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Kent Wang

Pig breeds, pork quality

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Is Berkshire really the best? It certainly seems to be the most popular at the upper end of supermarket pork but the best pork that I've ever tasted, which I buy from the farmer's market, is definitely not Berkshire -- the guy I asked couldn't recall the name but knew it wasn't Berkshire.

Is breed all that important or is it more about the feed and the way it's raised?

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I don't have an answer to your question, but a couple of weeks ago I purchased some chops from a Lancaster Countyman (PA) of a Berkshire-Tamworth cross. Nicely marbled, moist and excellent flavor. (I did brine it for an hour before grilling.)


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Not a direct answer, per se, but the May 2006 issue of Harper's has a fascinating article about breeding and factory farming of pigs. Nothing mentioned about specific breeds of pig, but the process for most pork produced these days has certainly gotten pretty, well, not pretty. The postscript gives special note to Niman Ranch for getting back to basics (and, more importantly, back to flavor).

Great read, still on the newsstand I believe (and hence not currently available online).

Christopher

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My family, back in Kentucky, raise mostly Hampshire hogs and a few Herefords (they have white faces, like the cattle with the same name).

Locally, I have friends who also have raised some Hampshires. Unlike the commercial pigs, which are mostly a cross of several breeds to get a leaner animal, the purebred Hampies pack on plently of fat and lard. The meat is well-marbled and very tender and not near as dense as market pork.

Right away you notice the color of the meat is much redder than commercial pork. No "other white meat" on these hogs!


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Compared to something like supermarket pork, any animal that has led a decent life will probably be of infinitely better quality. Once you take rearing conditions as a given, the different breed attributes will start showing, but I imagine these are small relative to the difference between intensively/extensively reared pork.


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Any day now, I'm picking up half an organic whey-fed hog. I will find out the breed when I do. I will also promptly thaw a chop or something and report back. :)


--
Saara
Kitchen Manager/Baker/Dish Pit

The C Shop

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Being lucky enough to live near a rare-breed butcher, I've tried Middle white (splendid belly meat!), Gloucester Old Spot (tasty with glorious amounts of fat), Tamworth (also good, but not as fatty as GOS), a Tamworth-GOS crossbreed (very very good!), Berkshire (which I found as good as the rest, though maybe not with superlative amounts of creamy fat) and the Essex - which is again, very nice. I've also had the Large Black - which can be a bit off-putting looking if too many of the black hair follicles are left in the skin. It does looks bizarre (rather like the seeing where the spots were on a GOS pig!). First time I got a Large Black belly I did try and remove the black hairs at first ---- :rolleyes: That lasted all of three minutes or so! Then I just cooked it as it was!

However, I'm not sure if I could ever tell the difference if blindfolded between all the different types.

As andiesenji points out, the one recognizable thing is the deep colour of the meat. Much deeper than regular pork on the whole. The first time I cooked a Middle White joint, I kept on thinking it was underdone as it stayed pink!!!


<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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While thee may be subtle differences in flavor between the heritage breed, to me the most important aspect is that they are not bred specifically for leanness. As such they have more of that old-time "porkiness" translating to more flavor and increased succulence. To me that means a more satisfactory piece of meat. That they tend to be raised in much better conditions such as the pigs at Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, N.Y. is so much the better.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Here's some information on different heritage breeds in the US and some of their distinguishing characteristics.: Local Harvest Heritage Hogs

They list these breeds, some of which have already been mentioned above:

The Berkshire:

The Tamworth:

The Red Wattle

The Duroc:

The Gloucester Old Spot: a.k.a. The Iron Age Pig

The Yorkshire:

The Large Black

They list some of these as being in danger of extinction. At the same time, they mention that the way to encourage the raising and preservation of these pigs is to buy them for eating.

When I was gently haggling over the price of pork fat with my German butcher he explained that good pork fat is a 'premium' product for him to get a hold of. He needs it for making his sausages and the fact that pigs are generally leaner now does make his procurement of lard more difficult. He mentioned that for him, there is starting to be more pigs breeds available to him that are less lean, which he of course welcomes.

Does anyone know what the situation is in Europe re: pig breads? Do they also have a preponderance of new, leaner pigs now or do they have more of the older breeds?


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Does anyone know what the situation is in Europe re: pig breads?  Do they also have a preponderance of new, leaner pigs now or do they have more of the older breeds

Don't know the breeds, but our local pork here in SW France is excellent. The local pigs live outdoors with little sty's and a fair amount of roaming room. Several of our local butchers actually post a list of the local farms their meat comes from.

Some of our friends & neighbors still buy a pig annually & spend a whole weekend in the butchering and preserving of literally everything. Great fun & the sausages, pates and other ways of preservation are delicious.

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Lots of interesting information on this website for the British Pork Association (BPA): click

One tidbit I ran across is that they claim that Britain has the largest diversity in heritage pig stocks in the EU.

For people in Great Britain, there is also a section that allows you to search for purveyors of what they call "pedigree pork".


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Sorry for the flurry of posts, but I find this a very interesting topic.

I found this site from Heritage Foods which is described as a sales and marketing arm for Slow Food in the USA.

They sell "heritage pork" in the same way that they've recently been selling heritage turkeys at Thanksgiving. There is a good description for the characteristics of the pork resulting from the different breeds of pig.

You can order pork from this site as well. Prices are pretty steep.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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When I was a young lad my dad worked on pig breed selection. He is the one holding the clipboard, it was about 1954/5.

What the site has to say, may be of interest.

Clickety


Edited by naguere (log)

Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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When I was  a young lad my dad worked on pig breed selection. He is the one holding the clipboard, it was about 1954/5.

What the site has to say, may be of interest.

Clickety

Interesting that your Dad is in the photo and was involved in this very field. This link is also for the British Pig Association mentioned above.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Imagine! Here in a small town in Ontario, Canada, there is a pork purveyor at the Orillia Farmer's market who is raising Large Blacks. We are LOVING the roasts and chops so far. I have some bacon to try tomorrow.

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Everyone interested in eating tasty animals should know about The University of Oklahoma's Breeds of Livestock project. The link will take you right to the pigs page, and they cover several other major species of livestock. The data is not always as detailed as you might like, but it usually does a decent job of covering the basics from an animal husbandry point of view.

Preserving rare breeds of livestock is really important, not just because they often taste good, but because they help increase the genetic diversity of the species. That helps with things like disease resistance, drought resistance, finding animals who can live under less than ideal conditions...

Emily

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That is one of the reasons the Hampshire became so popular in Kentucky and southern Illinois. It was a hog that excelled at foraging and in fact, many of the wild boars have some Hampie characteristics such as erect ears and some also have white markings across their shoulders but of course have more hair.

http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/swine/hampshire/index.htm

The ones we had on the farm when I was a child were allowed to roam in an area that included wooded hills and in the fall were allowed into the orchards to clean up the windfall fruits and also into the pecan and walnut groves. They ate a lot of wild hickory nuts, wild berries and other plants and roots as well. However, they always knew when it was feeding time and would be lined up at the gate to get into the feed yard. I think my grandpa's farm was the first one in the area to have silos for storing chopped corn stalks, mixed with other plant material for supplemental feeding the hogs and cows.

There were other swine breeds on the farm but my grandfather didn't want any crossbreeds so they were kept apart. He imported three spotted hogs from England in 1948 and had imported others in the 1930s that I think were large and middle whites. The spotted hogs were very large also.

He got some Ozark hogs from a breeder in Arkansas about the time I started school, in 1944, and I recently learned, when I called one of my cousins who runs that part of the farm business, they are also called Mule-foot hogs because their hooves are solid instead of split. I remember it only because I got to go along in the truck pulling the horse van(trailer) and we detoured to the Army Air Corps base at Stuttgart to see one of my uncles who was a training officer. However before that the most exciting part for me was when the truck and trailer went onto a boat at Paducah and down the Ohio and then the Mississippi rivers. I had been on ferry boats back and forth across the Ohio to southern Illinois many times but had never seen the Mississippi.

My cousins (actually the children of the cousins with whom I grew up) are really into studying the characteristics, do DNA testing, all of which would have astounded my grandpa but he would have taken to it because with any of the animals, he felt that keeping exact records was the only way to produce a better animal. Ours did a lot of winning at fairs..


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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from the Lobel website: marketing hype or superior product?

"Kurobuta Pork: Chops, Ribs and Roasts

From the land that has given us Wagyu beef, we are proud to offer the most highly prized pork in all of Japan: Kurobuta pork from pure-bred Berkshire pigs.

Lobel’s Kurobuta Pork looks and tastes like no other pork.

Unlike commercial, or “white” pork, Kurobuta pork is visibly different in two important ways: The color of Kurobuta pork is darker and richer and the meat is well-marbled, a unique characteristic.

Kurobuta pork offers a unique taste experience, as well. Its texture is exquisite—supple, yet meaty. Its flavor is lush, distinctive and abundant. And the marbling yields unparalleled juiciness for pork … the meat glistens when you cut into it. "

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I've also seen mention of kurobuta here. From the Lobel marketing material, it sounds like they're using "kurobuta" to mean meat from Berkshire pigs of Japanese descent rather than American or native British stock. Since the Japanese market doesn't favor low fat meat the way the American and British markets can, these are probably "unimproved" Berkshires that are as fatty as the original stock was. So yes, it's hype, but it's probably at least a bit deserved.

(when the OK State article talks about "common hogs" they mean the pigs everybody grows. usually "landrace" is used to mean "the kind of animal that everybody grows". The US is sometimes very resistant to this terminology tho, because the stuff that everybody here has has to be worse than the stuff someone *else* has.)

Emily

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My teenagers raise showhogs (barrows and gilts) and show at the major shows and our county fair. The swine are shown by breeds which in any major show would include: Berkshire, Chester White, Crosses, Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace, Poland China, Spotted and Yorkshire.

The Crosses and Yorkshires are always the biggest classes and competition is very fierce!

I don’t think breed matters so much for taste, it is how the animal is raised. If a way the pig is raised is important to you, contact your local FFA or 4H and find out when the county fair is. Believe me, these are some pampered pigs! They are fed very specialized diets and excerise and comfort are also major parts of their care and raising.

All of the barrows are sent straight to market, and the winning pigs are put up for auction. Get a few friends together and go to the auction, have a good time, support the kids and have a freezer full of beautiful pork. We have bought several in the past, but never any of “our” pigs that have not made the cut. I can only eat anonymous pigs.

In Texas, the markets are flooded with pork after the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the price drops dramatically.

The only true “heirloom” type of swine I have seen here is on the Barrington Livng History Farm at Washington-on-the-Brazos. They raise Ossabaw Island Hogs, which look very much like feral hogs


If you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen - Calpurnia

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In Texas, the markets are flooded with pork after the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the price drops dramatically.

Whoa, what markets are these? I am so there.

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While thee may be subtle differences in flavor between the heritage breed, to me the most important aspect is that they are not bred specifically for leanness. As such they have more of that old-time "porkiness" translating to more flavor and increased succulence. To me that means a more satisfactory piece of meat. That they tend to be raised in much better conditions such as the pigs at Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, N.Y. is so much the better.

Does anyone know what the primary breeds of pigs are that are used to provide "regular" supermarket pork? I assume most of this comes from breeds that have been manipulated to be leaner, or, "the other white meat"? Is there a special breed designation for the leaner pork and/or are there any standards to distinquish between pig breeds in terms of 'leaness" or "fattiness".

I guess what I'm wondering is if you were searching to find a source for pork that was *not* derived from breeds specifically manipulated to be leaner how would you go about it?


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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from the Lobel website: marketing hype or superior product?

"Kurobuta Pork: Chops, Ribs and Roasts

From the land that has given us Wagyu beef, we are proud to offer the most highly prized pork in all of Japan: Kurobuta pork from pure-bred Berkshire pigs.

Lobel’s Kurobuta Pork looks and tastes like no other pork.

Unlike commercial, or “white” pork, Kurobuta pork is visibly different in two important ways: The color of Kurobuta pork is darker and richer and the meat is well-marbled, a unique characteristic.

Kurobuta pork offers a unique taste experience, as well. Its texture is exquisite—supple, yet meaty. Its flavor is lush, distinctive and abundant. And the marbling yields unparalleled juiciness for pork … the meat glistens when you cut into it. "

I ordered one of the Kurobuta hams from Snake River Farms for the holidays last year and it was the best ham I've ever had the pleasure of eating. It was succulent, flavorful and juicy and looked more like real meat than the usual ham. Everyone was in awe. I'll definitely be ordering again.

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As a former pork producer, I can certainly say that my experience is that the breed makes much less difference than the quality of life of the pig.

To wit, if lowly bred pig gets a varied, omnivorous diet, room to roam, and a generally piggish life, you will have spectacular pork.

If a highly bred pig gets confined, fed corn and soybean meal, and an imprisoned life, you will get generally bland pork.


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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While thee may be subtle differences in flavor between the heritage breed, to me the most important aspect is that they are not bred specifically for leanness. As such they have more of that old-time "porkiness" translating to more flavor and increased succulence. To me that means a more satisfactory piece of meat. That they tend to be raised in much better conditions such as the pigs at Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, N.Y. is so much the better.

Does anyone know what the primary breeds of pigs are that are used to provide "regular" supermarket pork? I assume most of this comes from breeds that have been manipulated to be leaner, or, "the other white meat"? Is there a special breed designation for the leaner pork and/or are there any standards to distinquish between pig breeds in terms of 'leaness" or "fattiness".

I guess what I'm wondering is if you were searching to find a source for pork that was *not* derived from breeds specifically manipulated to be leaner how would you go about it?

I believe any of the breeds labeled aas "heritage" predate leanness breeding. This is not to imply anything different to what jsolomon has to say. I also believe that how the pig is raised and what it is fed is of paramount importance.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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