Until now, Pigs Can Fly Ranch has raised small heritage pigs, of the American Guinea Hog and Kune Kune variety. These little pigs took a year and a half to reach market weight, which was only 75-95 lbs. hanging weight. Faster growth with more feed meant more lard for these breeds. Like many fine things, it was better not to rush the process. These small heritage pigs are a great size for home butcher, but not so great for farm productivity.
As a result, we’ve said goodbye to our small pigs and this spring transitioned to purebred Berkshire piglets, who should grow to around 200 lbs. of hanging weight within a year. They are extremely cute!
We’re also preparing a new area of the farm where they’ll be in more of a silvopasture setting, where we hope they’ll help out by rooting up any incipient undergrowth while foraging for part of their diet.
Berkshire pork is famous for being reddish in color, juicy, and well marbled. Since these will be pasture pigs, we expect the meat to be leaner but very tasty. Time will tell. The interest in local food increased greatly with the pandemic, and local butchers have been overwhelmed. The butcher dates for these pigs are already set for February and March of 2022.
Quotes and Trivia
Berkshire pigs are one of the oldest identifiable breeds. These black pigs, with white “points” (white areas on their feet, snout and tail) were documented in the English “shire of Berks” more than 350 years ago and made their way to the United States in the early 1800s. In 1875, breeders formed the American Berkshire Association, making it the first breeders group and swine registry in the world…
Initially the Berkshire pig breed thrived, thanks largely to its exceptionally tasty meat, but as the pork industry consolidated under the control of just a handful of large corporations in the 1980s and 1990s and efficiency of production became the name of the game, the Berkshire population plummeted. The “pork industry” simply wasn’t interested in Berkshires because they were slower growing, didn’t produce as much lean meat (which the industry believed was the only thing consumers would buy) and didn’t perform as well in confinement as the Duroc, Hampshire and Yorkshire pig breeds.
– Carol Ekarius, Berkshire Pigs For Small Farms, 2009