Herb and Kathy Eckhouse founded La Quercia (pronounced La Kwair-cha) to make artisan cured meats like prosciutto and pancetta. They source ingredients that are produced responsibly and use their own recipes to craft them into award-winning meats. Their inspiration came from living for over three years in Parma, Italy, where they witnessed high quality ingredients being made into fine local cured meats.
“Great food is made with the highest quality materials, careful adherence to the best of tradition, and the judicious use of modern tools.... Our ambition to create our own prosciutto came from our desire to take the bounty that surrounds us in Iowa to its highest expression. We seek to contribute to the growth of premium artisan-made American foods by offering unique dry cured meats of the finest quality.” Read details of the meat curing process on their website.
La Quercia means “the oak” in Italian. In addition to being a traditional symbol of the province of Parma, it is the state tree of Iowa and is associated with the production of dry cured ham through its acorns, much loved by pigs. The name unites Iowa, Parma, and prosciutto.
Sustainability is a priority at La Quercia. Their pork comes from sustainable producers and is mostly raised and slaughtered within 200 miles of their facility. By the time it is shipped, they’ve removed most of the water (and weight). They use organic spices whenever possible and source from Oregon Spice Company, which has rigorous controls to ensure the purity and integrity of their spices, and they use sea salt from the United States. They built their first facility, Prosciuttificio La Quercia, with energy efficient materials and the "greenest" refrigerant. The new curing space added in 2009 includes high density, non-ozone-depleting polyurethane foam and heat recovery from the refrigeration compressors, and they’ve installed high efficiency fluorescent lighting and on-demand hot water heaters. Their landscaping uses low maintenance prairie grasses, native flowers, and oak trees. Their packaging involves several measures to reduce waste and emissions.
At La Quercia, sustainability includes taking care of people, both employees and suppliers. They deal with farmers independent of pork commodity prices, using a “fair-trade” system to ensure that the farmers can stay in business. They also visit the farmers who raise their pigs and set standards to ensure the welfare of the animals. Pigs must have access to the outdoors, room to move around, and deep bedding to root in; they cannot receive non-therapeutic antibiotics, ionophores, hormones, or synthetic hormones and cannot be fed animal byproducts. La Quercia uses no pigs from CAFOs (large animal confinement facilities). They work with small suppliers like B&B Farm (who feed their hogs a diet of at least 60% acorns for three months, in addition to wild forage and high-quality grains), Becker Lane (a sixth generation farm that is certified organic), Eden Farms (a coalition of family farms that raise purebred Berkshire pigs), and Heritage Acres. They buy heritage-breed Tamworth pork from the Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative, including the Acorn Tamworth hogs that spend their last months foraging in a fruiting oak and hickory forest. They also buy from Niman Ranch and The Organic Prairie Cooperative. See photos of the farms on their website.
“Great food is more than great taste. It is healthful, nutritious, and pleasurable. Great food satisfies the senses and the body, the emotions and the mind. It is part of a responsible food system that sustains you, the producers, and the craftspeople, restaurants, and stores who support their communities and respect the environment.”
Look for La Quercia prosciutto, pancetta, speck, and Borsellino salami (reg, smoky, and spicy) in packages in the Specialty Department. We also carry pancetta in bulk at the cheese counter. (Ask our cheese monger to slice some for you!) Visit La Querica online at laquercia.us and read more about the annual Ham Independence Week (Celebrating Life, Liberty and the Prosciutto of Happiness) at hamindependence.com.