The Local Food Report: heritage pigs

This is Wilbur:

He's not the best-looking pig. He is an unusual pig, though. He's a Large Black, an old heritage breed. They were popular in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, but these days, there aren't many around. Why? In short, because there isn't as much land around as there used to be, and these pigs eat grass. You can tell that from their coloring—dark, coarse hair and dark skin protect them from burning.

I met Wilbur in Barnstable, at Tim Friary's. He runs Cape Cod Organic Farm, and this year, he started raising pigs. He's got two kinds—both heritage breeds. The others are Berkshires. The Large Blacks are listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservation Priority List as "critical," meaning there are less than 200 registered each year in the U.S. The Berkshires aren't listed in our country, but they are in England. It's estimated that there are less than 2,000 pigs of either breed globally.

It hasn't always been this way. Before the era of cheap feed, pasture breeds like Large Blacks and Berkshires were easier for farmers. They ate pasture, which was free, and rooted around in the woods, which helped them clear land. They could easily survive the winter outside, even with piglets. They're fairly docile as hogs go and known for their good mothering abilities. And most importantly, they have tasty meat. Tim describes it as a bit pinker than most pork, with better marbling.

This is the first year Tim's raising either of these breeds. He has a Berkshire sow named Delilah who had six piglets, two Large Black sows, Wilbur, and two litters of Large Black piglets. He's got 22 pigs so far, and eventually, he's hoping to get up into the hundreds. This year's piglets won't be ready for slaughter until this spring. I'm already looking forward to the meat.


Teresa said...

How exciting that these pigs are being raised right here on Cape Cod! I'm curious about how this kind of farming––more decentralized, and more in-scale with the land available––will develop. Will Tim be able to process the meat on Cape Cod? I hope so!

Anonymous said...

Where will the meat be sold?

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