17 Pastured Pig Breeds To Raise For Flavorful Pork (2022)

17 Pastured Pig Breeds To Raise For Flavorful Pork (1)

by Sue WeaverSeptember 7, 2016

PHOTO: Pete Birkinshaw/Flickr

(Video) 2017 Pasture Raised PORK CHOP Taste Test - Mangalitsa, Tamworth, Red Wattle, Old Spot / Berkshire

When was the last time you sank your teeth into a real pork chop? Not a dry, tasteless chop from the supermarket but a succulent, rich chop from a heritage pig, pink-fleshed and juicy with a nice lacing of fat along the edge. That’s the type of meat hog farmers produced before factory-farmed pork pushed old-fashioned breeds to the brink of extinction. Now many of those breeds are back, and with them comes the flavor of luscious country pork.

Today’s consumers pay top dollar for humanely raised, flavorful pork. If you’d like to raise pork for today’s niche markets, look to heritage breeds to deliver the goods. The Livestock Conservancy has yet to define “heritage pork.” Some say it’s meat from historic breeds; others insist that only Conservancy-listed breeds produce heritage pork. For the purposes of this article, it’s pork from breeds developed before 1900.

Flavorful Foundations

It often comes as a surprise to consumers accustomed to supermarket meat that pork from old-time breeds isn’t uniform in appearance and flavor. Nicely marbled pink pork from Gloucestershire Old Spots tastes sweet and nutty; darker-hued Ossabaw Island pork has a robust, spicy flavor; and Berkshire pork has a subtly smoky, sweet taste. Before choosing a breed to raise for market, sample several cuts from the breeds that interest you. Contact breed associations to locate producers in your area who have USDA-inspected pork for sale. If you can’t find pork to sample locally, search for heritage-pork producers online. Many ship throughout the United States.

Also factor your location and facilities into the equation. White pigs sunburn and require additional shade in sunny, sizzling climates. Some states consider breeds like the critically endangered Ossabaw Island Hogs and Choctaw pigs feral swine and do not permit breeding and raising them in those states. Easygoing, flop-eared breeds, like Large Blacks and Gloucestershire Old Spots, are more easily handled and require less elaborateÂfencing and handling facilities than ultra-active breeds, such as Tamworths and Durocs. Long-snouted breeds, such as Tamworths and Ossabaw Island Hogs, are more aggressive rooters, causing more damage to pastures than short-snouted breeds, like Poland Chinas and Yorkshire; however, it also means they’re often better foragers, especially in woodland areas.

Consider consumers’ preferences. Some prefer the ultra-succulent, fatty flesh of old-style lard hogs, like Mulefoots, Guinea Hogs and Mangalitsas. Others choose leaner pork, such as that of Poland Chinas, Durocs and Tamworths. Chefs often pay premium prices for heritage pork from favorite breeds, so if you plan to market to restaurants and institutions, include them in your decision making.

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Another important consideration is your approximation to a proper processing plant. If you intend to sell live porkers from your farm or pigs delivered to the buyer’s choice of processing plants, access to local, custom-processing facilities and state-inspected slaughterhouses is sufficient. If you plan to market finished cuts of meat, your pigs must be processed at a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse. Not all USDA slaughterhouses accept swine from small-scale producers, so make sure your local one does before you commit to producing pork.


Consumers who pay top dollar for heritage pork expect it to be raised in humane surroundings. This generally means grassy pastures, mud wallows and acorn scrounging in the woods—not closed confinement. These are all considerations to account for before you purchase stock.
Finally, seek out heritage-pork producers in your area and pick their brains. Find them online or ask your local cooperative extension agent or veterinarian who’s raising niche-market pork where you live.

The Breed You Need

Breeds on the The Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List include the critically endangered Choctaw, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Guinea Hog, Large Black, Mulefoot, Ossabaw Island Hog and Red Wattle, along with the threatened Tamworth. Other old but more common breeds include Berkshires, Chester Whites, Durocs, Hampshires, Poland Chinas, Spotted (formerly Spotted Poland Chinas) and Yorkshires. Two old, established breeds that are new to the American scene are New Zealand’s diminutive but meaty Kunekune and the woolly coated Hungarian Mangalitsa.

1. Berkshire

Berkshire hogs originated in the Berkshire area of England some 200 years ago, where they were fattened on waste products from London’s dairies, breweries and distilleries. The American Berkshire Association, formed in 1875, was the first swine registry established in the world. The Berkshire is a medium to large hog that’s black with a white snout and boots and a splash of white on the tip of its tail. It’s a nicely proportioned pig with small, upright ears and a short, dished face. Berkshires are hardy, fast-maturing, good-natured pigs and famous for their nicely marbled, succulent and flavorful pink meat. It’s especially popular with Japanese chefs who call it kurobuta (black pig meat).

2. Chester White

Breeders in Chester County, Pa., developed Chester Whites in the early 1800s and formed their first breed association in 1884. Chester Whites are large, white pigs with semi-floppy ears and slightly dished faces. They have long bodies and extra-large hams. They’re known for hardiness, fast maturity, easygoing dispositions and lean but nicely marbled pork. Chester Whites have thick coats, a trait that helps them perform well in pasture-based situations.

3. Choctaw

The Choctaw is a nearly extinct lard hog descending from swine brought to America by early Spanish explorers. Only about 100 remain, which means Choctaws aren’t readily available to pork producers at this time. The Livestock Conservancy hopes to restore breeding numbers to a stable level and make the breed available to producers within two to three years.

4. Duroc

Swine breeders in New York and New Jersey developed big, red Duroc hogs during the early 1800s. The breed was widely exported throughout the world and is a major contributor to modern hog operations throughout North America due to its fast maturity and ultra-efficient conversion of feed to meat. While mainly known as a commercial hog, this hardy, old breed produces flavorful, lean but well-marbled meat.

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5. Gloucestershire Old Spots

A large, predominately white pig with a few black spots, the Gloucestershire Old Spots has huge lopped ears that droop over its face and a long, slightly arched back. It hails from Gloucestershire, England, where it was once known as the Orchard Pig and was raised on windfall apples. Old Spots are hardy, sweet-natured hogs and outstanding foragers. They produce sweet-tasting, well-marbled, exceptionally flavorful pork, including large hams. This breed is still being raised by the British royal family today.

6. Guinea Hog

The Guinea Hog is a compact, hairy, black or occasionally red pig with upright ears and a curly tail. It was a fixture on homesteads in the American Southeast for more than 200 years. A landrace breed selected over a long period of time for conditions in the South, its type and size vary greatly. Typical adults weigh 150 to 250 pounds and can have long or short snouts and erect or semi-lopped ears. As a lard breed, Guinea Hogs tend to pack on too much fat when raised in semi-confinement, but they’re hardy and peerless foragers, making them ideal heritage pastured-pork producers. Their pork is so delicious that it’s listed on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, a catalog of more than 200 foods in danger of extinction.

7. Hampshire

Kentucky breeders developed Hampshire hogs, originally called Thin Rinds, during the early 1800s. Hampshires are medium to large, black pigs with a white belt encompassing their front legs. They’re long, lean swine with erect ears, a slightly dished face and a straight to slightly arched back. Hampshires are known for their docility, hardiness, speedy growth and outstanding feed-to-meat conversion rates. Hampshire pork is lean and mild with very little back fat.

8. Kunekune

Most people consider Kunekunes pets, but the breed is a first-class porker. Introduced to New Zealand in the early 1800s by whalers and traders, the Maori raised this diminutive pig for meat. Its name, in fact, means “fat and round.” Kunekunes come in a range of colors and have short legs and semi-lopped or erect ears. Due to their short snouts, they tend to root less. Kunekunes are hardy, easygoing and excellent foragers. Their meat is nicely marbled, tasty and succulent.

9. Large Black

Large Blacks were a fixture in the English counties of Devonshire and Cornwall by the early 1800s. This is a large, long-bodied black pig with gray skin, a medium-long snout and huge lopped ears that cover its face. Large Blacks are hardy pigs with even temperaments. They’re peerless foragers and famed as efficient converters of feed into exceptionally tasty, nicely marbled pork.

10. Mangalitsa

Hungarian farmers developed the Mangalitsa lard pig during the 19th century. Mangalitsa lard, bacon and salami quickly became prized commodities throughout Europe. It remained Hungary’s most popular breed well into the 1950s. The Mangalitsa is a woolly coated, robust, slow-growing hog with short legs, floppy ears and a short, upturned snout. Chefs at high-end restaurants sing the praises of the Mangalitsa’s dark, sweet, juicy pork.

11. Mulefoot

While the origin of Mulefoot hogs is uncertain, it was well-established in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and the Ozark region when the National Mulefoot Hog Record Association formed in 1908. By 1910, there were 235 breeders registered in 22 states. Mulefoot hogs are medium-sized, black swine with distinctive fused hooves. Some have cylindrical, fleshy appendages called wattles dangling from their necks. Mulefoot hogs are lard pigs, so they fatten easily and produce such succulent, well-marbled, red pork that they’re listed on the Ark of Taste. They are hardy, docile and outstanding foragers.

12. Ossabaw Island Hog

Ossabaw Island Hogs descend from swine that Spanish explorers left on Ossabaw Island almost 400 years ago. No additional genetics have been added over the years, so they’re as feral-looking as a recognized breed can be. Adults tip the scale between 100 to 250 pounds, and they carry an unusual “thrifty gene” that enables them to pack on weight when food is plentiful and live off stored fat when it isn’t. Ossabaw Island Hogs are hardy and adept foragers that are easy to bring to slaughter weight on a mainly pasture diet. Their red, spicy pork is a favorite of gourmet chefs, also earning them a place on the Ark of Taste.

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13. Poland China

Hog farmers in Ohio’s Butler and Warren Counties developed Poland Chinas in the 1880s. Like Berkshires, Poland Chinas are black with white snouts, boots and tips on their tails. They’re long, lean pigs with large jowls; short, upturned snouts; and semi-lopped ears that turn toward the eyes. They’re fast-maturing, hardy, rugged and docile, and their pork is nicely marbled but lean.

14. Red Wattle

The Red Wattle’s origin is unclear, but this breed does trace its ancestry to several batches of large, red hogs with wattles that were captured from the wild in areas of East Texas. They’re large hogs, so they require more room to house than smaller heritage breeds. They are, however, fast-maturing, easygoing pigs and hardy, highly efficient foragers. Red Wattle pork is fine-textured, luscious and lean, earning this pig a spot on the Ark of Taste.

15. Spotted

During the 1880s, Hoosier hog farmers crossed local landrace hogs with Poland China swine from Ohio, adding a few Gloucestershire Old Spots to the mix in the early 1900s, thus creating a black-and-white-spotted breed called the Spotted Poland China. In 1960, the National Spotted Swine Record dropped “Poland China” from the name. Spotted hogs are large, fast-maturing, easygoing pigs that produce lean, tasty pork on less feed than most other breeds.

16. Tamworth

The Tamworth hog descended from a type already well-established in the British Middle Ages, a time when there were yet to be established breeds. It’s named for the village of Tamworth in Staffordshire and came to Canada in 1877 and the U.S. in 1882. They’re medium to large, narrow-bodied red hogs with long legs and bodies, upright ears and a long, straight snout. They’re active, intelligent pigs that don’t take well to confinement but are excellent foragers and rooters that do exceptionally well outdoors. They yield firm-textured, nicely marbled, lean pork.

17. Yorkshire

Its exact origin is unknown, but Yorkshires were well established in Britain by the early 1800s, where they’re called Large Whites. Early breeders often raised these hogs to gargantuan proportions: A 4-year-old boar pictured in Two Hundred Years of British Farm Livestock (Stationery Office, 1996) was 9 feet 10 inches long, measured 8 feet around the body and weighed 1,334 pounds. Yorkshires are big, muscular, fine-boned pigs with soft, fine hair, a dished face and small, upright ears. Yorkshires have very little back fat and produce prodigious quantities of lean pork.

Today’s consumers prefer old-fashioned flavored pork from pigs raised in a healthy, humane manner. If you can provide it, the market is there. But do your homework before embarking on a heritage pork venture to make certain it’s right for you.

This article originally ran in the September/October 2013 issue of Hobby Farms.

FAQs

17 Pastured Pig Breeds To Raise For Flavorful Pork? ›

The Breed You Need
  • Berkshire. Berkshire hogs originated in the Berkshire area of England some 200 years ago, where they were fattened on waste products from London's dairies, breweries and distilleries. ...
  • Chester White. ...
  • Choctaw. ...
  • Duroc. ...
  • Gloucestershire Old Spots. ...
  • Guinea Hog. ...
  • Hampshire. ...
  • Kunekune.
Sep 7, 2016

What breed of pig has the best tasting meat? ›

Duroc. The Duroc is an older breed of American domestic pig that has become one of the most popular breeds because of its great taste and strong, favorable genetics, but pure Duroc is very hard to find. Duroc meat is crisp and clean — known for great marbling, excellent spareribs and juicy shoulder roasts.

What is the best pasture for pigs? ›

Alfalfa, ladino, sweet clover, red clover and lespedeza are legumes that may be used for swine pasture. Alfalfa and ladino are probably the best of the group and where possible should furnish the basis of any perennial forage mixture for swine.

What breed of pig does not root? ›

They have short, upturned snouts that discourage rooting, and they do not challenge fences. Kunekunes are grazing pigs and are able to grow on low inputs, making them an ideal breed during periods of escalating grain prices. Gourmet chefs in Los Angeles have declared Kunekune pork outstanding.

Is Duroc pork better than Berkshire? ›

Berkshire accumulated more subcutaneous and abdominal fat and had small loin eye muscle area, but accumulated less intramuscular fat than Duroc. There were no differences in meat colour and tenderness between the two purebreds. But Berkshire was less than Duroc in drip loss.

Do KuneKune pigs taste good? ›

The Kunekune is a versatile, unique breed. The quality of meat is excellent and their friendly, easy going nature make them a pleasure to rear. They are economical to feed and very hardy.

Are Duroc pigs good for meat? ›

Duroc pigs also possess a significant amount of lean muscle and when they are slaughtered the carcasses yield a high amount of usable flesh. Hog farmers favor Duroc pigs because the breed consistently yields plenty of high quality meat.

What is the easiest pig to raise? ›

Red wattle pigs are one of the best choices for the novice breeder since they are extremely fertile, typically produce litters of 10-15 piglets, have a docile temperament, and make excellent mothers.

What do you feed pastured pigs? ›

Pigs do best on pastures that are high in protein. This means having a good mixture of grass and legumes. Past research has been done mostly on grazing alfalfa. If you have the right field and conditions, this might be your best option.

How much feed do pastured pigs need? ›

How much should I feed? Overall: As a general rule of thumb, 1 pound of feed per pig per day for every month of age works well for fattening pigs, with a maximum of 5-6 pounds depending on how well the pig has grown.

How many acres do you need to raise pigs? ›

In “The Homestead Hog” it states that 25-35 pigs per acre is a good rule of thumb. I use the lower figure of 25 per acre just to be safe and give them a lot of room to root. This means that you can put 8-9 pigs on a ¼ acre. A single pig can be raised in a lot as small as 34′ x 34′.

What is the friendliest pig? ›

Popular pig breeds that are kept as pets include the pot-bellied pig, miniature pig, and the kune kune pig. Pigs as pets are cute, lovable, and have a friendly nature. Popular pig breeds that are kept as pets include the pot-bellied pig, miniature pig, and the kune kune pig.

Are KuneKune pigs good meat? ›

They are excellent grazers and pasture managers in places like orchards and vineyards. They also make excellent quality meat. As a heritage breed, the KuneKune meat is RED and deeply marbled, almost like fine steak. They also produce fine lard which can be used in cooking, baking and soap making.

What makes pigs gain weight fast? ›

As an energy source, choose a grain mix of barley, wheat, sorghum and corn for your pig's diet. At least half the mix should be number two yellow corn. Though low in protein, it is considered a primary energy source in pig diets. It is also one of the most economical feedstuffs available for swine production.

What are pink pigs called? ›

The American Landrace Pig

When one sees a "pink pig," the American Landrace is what they are referring to. These animals are domestic pigs that are medium to large and mature very quickly.

How many pounds of bacon do you get from a pig? ›

A whole hog will yield about 16 lbs of bacon. You can slice it and fry it fresh as a pork belly or you can have it smoked and cured to make bacon.

What pigs have red meat? ›

Ossabaw. 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.

Do different breeds of pigs taste different? ›

The reason chefs are so excited about heritage pork is simple: the taste. Different breeds have different fat-to-lean ratios, different-sized cuts, and even distinctive flavors that bring more bang to the table than industrial raised, bred-to-be-lean, and other-white-meat pork.

Is Iberico better than Berkshire? ›

Is Iberico Worth It? Iberico Pork Chops vs Berkshire Pork - YouTube

How many pounds of meat can you get from a KuneKune pig? ›

At 18 months, our pigs yield about 80 pound of meat on average. We can pick them up without a tractor, transport them in a wheelbarrow, scald them in a bathtub, and handle the smaller amounts of meat quickly and cleanly with minimal refrigeration and infrastructure, if well-planned.

How much pasture do you need for KuneKune? ›

Kunekunes require 1/7 to 1/4 the amount of grain of standard pigs, but they do still need some grain in combination with their grazing to make sure their diet is complete. This is especially true of young (birth through one year), pregnant, and lactating pigs.

How much do KuneKune piglets sell for? ›

How much does a KuneKune pig cost? Cost of a KuneKune ranges from $800-$1,600, and an average litter is about eight piglets.

Why is Berkshire pork better? ›

They all say that Berkshire pork is genetically predisposed to producing the finest quality pork due to its shorter muscle fibers and lots of marbling, which contributes to both the flavor and the tenderness. They also say that the reason why Berkshire pork is so juicy and tender, is the lack of stress on the animal.

What is F1 pig breed? ›

F1 Gilts are a cross between Landrace and Yorkshire swine. This type of cross breeding gets the best of both worlds. They are considered to be a very sturdy breed, with excellent structure overall.

What are Berkshire pigs used for? ›

The Berkshire is medium-sized and predominantly black in colour, with white on its face, legs, and tip of tail. It has a short dished face with erect ears pointing slightly forward. The breed is used for fresh pork production in England, Japan, North and South America, and other areas worldwide.

How many pigs should I start with? ›

Starting with 2 or more pigs will definitely cost you more than starting with one pig. However, it is advisable to start with one boar and two sows (gilt). With three pigs, you can be able to monitor them and make sure they get enough nutrition and care. Once you get used to caring for them you can then add more pigs.

Are Hereford pigs good to eat? ›

A breed of pig developed 100-years-ago in the Midwest is still around, but not very common. The Hereford hog was created from the Duroc, Chester White, and Poland China bloodlines. Small farmers like raising Herefords because they're not temperamental, they fatten up quickly, and produce high-quality meat.

Is pasture raised pork better? ›

Pigs on pasture = better pork

They are exposed to sunshine and are able to forage, run, jump and root in the soil. This results in healthier animals … and more nutritious food for people as well.

How many times do you feed a pig a day? ›

Pigs are single-stomach animals and require two or three meals a day. Divide the food into two portions, feed the pigs half in the morning and the rest in the evening. Do not feed your pigs only once a day because once they had their fill they will only play with the rest of the food, stand in it and soil it.

Can pigs live on pasture alone? ›

Although they can eat grass, most pigs can't live on grass alone. Kunekune pigs are the only true grazing species, who can survive just by eating grass in the spring and summer, when it's most rich.

How many pigs can you have on 5 acres? ›

If the pigs are rotated through the pasture, you can keep 50 finishing/market size pigs on 5 acres, which is 10 pigs per acre, in a good forage production area. If you are not rotating the pigs, you can keep 15-20 finishing pigs on 5 acres, which is 3-4 per acre.

Is alfalfa good for pigs? ›

For a pig, hay is a low-calorie meal, and they benefit best from leafy hay with some protein in the mix—legumes such as clover and alfalfa are great for growing pigs, so seek out hay with plenty of extras for your herd.

What can pigs not eat? ›

It's ok to feed pigs uncontaminated fruits, vegetables, bread, grains, dairy, eggs, and vegetable oils. Do not feed pigs meat, fish, or their bones, oils, or juices, or ANY food that has touched these substances.

How much land do you need for 20 pigs? ›

If you are raising your pigs outdoors in a pasture-type setting, plan for at least 20 square feet per pig. Even though they are outdoors, you pigs will still need shelter from the weather. A three-sided shelter will give your pigs shade in the summer and help them keep dry in rain or snow.

How many pigs make a profit? ›

You need one pig that is sold for more than the cost to raise it, to make a profit. Most people raising pigs would want to have multiple pigs sold per year to get a specified income.

Is there money in raising pigs? ›

Yes, they sure are! Pigs in the U. S. can generate a profit of around $300- $400 per head, depending on the quality of the animal and if sold for breeding stock or meat. There is a good demand for the meat both in its natural form and when it has been processed.

Can dogs and pigs live together? ›

A Caution about Pigs and Dogs

It's best not to leave your dog and pig together unattended, even if they have become the best of pals. There [are] reported cases of dogs in the same household unexplainably attacking the family pig. The dog could permanently damage the pig or even kill them.

Can pigs and goats live together? ›

Can goats and pigs live together? Goats and pigs can live together, but there are a lot of risks with very little benefits. These two animals don't always live in harmony. Pigs can be aggressive to goats and, in some cases, have been known to eat baby goats.

How much space do you need for 2 Kunekune pigs? ›

How much space a kune kune pig needs depends very much on your soil's grass-growing abilities. It is generally considered that you can keep 5-6 Kunekune pigs per acre.

Do KuneKune pigs taste good? ›

The Kunekune is a versatile, unique breed. The quality of meat is excellent and their friendly, easy going nature make them a pleasure to rear. They are economical to feed and very hardy.

Are Duroc pigs good for meat? ›

Duroc pigs also possess a significant amount of lean muscle and when they are slaughtered the carcasses yield a high amount of usable flesh. Hog farmers favor Duroc pigs because the breed consistently yields plenty of high quality meat.

Are KuneKune pigs good for meat? ›

They are excellent grazers and pasture managers in places like orchards and vineyards. They also make excellent quality meat. As a heritage breed, the KuneKune meat is RED and deeply marbled, almost like fine steak. They also produce fine lard which can be used in cooking, baking and soap making.

Is a potbelly pig good to eat? ›

Can You Eat Potbellied Pigs? Yes, you can eat Potbellied Pigs as they are pigs after all. Some people find them the tastiest of all pigs. Originated from Eastern countries, like China and Vietnam, potbelly pigs are bred differently than regular pigs.

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