places in Texas are making a joke about Carolinians with their signage. What wits!

      September 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Mike

      womp womp, your explanation doesn't hold water. At all. Sorry.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Mike

      Also...you just got served by the author. Didn't see that coming, did you? LOL

      September 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • NODAT1

      Really you need to point that out about beef BBQ and Texas
      Look everybody WOMP WOMP has pointed out that that they BBQ beef in Texas, well I guess you learn something new everyday

      get a life!!!!!! This was a light hearted article not serious BBQ tell all historical NEWS article

      September 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  20. cowstastegood

    I really hope you have something more to add about Texas bbq in future articles.

    September 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Yup: http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/07/15/meat-meister-has-beef-with-non-texas-barbecue/

      http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/07/05/barbecue-digest-a-fraternal-bond-in-barbecue/

      And there's plenty more: http://eatocracy.cnn.com/category/bite/travel/texas-travel/

      September 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
      • cowstastegood

        Thank you. You should also consider one focusing strictly on food trailers that serve bbq here. Some of the best in the state. Franklin's in Austin is a good start.

        September 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
        • Kat Kinsman

          You might dig this! http://eater.com/archives/2012/09/17/aaron-franklin-interview-september-2012.php

          September 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
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