This should be one of the first questions that you should consider when you think about raising pigs on your homestead. There are many different breeds of pigs and researching a specific breed based on meat type is probably one of the most important. You are going to spend time and effort to raise your own and I’d be pretty disappointed if my meat quality wasn’t to my liking at the end of my adventure. Don’t get wrong, I believe that anything you raise could taste better than store bought and I have said it before and I’ll say it again, homegrown bacon is probably the most delicious and rewarding things about raising your own. There is nothing like it, but I’m sure you will find this out soon enough!
I laugh at myself, because I am a 30ish year old female who stands about 5’2 and maybe pushing 120lbs… yes I am a pig farmer, but if I’m going to be a pig farmer- then I’m going to be the fanciest pig farmer that I can be! Truth is- I don’t look like a farm girl, but my husband and I understand the value of raising our own and exposing our children to this lifestyle. I’m sure as I continue to write articles you will see a glimpse into my farm life adventures and I’m not afraid to share what has worked for me or has been a total bust. Here is what has worked so far. We mainly raise two different breeds of pigs. I have a large growing herd of Mangalitsas and we also dabble in pure Berkshires. A pig is not just a pig when you are discussing meat quality and my two different breeds are completely different.
I am hands down in it for the flavor and juiciness. We want our pork to stand out and represent our ethical belief in proper care for our Livestock. I want to be proud of what I’m cooking and I want my family to value their food. They are very much aware of what it takes to raise our own. I think that is lost in the world today, but I’m getting a little off topic and will cover that on a later day. So let me tell you a little bit more about our breeds.
Remember when I mentioned that I consider myself a fancy pig farmer? Well, here is why I consider myself that- The Mangalitsas! The Mangalitsa provides the most amazing meat quality for a person who is a huge fan of marbled, flavorful, rich red meat! The meat is compared to Kobe beef but it the pork mindset. The Mangalitsa is pretty unique and highly desired among the culinary world. So, if I’m going to go out and feed my pigs in the rain, snow, heat, freezing cold, and the nasty of days… I want to be damn well sure I’m doing it for a good reason. Now, I’m not trying to say that other breeds are not to the standards of the Mangalitsa, I just prefer them and understand if you feel differently.
The other breed that we raise is very popular among the heritage breeds. Berkshires provide a bright pink sweet meat that is often described as having a nutty taste to it. I have intentions to cross my Mangalitsa Boar with my Berkshire Sow to create a good combination of lard and savory red meat. The Mangalitsas do take longer to finish, so combining the breeds will hopefully bring me flavorful meat that is ready to harvest at a faster rate then my pure Mangalitsa.
Now that you know where I stand on the meat dilemma; back to the question… do you prefer dark or light meat? I’ll start with brief descriptions of the common heritage breeds and describe them by their meat:
-The Large Black is a pig that produces moist pink meat. This breed is known for its wide shoulders and long body with short muscle fiber growth. The belly on this type of pig can grow quite large and is awesome for bacon production.
-The Tamworth is a leaner breed of pig that produces a light meat. Tamworths are known for being the “Bacon Pig!”
-The Red Wattle is known for its rich taste and beef-like texture, but is also exceptionally lean all while retaining its juiciness.
-The Hereford is a richer red meat breed that tends to have a nice marbled appearance and holds great flavor.
-The Ossabaw is a unique breed of pig that offers a dark red meat and is known for having the healthiest fat. This fat content and red meat combination make for the charcuterie.
-The Yorkshire is a breed that produces a very lean meat with little fat content.
-The Duroc is a breed that is known for having a higher moisture content and yields a nice dark pink appearance.
The Gloucestershire Old Spot is known for having a nice pink meat appearance that yields a dense meat with higher fat ratio which adds to the rich flavor.
Not all pork is the same and a pig is not just a pig. There are many questions that one must ask when deciding on the breed of pig to raise. Once you decide on what type of meat you like, you should consider other factors as: finishing growth rate and length, overall meat yield, availability of breed, aggressiveness, feed availability, and the environment that you will be raising your pigs in and if it is compatible with the breed you choose to raise.
I commend you for your decision to raise your own and I recommend you to research as much as you can, but start with the question of what quality of meat do you prefer! Happy homesteading my friends!
The Fancy Pig Farmer,