Small Pig Breeds for Meat
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There are many different types and sizes of pigs. There are even many different reasons people raise pigs these days, but most of us raise pigs because pork is delicious. I cannot personally think of many parts of a pig that aren’t utilized in some way, shape, or form. From pork chops to hot dogs, from head cheese to footballs, most parts of a pig serve a purpose. Pork rinds have been sold in stores for over 100 years. Whether you raise your own pigs, buy from a local farmer, or just get pork from the store, the majority of people in the world eat or use pork products. Small pig breeds have become more prevalent in recent years as more people see the benefit of raising their own pork.
Where years ago, families had more children and grandparents even lived together, now families don’t have those large numbers and a smaller pig is a better choice. There are still a variety of options even within the smaller breeds.
Kunekune pigs are known for their fat quality and content. The meat is extremely red and marbleized throughout making the meat “melt in your mouth” delicious. They are famous not only for their well-marbled meat but also for their ability to grow almost exclusively on pasture with very little feed required.
The American Guinea Hog (AGH) is also a forager and like the Kunekune pigs, they do very well in lush pastures of grass. The grass diet helps aid in their dark red color and superior pork. The muscle-to-fat ratio makes them ideal for charcuterie.
Ossabaw Island Hogs are another smaller breed of pig that are usually not more than 200 pounds at maturity. Unlike the Kunekune and AGH pigs, they tend to look more for nuts and rough forage. Ossabaw hogs store fat differently than most domestic pigs and when raised on pastures with ample feed, they tend to have a larger fat to meat ratio. They have dark red meat with a unique texture making them ideal for use in cured meats and pig roasts.
Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs are also a smaller breed that produces quality pork with nice red color and flavorful meat.
Not only are these pig breeds all known for their small size and good pork quality, but they also have great mothering capabilities, friendly dispositions, and ease of raising. The average size for these smaller breeds is typically less than 200 pounds. All of them grow at a slower rate and take longer to reach butcher weight, but the benefits outweigh the cons to some as they have fantastic meat quality and a much smaller expense in feed.
For smaller families and couples, as well as people who have less acreage to work with, these more manageable pigs make the perfect meat pig. Those people looking to make lard and lard products such as soaps and lotions also routinely favor these breeds as they have a high-fat content.
Two other breeds, although not as small as the previously mentioned pigs, are also smaller than traditional pigs.
The Meishan breed of pig has deep red meat that is very robust in flavor. Meishan pigs are some of the most prolific pig species and routinely have an average of 13 – 18 piglets. They can be raised on pasture and do very well with lush green pastures. The meat is marbleized throughout making it very tender. The average size for a Meishan pig is 250 – 400 pounds.
The Idaho Pasture Pig, although a newer breed in relation to the other breeds, is quickly becoming one of the favorite breeds to raise on pasture. They are again a medium pig with average weights between 250 – 450 pounds and can be raised primarily on pasture. With proper nutrition, these pigs can be raised on pasture with minimal damage or rooting. The meat is a deep red color and very well marbleized making it both juicy and tender.
Pigs raised on pasture tend to have fat with a lower rendering temperature. Added to the well-marbleized meat and sweet flavor from the grasses they are eating, pasture-raised pork is some of the best you will ever taste.
Determining what pig breed is right for you depends on your acreage, pasture system, commitment to the breed, length of time you want to raise the pigs out, and not only the quality but also the quantity of meat you want to have at the end. Families with small children consider these breeds due to their friendly disposition and ease of raising. The small pig breeds are going to produce less of a yield, but the flavor, quality, and nutritional value make them more desired by many. For any big step, the best thing to do is do some investigating into the different breeds and find the breed that fits you and your farm the best. As with everything, there are pros and cons to each breed, so pick what is the most important for you. Go visit a farm that has this breed and see if it is what you are looking for and if that is the small breed that you want to add to your family.
JODI CRONAUER lives in Wisconsin with her husband and her three sons. They raise Idaho Pasture pigs, Kunekune pigs, and American bison as well as Gypsy Vanner horses. The meat from their pigs and bison is rich in essential nutrients because they eat grass as their primary diet. Jodi is the author of Raising Pigs on Green Pastures (Dorrance Publishing, 2021). https://shop.iamcountryside.com/products/raising-pigs-on-green-pastures
Originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.