What to Know Before Buying a Pig

What to know before purchasing a pig, including choosing breeds, making the purchase, finding the right piglet and transportation.

| April/May 1993

Pigs have long been the victims of a poor image, reputed to be unclean, unfriendly, and overall, uncouth. Let's face it, their name is reserved for the most despicable of people. Happily for pig owners, none of these rumors are true. Given the chance (that is, if they are not confined to a pen the size of a closet), pigs may be the cleanest of all farm animals. They even make great pets (a decidedly negative factor if you're planning on eating them). They will stand by your side for hours emitting love grunts as you scratch them. Pigs are truly the sweethearts of the barnyard.

However, for those interested in home-consumption, you should know they are one of the best converters of feed to meat, and can make use of pasturing, table scraps, and garden surpluses to reduce feed costs. In only five or six months, they will provide an average of 150 pounds of pork products. Pigs also require relatively little space and care.

Which Breed of Pig?

With pigs, there is no one outstanding breed. Your choice will be based on personal preference and what is available in your location. Rather than trying to choose any one breed, concentrate on finding outstanding specimens within a given breed. While certain breeds may have their own advantages and disadvantages, any well-bred pig is suitable for raising and consumption.

There are two basic groups that you can use to categorize pigs: lean- or meat-type and fat-type. Years ago, when such "fatty" by-products as salt pork and lard were higher in demand, the "lard" pig was more common. In recent years, however, pigs have been selectively bred to lose excess fat due to the public's increasing demand for low-fat foods. Therefore most pigs are now the leaner meat-type. Meat-type pigs are long and trim with hams and shoulders that are wider than their backs. These pigs will dress out with a lower percentage of fat and are more expensive to raise, because more food goes into the production of meat than fat. Don't worry—they'll still provide plenty of salt pork and lard for the average family. Here are the common breeds of swine:

American Landrace: This swine is the American version of the Danish hog that has made the Danes famous for their fine hams and bacon. They are white or pink with floppy ears and a long, lean body.

Berkshire: This medium-size hog is very solid and has little excess fat. It is black with white on its feet and often has a bit of white on its face. Berkshires have broad faces that are slightly dished out and have medium-length snouts. While this gives them a slightly pug head, those that are extremely pug-headed should be avoided.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!