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Quick – name a made-in-Detroit food company that prominently features pig meat. Kowalski’s, right? Or maybe Oinkers, Inc., which has three plants in the Eastern Market area.

Oinkers’ "president and head hog" Miles Handy says his top selling item is pig ears. They’re slowly smoked and dehydrated to provide a tough, tan product that retains its original shape – a pig’s ear.

When Handy first tried them on his vice-president for R&D, Heide, "She went hog wild," he says. Heide’s a beagle.

She’s also fond of OinkeRolls, which Handy calls "liverwurst for dogs." These include beef, beef heart, liver and whole wheat. He recommends his LambRoll for dogs with allergies to beef or chicken. (Handy says that one in 10 dogs has a food allergy, by the way. Symptoms are itching, dry skin and hot spots. And you thought it was about fleas.)

You can get sliced versions of the OinkeRolls, too, called OinkerPucks.

And since nobody seems to have a friendly corner butcher anymore, you can buy OinkerBones by the box.

Handy also sells buffalo tongue jerky made from, yes, buffalo tongue; Moo Toes (beef-basted cow hooves); Moo Tails; Moo Ears; Super Snoots (pig noses, from the looks of them); and Porky Puffs, made from pork skins.

Cats can try "Oinkers under the Sea," which are freeze-dried shrimp.

Would it be fair to say that Oinkers, Inc. uses the parts of the animal that humans don’t want? Handy pauses.

"You could say we’re in the recycling business," he admits.

Some of the products sound people-oriented: Ears flavored with mint, vanilla, nacho cheese or pizza. Handy has sampled his own wares but doesn’t really recommend people eat them: "You start barking at mailmen and chasing cars. You have to watch out around fire hydrants."

I asked three neighborhood canines to taste Oinkers products. Two out of three preferred the softer, more processed foods.

Lucy, a generic and lovely brown 3-year-old, liked a doggie frank resembling a Slim Jim, but turned up her nose at a crunchy heart. Scruffy, another generic, sniffed and licked the "elephant ear" (I’m presuming the name refers to size, not origin), but wasn’t interested enough to take a bite. He scarfed the frank and a turkey roll, which, Handy says, is "nutritionally complete – not just a treat." Edie, older, at 7-1/2, and perhaps wiser, went after both heart and ear with gusto.

Her person, Lori Stark, got Edie to let go of the ear only by offering her a sausage roll.

"Edie’s not a good test subject," Stark says. "The only things she doesn’t like are spinach and citrus fruit."

Stark warns that Oinkers’ body parts are best eaten outside, as their smoky coating tends to rub off. They’re sold at Pet Supplies Plus and other pet shops nationwide– Jane Slaughter


On April 19, all Buddy’s Pizza locations will host their 23rd annual benefit for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. All-you-can-eat pizza and salad is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 10, and $8 for seniors (62 and up). Call 313-579-2100. … Hudson’s stores in the metro area will host an International Cooking Festival during their Focus on Home weekend, April 15-18. Check out Greek, Moroccan and Hawaiian cooking classes. To register, visit any Hudson’s Marketplace.

About The Author

Jane Slaughter

When she's not reviewing restaurants, Jane Slaughter also writes about labor affairs, having co-founding the labor magazine Labor Notes. Her writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Monthly Review, and In These Times.
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