CINCINNATI’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH PIGS
Walk down almost any street in Cincinnati and you’re likely to spot swine: a decorated pig sculpture outside an establishment, a colorful pig mural on the side of a building, or a flying pig perched high atop a pole near Sawyer Point. So, what is it with Cincinnati and pigs? History. Lots of history. Cincinnati was once the pork-packing capital of the nation. Pork Production
Dubbed “Porkopolis,” pork production in Cincinnati was big business. In the 1840 – ‘60’s, hogs ran the streets of downtown as they were herded into one of the 48 pork-packing warehouses located there at the time. Situated on the Ohio River, Cincinnati was an ideal spot for manufacturing. To the west, the river stretched to the Mississippi. To the east, the Ohio River flowed from Pittsburgh. And with all the farmland around, there were plenty of farmers who corralled their hogs through the streets of town. Procter & Gamble capitalized on that. They salvaged the fats and oils from the animals to make candles and soaps. Before long, Cincinnati became an industrious city known as Porkopolis.
The biggest name in pork at the time was Kahn’s. Elias Kahn opened a butcher shop in 1882 next to the Union Stockyards. Kahn’s slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant grew to 1,000 livestock pens and employed as many as 1,000 union workers in its 20th-century heyday. Their rise to fame was the “wiener that the world awaited,” and was the official hot dog of the Cincinnati Reds. Kahn’s was acquired by Sara Lee in the 1990’s and the Cincinnati plant closed. Though Kahn’s wieners still exist, they are manufactured by Tyson and lost their tie to Cincinnati.
Chicago surpassed Porkopolis as the nation’s No. 1 pork-packing city in 1862. Cincinnati shifted to other industries, and the meat business slowly declined, until the Cincinnati Stockyards closed in 1980.
The Big Pig Gig
The streets of Cincinnati are crowded with people now, but the pork industry and Cincinnati’s relationship with pigs continues.
Wander the streets of downtown or Over-the-Rhine and you’ll probably come across one of the whimsical pig statues that dot the city. Check out Hamlet at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Theater on Elm Street. Or Queen Porktunia in the office of the CVB on Vine Street. These pigs were part of a 2000 community arts initiative called the Big Pig Gig. Local artists, businesses, community and arts organization came together to decorate and display pig sculptures around the city. As a result, over 400 fiberglass pigs were displayed in the former “Porkopolis.” Those pieces of artwork were auctioned off, but if you look close, you may still spot a few around town. Here are a few favorites from the Porkfolio.
The Flying Pig Marathon
Marathon runners love Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon. The course winds through hilly neighborhoods and downtown Cincinnati before coming to the Finish Swine where two Flying Pig ambassadors congratulate the winners. The race draws close to 40,000 participants in a weekend full of racing events which even includes a Diaper Dash (15ft crawl) for babies in the Flying Piglet and a 1-mile Flying Fur race for dogs! The event is just as much fun for spectators as runners– but then, I’m not a runner. I’ll run a marathon when pigs fly.
If you’re in Cincinnati, you’ve gotta get some goetta! Goetta is a Cincinnati favorite. The dish was inspired by German immigrants who settled in the area and added grain to a mixture of ground pork to help stretch their supply. It is sausage mixed with steel-cut oats, usually cut into slices and fried. Cincinnatians love goetta so much that they celebrate with a Goettafest two weekends in a row! Our favorite spot for goetta is Eckerlin’s Butcher Shop in Over the Rhine. This German butcher shop near Findlay Market has been here the longest and makes the best goetta in town!
Riverside Food Tours
If your mouth is watering for a taste of goetta and other Cincinnati faves, join us on a Riverside Food Tour. Goetta is on the menu on: the Cincy Top 10 Sites and Bites morning tour, the Sunday Findlay Market Brunch Tour and the Saturday Cincy Brunch and Streetcar Tour.
Hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Cincinnati’s love of pigs. Once you start poking around, you’ll find enough swine in the city to feel like you’re in hog heaven! Come experience “Porkopolis” with Riverside Food Tours and pig out on all the foods and history our city has to offer!
Written by Juliann Wetz #browsingtheatlas
Riverside Food Tours Guide