Originating from the English county of Berkshire, the Berkshire is a rare breed of pig which is listed as vulnerable. In 2008 fewer than 300 breeding sows were known to exist. Herds are still raised in England and some Berkshire pigs are kept in New Zealand. The American Berkshire Association gives pedigree status only to pigs which are directly imported from English Herds or to those traced back to imported pigs. Berkshires are mostly covered with short black hair, but have white hair on their legs, faces and tips of their tails. They are well known for their juiciness, flavor and tenderness. Their pink-hued and heavy marbled meat has a high fat content and is excellent for long and high-temperature cooking.
The Meishan is a domestic pig named after a province in China and is a sub-group of the Taihu pig. The Meishan played a key role improving Europe's pig breeds, and was imported to the U.S. in the late 1980s. It is small to medium-sized and has large drooping ears and wrinkled black skin. In terms of temperament, it is one of the friendliest and most docile breeds around. It consumes large quantities of roughage. Meat from the Meishan is highly marbled with tender muscle fiber and rich, healthy fat commonly used for making lard.
Orginating from Schwäbisch Hall in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany, the Schwabian-Hall Swine is a domestic pig. The Schwabian-Hall is a hybrid of the Chinese Meishan pig and German Landrace Swine. The Meishan pig was imported to Germany in the early 1800s to crossbreed with the German hog with the intention of increasing fat content. The breed was popular until the 1960's, at which point consumers began to favor leaner pork. By 1984 numbers had dwindled to only 7 breeding sows. Nevertheless, a small number of farmers kept the breed going. There are now 1,500 sows registered to breed. Today Schwabian-Hall meat has a high reputation among chefs due to its darker meat and strong, distinctive flavor.
Named for its color and pattern, which is similar to that of Hereford cattle, the Hereford Pig is red with a white face. Originating in America, the Hereford is a rare variety which was created in the 1920s from a synthesis of the Duroc, the Poland China, the Chester White and Berkshire pigs. The breed is very popular in the Midwestern United States. By the mid-20th century the population had grown considerably, but it decreased again from the 1960s as the commercial pork industry moved away from purebred hogs toward hybrids. Today 2,000 breeding animals remain. Herefords thrive on pastures and are known for their calm disposition. A slower growing breed, Hereford pigs yield rich colored, marbled meat.
Mulefoot pigs are a domestic pig named after their non-cloven hooves, which are similar to those of a mule. Mulefoots originated when the Spanish introduced swine to the Gulf Coast. An exact date is not known. Typically black, Mulefoot pigs flourished during the early part of the 1900s, but by 1985 only one herd remained. There are now fewer than 150 pure bred Mulefoots in existence, making it a critically endangered breed. However, over the last decade in the United States efforts have been made to conserve the breed and there are now 40 farms across the country that own breeding groups.
Iron Age Pig
The Iron Age pig is a cross between a wild boar and a domestic pig. They were first bred to re-create the type of pig represented in prehistoric art works from the Iron Age in ancient Europe. This project started in the early 1980's by crossing a male wild boar with a Tamworth sow. Iron Age pigs are raised for speciality meat markets. They are more aggressive and harder to handle than domestic pigs. The meat from the Iron Age Pig has a natural layer of fat on it which gives it wonderful flavour and marbling.