Years ago, sheep, cows, chickens and pigs could be found in just about everyone’s back yard. These animals were multipurpose not only did they provide families with meat they were used to clear and fertilize the land balancing the eco-system. They were expected to forage for acorns and windfall fruit like apples. Traditionally hogs were released into fields after harvest to eat the leftovers. Pigs could also be seen eating brewery and dairy waste. These smaller animals required less feed providing the average family with a diverse diet.
In general, heritage breeds are smaller than today’s animals and grow slower. Due to the time, additional land needed and diet they are more expensive to raise but worth every penny. Therefore, they are not suited for today’s commercial farming practices. Commercial farmers want fast growing large lean animals that can be raised in captivity. Because of this heritage breeds are in danger of being lost forever. You can help save these animals from extinction by choosing them for your dinner table.
Heritage pork should be cooked the old fashion way low and slow. They don’t require a lot of spices and sauces to make them flavorful. Eating heritage pork is a memorable experience. It has a distinct favor that is not found in commercially raised pigs. Farmers who raise heritage hogs raise them like their forefathers did on fruits, nuts, grass, dairy and brewery grains. Whereas, commercial hogs are fed grain only diets.
You maybe wondering if you can tell how a pig is raised or the breed it is by just tasting it. The answer is yes! You can tell the difference between heritage breeds and commercial breeds like Large Whites the meat has a more robust flavor, it is juicy and there is more meat to fat ratio in the bacon. When in fact, commercial meat has no flavor, is watery has thick fat on the outside and no marbling.
Is it healthy? Yes. Heritage pigs are raised without hormones and antibiotics because they are not raised commercially. Hormones are given to commercial pigs to make them grow faster. While antibiotics are used to keep commercial animals healthy in confinement. Yes, heritage breeds have more fat. But, it is where the fat is located its in the meat. This provides great marbling and tenderness. This means you don’t need to cook with more oil, butter.
Heritage and Endangered Breeds
American born and look like Hereford Cattle. They can tolerate a wide variety of climates and mature early. The breed was developed by John Schulte of Norway, Iowa in the 1920’s. Our pigs were imported from the Scutulte’s grandson. In the 1960’s commercial hog producers in the U.S. switched from purebred hogs to hybrid animals. It is estimated that only 2000 breeding animals remain making the Hereford Hog an endangered species.
Gloucestershire Old Spot
They are excellent foragers and nicknamed the “Orchard Pig” because they harvested windfall apples and the residue from cider presses. Legend has it the black spots are bruises from falling apples. Dual purpose pigs known for their pork and bacon.
In Great Britain these pigs were known for their bacon and ham. Berkshire pork is the most prized pork in Japan. This dark meat is known as Kurobuta and has been enjoyed for over 300 years. Berkshire meat is well marbled, naturally juicy and tender.
They were known as Irish Grazers. Are known to forage for grubs, roots and berries. They love to turn the soil and prepare the ground for seeding making them old fashioned rototillers. They do well in woodland based paddocks. They are a dual purpose pig known for their bacon.