When Broken Arrow Ranch founder Mike Hughes was working with USDA meat inspectors in the 1980s to hammer out a process for inspecting wild hog, he was asked how he could prove that the animals were free-roaming and not simply domesticated pigs he was passing off as wild. He fired off a proposition: If an inspector was willing to walk into a pen with his trapped wild hogs and stay there for at least two minutes, he wouldn’t call them wild. That letter wound up framed and hung in the USDA offices in Washington, D.C. And Hughes’s Ingram, Texas–based operation is now one of the nation’s largest purveyors of wild game, selling wild hog and sustainably harvested deer and antelope to chefs around the country and a growing number of home cooks.
Broken Arrow Ranch sells about 55,000 pounds of wild-hog meat each year, taken from 1,100 to 1,500 animals. The animals are trapped on Texas ranches and transported to a slaughterhouse near the company’s headquarters. Butchering is then done at Broken Arrow, where the meat is frozen and held at 10°F for at least twenty days before it’s sold. “There’s absolutely a growing interest in wild-boar meat,” says the ranch’s second-generation owner, Chris Hughes. “And let’s be honest, there are a lot of wild boar out there that need to be eaten.” While ground boar meat is Broken Arrow’s best seller, Hughes is particularly fond of the shoulder roast. “Put some wild-boar sausage in there,” he says, “and roast it with fennel and green onion and aromatics. I have to say: It’s pretty darn good.”