Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, web site, 2603 Hwy. 411, Madisonville,TN 37354, 423-442-5003 [Wikipedia | Yelp | Thyme For Food | Kate Sonders | Knoxville News Sentinel | NYT | Southern Foods Connection]
It’s equal to the best I’ve had, including what I’ve sampled in Spain. (I’ve also had especially fine ham in Slovenia.) You can read about it and order it here. It ships without incident or loss of value. It’s what David Chang uses in Momofuku and its affiliated restaurants, by the way. It’s not even very expensive.
Speaking of animal products, a few of you asked me a while ago how the eating of animals could possibly be morally justified. My primary objection is to how we treat animals while they are alive, especially in factory farms. The very rise and continuing existence of humanity is based on the widespread slaughter and extinction of other large mammals, not to mention other animals as well. I’m not saying we should feel entirely comfortable with that, but rather a “non-aggression” stance toward other animals simply isn’t possible, short of repudiating all of human civilization, even in its more primitive versions. Everyone favors the murder of animals for human purposes, although different people draw the lines at different places. I don’t know of any good foundationalist approach to these issues, but at the very least we should be nicer to non-human animals at the margin and less willing to torture them.
At the policy level we should tax meat more heavily and regulate farms more strictly, for both environmental reasons and reasons of animal welfare. I draw a line at where the life of the animal is “not worth living,” but for me animal slaughter is not immoral per se.
There are a few things you can do personally, including:
1. Buy less from factory farms.
2. Eat better meat and in turn eat less meat, substituting quality for quantity. This is a common demographic pattern, so it shouldn’t be too hard to mimic.
If you are a vegetarian, I think that is excellent. If you’re not, Benton’s is a step toward both #1 and #2.
March 29, 2012: See “Benton’s Smokey Mountain Country Hams” on kottke