By far, my favorite homesteading venture has been the raising of hogs! No matter where you raise your homestead pigs, on pasture, in the woods, or in a clean pen, the quality of homegrown versus store bought one is unsurpassable. Until you eat real pork- meaty, reddish-pink pork, you don’t realize how artificial conventional ham and bacon taste! But which pig breed will get you the best ham & bacon?
One year, we purchased our pigs from two different sources. Because by the time we found the first one, he had only one left for us at that time, Big Pig. (Here’s a tip- if you plan to raise your own hogs this year, NOW is the time to start shopping for a breeder. They really go like hotcakes. We had a hard time finding them the first two years.) After much searching, we found a source for our second hog. And what we got was a much smaller pig for DOUBLE the price, Little Pig.
Original, I know.
Her breeder told us that he was selectively breeding for leanness, and the difference was noticeable as the two girls grew up. The older one certainly had a jiggle to her when she ran, whereas the younger looked as though she was working out.
Choosing a Pig Breed: Meat-Type or Lard Type
From: Back To Basics: A Complete Guide To Traditional Skills
Big Pig on left… Little Pig on Right
The difference turned out to be more than visual. When it came time to eating, there was a very discernible difference between the flavor of Big Pig’s and Little Pig’s bacon. And let’s face it, the best reason to raise a hog is for the love of bacon!
Big Pig produced bacon that was meaty, yet with an ample amount of fat to crisp and flavor the meat. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it! While Little Pig had virtually no fat and the results were a product that was chewy and tasted like ham. I would liken it to Canadian Bacon, only thinner.
The fat is where the flavor’s at!
What I’ve come to learn is that American pork production for commercial and show purposes is leaning increasingly towards lean to provide us with an alternative to chicken for our low-fat diets, since we don’t realize how important saturated fats are to our health. And there are several different types of hogs out there.
So while shopping for your partners in Homestead Waste Management (feeder pigs) this year, it might be helpful to know which pig breed would suit your needs so you’re not disappointed with your final results this winter.
Some questions you should ask yourself are:
- Do you not care about having lean cuts of meat?
- Do you prefer having more bacon over ham?
- Will you be using a lot of lard?
- Do you want juicier, more flavorful meat?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re going to want to find yourself a lard-type of pig!
Identifying Meat-Type vs. Lard-Type
From: A Field Guide To Pigs
Most likely, the pig breed you choose will be limited to one of the two types on the right of this chart. So let’s look at the difference between “Fat-Type” and “Meat-Type” hogs:
Meat Type on Left… Fat Type on Right.
And while we’re on the subject, I found it to be interesting how the specific breeds have changed over the years.
Take a look at the difference between pig breeds from before and pig breeds now:
I see the least difference in the Tamworth. If I were interested in raising heritage pork, I would definitely give Tamworth a try first. We know that Large Black Hogs and Gloucestershire Old Spots also produce a respectable amount of lard. The fattiest pig we’ve ever had was an LBH x GOS. By keeping good homesteading records we know that our yields on leaf lard off of those gals were more than ALL of the lard of any other breed we’ve tried. Hands down, that was the best pork we’ve ever raised. So long as we are able to get that cross we will raise them from now on.
Of course, if you’re not a bacon person, it would stand to reason that fatty hogs wouldn’t be the best choice for your homestead. You’ll probably have an easier time finding your feeder pig source. Thankfully, for those of us who want the fat-type hog, the slow food movement is making them easier to find.
It’s time to weigh in! Which do you prefer, ham or bacon? Or perhaps you’re all about the sausage?