It is always amazing to me how properly bred animals with a great heritage and genetic structure can withstand time and continue to produce superior results. Whether we are talking about field bred Labrador Retrievers or in this case the highly desired meat of the Berkshire Pig. I guess the theme we live by, Simple Not Easy applies. It is a really simple thought process that by starting with a great Berkshire breed that the quality your Berkshire bacon this morning is like taking a small bite of heaven.
Berkshire Pigs the Hogs of Berk
Surprise, surprise, Berkshire Pigs came from England. These “Hogs of Berk” date back to England over three hundred years and were first imported to the United States in 1823. Popularity has grown across the world including Japan where it is called Kurobuta and is grown to produce the highest quality meat just like they treat their Wagyu Beef. Breed standards today are strictly maintained by the American Berkshire Association.
Physical Characteristics of the Berkshire
As medium sized pigs they lend themselves to small pig operations and Homesteads nicely. Adult males can weigh between 600-800 pounds while females tip the scales around 450-650 pounds. Berkshire pigs will be ready for the butcher at 6-7 months old and should weigh in at about 280-300 pounds. Their coats are mostly black with white markings on their legs, face and tail.
Temperament and Personality
Berkshire pigs are a great small farm heritage breed because coupled with their medium build they tend to have a friendly demeanor and somewhat docile attitude towards life. These characteristics are what make them easier to handle and interact with. They also are very adaptable to the environments you place them in and are flexible in the farming system you use. Berkshire pigs are also known to be great mothers who are gentle and caring towards their piglets.
Berkshire Pig Meat: The Kobe Beef of Pork
My family makes fun of me for using “flavor profile,” wonder if they’ll ever read this? Nonetheless, The flavor profile of Berkshire Pork is three or four notches above anything else. The fat marbling throughout helps keep the meat tender and bursting with flavor. Having consistent fat weaving between muscle tissue is what helps keep meat moist. No more of those tough leathery pan roasted pork chops with these pigs. You know the ones, when you say, “I love dipping my pork chops in applesauce.” Translation, the only way I can eat this is if I rehydrate it with something flavorful.
This pork is super versatile when cooking. It’s great for the grill, smoke or slow roaster. Berkshire pigs have also become a go to choice for charcuterie. Just because it is a higher end meat, don’t think for a second that we are going to forget about Bacon and Scrapple.
Raising Berkshire Pigs
Writing about raising any animal is basically always the same. Fresh water, nutrition, housing, access to vet care and space to move around. With any pig having a warm, dry shelter is important when that A-hole Jack Frost is around. In the summer housing needs good ventilation and an escape from the sun. We are focusing on raising pigs in the forest so having good wire trained pigs will allow for open space that they can roam and forage.
Forest raised pigs are going to eat a wide variety of food throughout the day. Whatever they can forage up in addition to a natural pig feed. We’ll also give them any damaged or unused fruits and vegetables from the garden.