What exactly does “heritage breed” mean? It’s more than just having historic agricultural significance. The term applies to livestock breeds that have been raised for hundreds of years before the industrialization of agriculture. They used to be the pigs that all small farmers raised. As soon as we started to “mass produce” pork, those breeds became unsuitable for those conditions, and new hybrid breeds of pigs were favored. A heritage breed pig will differ from a conventional breed in that they were bred for longevity in a free range environment. Pigs are natural foragers and flourish with plenty sunlight. Their stock is sturdy, but slower to grow. And, maybe most importantly, they’re bred for taste! The meat is sweeter and the fat is more flavorful which is due to their living conditions and diet. Conventionally farmed pigs are raised in uncomfortably close quarters, are fattened with a high grain diet, then forced grow quickly for a faster turnaround. Because the meat is not particularly flavorful, much of the pig is unacceptable for consumption, and is wasted. Wasted.
However, every bit of a free range heritage breed pig can be eaten, and can be the most mouth watering piece of pork you’ve ever tasted. Nothing is wasted! The blood? Blood sausage. The liver? Pate. The bones? Pork stock. Even the head is used, and contains arguably some of the most tender and tasty bits of meat. We can eat the WHOLE pig. That’s something you just can’t do with conventional breed pigs. Now most us will never want or need to cook up a pig head or kidneys, and that’s just fine. But, never fear, because those cuts will find there way into someone’s kitchen. So for me, that’s the most important reason to buy and eat heritage breed pork.
After I educated myself on the differences between heritage breeds and conventional I couldn't go back to my “yellow sticker” ways. Now I feel a responsibility when I choose what meat I eat. It’s a privilege, and I want to eat and cook accordingly!
Posted by: Jackie Botto
Livestock Conservancy site
The Nourishing Gourmet