16+ Breeds of Pigs Perfect for Meat Production

Heritage pig breeds, like Berkshire and Hampshire, offer superior meat quality for various cuts and purposes, while commercial breeds are leaner but less flavorful.

breeds of pigs for meat

Pig farming is a massive agricultural industry. The US alone produces 12% of the world’s pork, translating into $8,1 billion in value. Whether you are interested in pigs for a hobby farm or want to produce pork on a larger scale, it is vital to know which breeds are best for meat production. 

The best pigs for meat are heritage breeds, original pig breeds that have not been crossbred. They are thrifty, hardy pigs with access to open fields and pastures. Heritage pigs are generally fatter, juicier, and tastier, making them perfect for meat, bacon, and lard production. 

In contrast, commercial pig breeds are being bred for the sole purpose of being sold off quickly and relatively cheaply. These pig breeds are lean, and the meat tends to be dry and bland. 

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Best Pig Breeds For Meat Production

Chefs and restauranteurs typically pay premium prices for heritage pork since the quality of the meat is superior. Such breeds include critically endangered, threatened, and more common species:

Critical ThreatenedRecoveringTo watchMore common
MulefootGuinea Hog HerefordTamworthBerkshire
Ossabaw IslandRed WattleLandrace
GloucestershirePoland
Old SpotsChina
Large BlackYorkshire
Kunekune
Hampshire
Duroc
Chester White

Many of the pig breeds mentioned in this article are listed on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste. This international catalog of endangered heritage foods was established to protect uniquely tasting food sources at risk while being sustainably produced. 

Berkshire Pigs

How To Cook Berkshire Pork Chops

Berkshire pigs originated in England and are the third most popular type of pig in the US and the oldest heritage breed in the world. They reach maturity relatively quickly, reproduce effectively, and are easy keepers, making them ideal for farming.

Physical characteristics of the Berkshire pig include:

  • Black color
  • White on the face, legs, and tip of the tail
  • Medium in size
  • Short, dished face
  • Erect ears pointing forward

Berkshire pigs produce highly marbled, juicy meat with a slightly smoky and sweet taste – perfect for bacon. They are especially favored by Japanese chefs, who call it kurobuta (black pig meat).

Chester White Pigs

Chester White pigs got their name because they originated in Chester County, Pennsylvania. They are great for farming because they are robust creatures who reach maturity quickly, have exceptional mothering abilities, and live longer. The only downside is that they require a lot of shaded areas in summer since their skin can sunburn easily.

To identify a Chester White pig, they must include these physical characteristics:

  • White/pinkish-white color
  • Larger in size
  • Drooped ears
  • Dished face

The meat of a Chester White is flavorful, with high-fat content, making it juicy and suitable for any cut of pork and overall meat production. 

Duroc (Duroc Jersey) Pigs

what is a duroc pork chop

The Duroc or Duroc Jersey pigs are the basis for many mixed-breed commercial hogs and are the second most recorded breed in the US. 

They are fast-growing, make great mothers, and are muscular, resulting in leaner pork that supports heavy carcass production. Something to note is that these pigs are hyper-energetic and thus require solid fencing and housing structures.

The Duroc pigs’ physical features include:

  • Red-brown color
  • Smaller in size
  • Drooped ears
  • Quite muscular

Duroc pigs render lean, tender, and mild-flavored meat. The latter trait makes it easy on the palate and thus accessible to a broad consumer market. It is especially popular as bacon.

Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig/Spotted Pig

Gloucestershire Old Spots or Spotted pigs are an easygoing English breed known for their feed efficiency and carcass quality. They are ideal for farming since they are easy to handle and thus require less robust enclosures. The females are also productive, docile, and live longer. 

A Gloucestershire Old Spot pig’s physical characteristics are:

  • Mainly white color, with black spots
  • Larger in size
  • Drooped ears

The meat of Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs is marbled and has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. They produce large hams, especially loved by the British royal family.

Guinea Hog Pigs

Guinea Hogs, or the American Guinea Hogs (since 2006), are rare, sturdy pigs that are good foragers. They are also mild-mannered and easy to handle. 

The following traits identify Guinea Hog pigs:

  • Black color
  • Small to medium size
  • Very hairy
  • Curly tail
  • Erect ears

They produce juicy, fatty meat that tastes sweet and buttery and is perfect for pork sausages and lard. American Guinea Hogs were listed on the Ark of Taste. 

Hampshire Pigs

what are hampshire pigs used for

Hampshire pigs, initially called Thin Rinds, have a distinctive white ‘belt’ around their bodies and are the fourth-most recorded pig breed in the US. Hampshire pigs are hardy creatures with a fast growth rate. Females also have exceptional mothering abilities and long lives, making them ideal for farming.

Physical characteristics of Hampshire pigs include:

  • Black ears, head, rear, and hind legs
  • White shoulders and front legs
  • Larger in size
  • Long bodies
  • Slightly dished face
  • Large, erect ears

Hampshire pigs are pretty muscular, produce lean meat (minimal backfat), and have high carcass quality. The pork contains little fat, has a mild flavor, and is ideal for bacon.

Hereford Pigs

Hereford pigs are American pigs named after their visual commonalities (color and pattern) with Hereford cattle. These pigs are easy to find in the US. It can also adapt to various climates, making it a popular breed for homesteading.

To identify a Hereford pig, they must include these physical characteristics:

  • Red-brown color across their backs
  • White face and legs
  • Medium size
  • Curly tail
  • Drooped ears

Although they grow slightly slower than other breeds, these Hereford pigs can add value to a meat production farm. They offer darker, red-colored meat with excellent marbling and a neutral pH.

Kunekune Pigs

Kunekune pigs, meaning ‘fat and around’ in Maori, are a swine breed originally from New Zealand. Even though they produce great meat, many people keep these pigs as pets since they are pretty small. Kunekune pigs are sturdy, laid-back creatures for their size and feed on grass alone.  

The physical characteristics of Kunekune pigs are:

  • Varies in color, primarily white with black or brown marks
  • Smaller in size
  • Round bellies
  • Stubby legs
  • A short, upturned snout
  • Erect ears

The pork you get from these pigs is nicely marbled, tender, moist, and flavorful. The meat quality is known to make for exceptional charcuterie.

Landrace Pigs

Landrace pigs are known as ‘America’s Sowherd’ and the fifth-most recorded pig breed in the US. These pigs are a good investment because the females are great mothers who can produce much milk and bears large litters.

Something to consider when breeding them is shaded areas, both in terms of the sty and grazing areas, because these pigs have very light skin and can sunburn easily.

Landrace pigs’ physical features include:

  • White color
  • Floppy ears
  • Forward slant

Landrace pigs offer high-quality pork that is lean and succulent, typically used for bacon and ham production.

Large Black Pigs

Large Black pigs, previously known as Lop Eared Blacks, are not as common as most other breeds, but they are ideal for farming. They are robust, easy to handle, and adaptable to different environments, with females producing larger litters. 

Physical characteristics of the Large Black pig include:

  • Black or dark grey color
  • Long, deep body
  • Curly tail
  • Long snout
  • Big, floppy ears that fall over their eyes

These easygoing pigs offer darker meat with short muscle fiber, making the pork tender, with excellent marbling and taste.

Mulefoot Pigs

Mulefoot pigs got their name from their characteristic solid, uncloven hooves, like mules. They are a relatively rare breed in the US, but good to farm because they are sturdy, easily managed pigs that can endure even the harshest climates.

Mulefoot pigs can be identified by their physical features, such as:

  • Typically black in color (on the rare occasion you might spot some white markings)
  • Medium size
  • Some have wattles by the neck
  • Fused hooves
  • Ears pointed forward

Mulefoot pigs get fat quickly, with some weighing up to 600 pounds. Their fatty pork yields juicy, marbled red meat that is succulent and dense (but not chewy).

Ossabaw Island Pigs

The feral-looking Ossabaw Island pig breed is unusual because it has a ‘thrifty gene.’ This gene allows them to gain a significant weight when food is readily available, which gets stored as fat that sustains them during periods when food is scarce.  

The physical characteristics of Ossabaw Island pigs are:

  • A range of colors, the most common being black or spotted.
  • Smaller in size
  • Long snouts
  • Very hairy
  • Erect ears

Ossabaw Island pork contains beneficial fatty acids, omega 3’s, unsaturated fats, and oleic acids. Their meat is dark and robust with a spicy flavor, similar to that of the Spanish black Iberian pig. Chefs love the Ossabaw Island pork for its taste, which has been listed on the Ark of Taste.

Poland China Pigs

Poland China pigs are docile creatures that are great feeders, gaining weight quickly and easily. They are hardy, reach maturity quickly, and they can endure rugged environments. 

Poland China pigs’ physical traits include:

  • Mainly black in color, with a white face, feet, and the tip of the tail
  • Larger in size
  • Drooped ears
  • Big jaws
  • Short snout
  • Muscular body

Although lean, the Poland China pork has good marbling and is best used for sausages, bacon, hams, and pork chops. 

Red Wattle Pigs

Red Wattle pigs, named after their color and neck wattles, are an uncommon breed that is difficult to find in the US. Still, they are great foragers, are easy to manage, have a laid-back demeanor, and mature fast. If you are going to farm them, ensure you have enough space, as they are larger than most pig breeds. 

The Red Wattle pig’s physical features include:

  • Various shades of red, some with black patches
  • Larger size
  • Two wattles on either side of the neck
  • Slim nose
  • Erect ears with drooping tips

Red Wattle pork is lean and is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. The meat also has a fine texture and exceptional taste, earning this breed a spot on the Ark of Taste.

Tamworth Pigs

Tamworth pigs are an active breed of swine that doesn’t particularly like confinement, so a vast amount of space with sturdy enclosures and fencing is necessary. They are known for being amiable animals that are great foragers with lean carcasses.

Physical characteristics of Tamworth pigs include:

  • Ginger color
  • Small to medium size
  • Long legs
  • Erect ears
  • Long snout

Tamworth pork delivers lean meat with a firm texture and good marbling, perfect for bacon

Yorkshire Pigs (US) / Large White Pigs (UK) 

American Yorkshire pigs are the most popular heritage pig, available in almost every state across the US. They are big, rugged, and robust pigs, with females having exceptional mothering abilities and bearing large litter.

Yorkshire pigs can be identified by their physical features, such as:

  • White color
  • A long, large body
  • Relatively long head
  • Erected ears
  • Concave face
  • Muscular body

Because of their size, these pigs produce a high percentage of lean meat that is good for pork chops, ribs, and bacon.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Breed Of Pig Is Best For Meat?

All the above-listed pig breeds are great for meat production. The top breeds for meat would depend on personal taste. For example, many farmers prefer the Hampshire, Duroc, and Berkshires for their higher-quality carcass traits and growth rate, which results in more meat per pig. Others reckon Red Wattle, Guinea Hog, and Large Black pigs are superior in taste. 

It all depends on whether your aim is consumption or meat production for commercial purposes.

What Are The Types Of Pig Meat?

A pig can produce various cuts of meat, such as:

You can also make ground pork from these cuts, which can be used to make pork sausages.

What Pig Is Best For Bacon?

Tamworth pigs are best for bacon. They have a slow growth rate, producing leaner pork but with a good amount of belly fat. This ratio of meat to fat makes for excellent bacon. However, Tamworth pigs are not widely available. Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and American Yorkshire pigs are breeds that are more common in the US that make good bacon.

How Long Does It Take To Raise Pigs To Slaughter?

Pigs bred for commercial pork production are typically slaughtered between 5-6  months, weighing 200-300 lbs. 

Conclusion

The best pigs for meat are heritage breeds, which are generally fatter and more succulent and flavorsome. The best species will depend on the type of pork you want, like bacon, specific cuts, or even lard. If you are a commercial farmer, consider the breed’s durability, manageability, litter size, and mothering abilities (females).  

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