A pig farm in Shizuoka Prefecture, known as a production hub for high-quality green tea, has come up with a new way of raising branded pork: having its pigs drink tea instead of water.
The pigs, named "Tea-ton" (meaning tea pork), have proved popular among consumers, who say the farm's pork is sweeter and more tender than others.
At Kitagawa Farm in the city of Shizuoka, where the new technique was introduced last year, the pigs are treated every morning to green tea made from 1 kg of leaves placed in a 1-ton water tank.
The leaves are provided for free by a local green tea producer. They are older leaves from a nearby plantation.
The pig farm also tries to reduce the pigs' stress levels. Currently about 50 pigs live on the 50-sq.-meter farm, where they are kept in stalls with fewer and lower walls than usual, allowing them more space than on other farms and better access to natural light and fresh air.
Farm owner Masami Kitagawa, 57, came up with the idea of feeding green tea to pigs after pondering ways to lower the risk of disease and letting them relax like humans.
"We have received comments from customers saying our branded pork has no unpleasant odor," Kitagawa said, who added that he hopes someday to prove the pork's uniqueness from a scientific standpoint.
The pork is currently served in about 20 restaurants in Shizuoka and Tokyo, and the number of inquiries from others is on the rise.
"It will be difficult to increase the volume of our pork drastically as we want to keep its quality," Kitagawa said. "But we would also like to introduce processed foods using the Tea-ton pork, such as ham."