Pigs

What are the Best Pigs for Meat?

best pig breeds for meat

If you are looking to start raising pigs for meat, you have come to the right place. This post will tell you all about the best pigs for meat.

There are so many factors to consider when choosing the right breed for your small farm that it can be overwhelming.

Of course, you need to think about the quality of meat. However, you also must consider the amount of care your pigs need or how much food they will require. 

In order to help you answer the question, “What are the best pigs for meat?” I have provided plenty of information below. 

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What is the Best Kind of Pig to Raise for Meat?

best pig breeds for meat

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the best breeds of pigs you can raise for meat. If you’re looking for the short answer, consider raising these pig breeds:

  • Berkshire 
  • American Guinea Hog
  • Poland China
  • Chester White
  • Gloucestshire Old Spot
  • Hereford
  • Tamworth
  • Large Black
  • Landrace
  • Hampshire

This video also has more information on how to choose the right breed of pig, too:

What to Look For in a Meat Pig Breed

best pig breeds for meat

When choosing what type of pig you want to breed for its meat, there are several factors to keep in mind. 

First and foremost, ask yourself, “Why do I want to breed pigs for their meat?”

If the answer is to supplement your own family’s meat supply, choose a pig that’s meat will best suit your family’s needs.

If the answer is to sell the meat, be sure you know what types and cuts of meat are most popular in the area to which you will market. 

When selling meat, you should always strive to maximize your profits — you want the most “meat” (bang!)  for your buck. 

Also, consider whether you are looking for the best meat quality in your pigs or if you are looking to produce the most amount of meat that you can. 

We will dive deeper into the question of what to look for in meat pig breeds below. 

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Body Composition and Meat Flavor 

Depending on if you want to keep the pig meat for yourself and your family or if you wish to sell the meat, the correct choice of pig breed will vary.

The flavor and composition of meat your family prefers may be vastly different from that of the consumers in your area. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What are your family’s favorite cuts?
  • What cuts are the most popular in the area to which you will market?

Next, consider your expectation of the meat it will produce. Do you need to look for strictly meat pigs? Depending on the breed, you may produce more bacon than pork chops or vice versa. Or, are you looking for lard pigs? Lard is extremely popular in baking and there is a large market for the product. 

Similarly, you want to consider the flavor of the meat you are looking to get from your pigs. While the flavor of the meat is heavily influenced by the diet and lifestyle of the pigs, certain breeds are known for their great tastes and textures. 

Many of the pig breeds well known for their flavor are the heritage breeds, that is, purebreds. These pigs are harder to find and come at a higher cost but the price of their meat is often very high. On the other hand, crossbreeds are not as well known for their flavor but are often easier to maintain. 

Pig Breed Size and Appearance 

When considering which breed of pig to raise for their meat, it is important to know that having larger pigs is not always ideal.

You always want to think about the quality of the meat and the sustainability of the pigs— size is often not that important. In fact, larger breeds are often butchered once they reach a certain weight rather than when they reach full maturity. 

Think about these factors when choosing a breed based on size: 

  • What is the full-grown size of the pig? How much space do you have for your pigs to comfortably live?
  • How much money do you have for feed?
  • When do you plan on butchering your pigs? Will you butcher when the pig reaches its full size? Will you butcher the pig when it reaches a set weight? 

It is also important to think about the cost of butchering your pigs. If you choose to breed smaller pigs, the butchering cost will be higher.

This is because butchers usually charge, on top of the price per pound to butcher, a “kill fee.” Therefore, the smaller the pigs, the more “kill fees” you may have to pay to get the same amount of meat as you would from a smaller amount of larger pigs. 

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Time to Maturation 

Another factor to consider is the amount of time it takes for the pig breed to mature. The less amount of time the pigs take to mature, the fewer resources and space they will take up.

If you are breeding pigs that take a long time to reach maturity or the specific weight you are looking for, the more resources and space they will take up. This could deeply impact the amount of money you are spending to care for your pigs. 

Finally, do not forget that the coloring of the pig breed you choose matters immensely, particularly if you live closer to the equator.

Lightly colored pigs are highly susceptible to sunburn and will require at least enough shade that they can all comfortably fit beneath. If you choose a darker-colored pig, you will not have to invest in as much sun protection. 

Pig Breed Demeanor

When choosing a breed of pig that is right for your farm, you must consider the breed’s demeanor.

If you decide on a breed that is known for being large and hostile, this could cause you unnecessary work and stress that could have been avoided with better research. Similarly, certain pigs are more prone to depression or loneliness that could have an effect on the quality of meat they produce. 

We have provided some things to take into account when considering the demeanor of the breeds in mind: 

  • Pigs are extremely intelligent and can be trained to follow your orders. You should consider the extent to which you plan on interacting with your pigs. If you are not planning on doing so often, choose a breed that does not require much attention. 
  • Sensitivity and compassion are two common qualities among many pig breeds. When choosing the breed that best fits your needs, remember that they have feelings, too. This can be difficult to cope with when it comes time for butchering. If need be, choose a breed that will not become as attached to you as others. If this is not a problem, do not worry. 
  • While most breeds of pigs are known for their mild behavior, a mistreated pig will absolutely lash out. It is important that you always treat your pigs with kindness to avoid this behavior. This is particularly important if you choose a larger breed that can already be more difficult to handle. 
  • If you have ever thought that all pigs act the same, this is simply untrue. Each breed of pig possesses its own particular demeanor and will respond to stimuli in different ways. Some pigs need more attention and care while others are more or less self-sufficient. This is why it is necessary that you understand the breed you are choosing for your farm. The way your pig behaves should directly influence how you take care of them. 
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Pig Breed Characteristics 

The characteristics of a pig breed are extremely important when choosing them for your farm. You need to be aware of the amount of space and resources required to successfully raise your pigs. This can come down to the breed’s ability to forage, adapt to climates, and take care of their young. 

When considering a breed to choose for your farm, ask yourself these questions. 

  • Do they do well on pasture? 
  • Do they forage? Can they find their own food?
  • Can they last through the winter? Or in your climate?
  • What is the litter size?
  • Do they have good motherly instincts? Are they able to adequately feed and raise their young?

Commercial Pig Feed Conversion

It is important to note that the larger a pig grows, the more food it needs.

It can take much more food for a 500-pound pig to gain one extra pound than for a 200-pound pig to gain an extra pound. 

This is because smaller pigs are able to convert food into body fat at a much quicker and easier rate. 

Similarly, a leaner pig is able to convert food to body fat more easily than a fattier pig. This may drastically impact the choice of breed you decide to go with. 

Best Pig Breeds to Raise for Meat 

best pig breeds for meat

Here are some of the best pig breeds you can raise for meat! 

Berkshire Pigs 

The Berkshire Pig is a heritage breed hailing from England that is very common and easy to find in the United States. They are one of the largest breeds, averaging 600 pounds, and are recognizable by their erect ears, black bodies, and white spots on the face, feet, and tail. 

As evidenced by their size, these pigs grow rapidly and are able to easily gain weight, making them fairly easy to maintain and a great option for beginners.

They have extremely robust bodies, are able to survive in many conditions, and are foragers — able to find their own food to supplement their diet, thus cutting down on feed cost. 

Known for their darker, higher-quality meat, Berkshire pigs have been specifically bred to have perfect marbling in their meat, making it extremely lean and tender. This is why Berkshires are one of the best options if you are looking to sell meat to a larger market. 

However, be aware that the size of Berkshire pigs will require you to have more space, water, and food for them to be raised sufficiently. Similarly, their size may make it harder to control and transport the pigs even though they are known for their easygoingness. 

American Guinea Hog 

Another heritage breed, American Guinea Hogs are much smaller in size than most meat pigs, ranging between 150 and 180 pounds. Their size makes them very easy to handle and transport while also limiting the amount of space, water, and feed they need. Like Berkshires, these pigs also love to forage and can find their own food when necessary. 

Perfect for a small-scale farm, these pigs are docile and manageable. Their black skin and hair protect them from the sun while their excess of lard helps to keep them warm in the colder months. 

However, being a heritage breed, they are not as common and may be harder to find when looking to start breeding. Also, American Guinea Hogs do take longer to reach maturity than other breeds, taking over a year to fully mature. If you are in a hurry to butcher, this may not be the right breed for you. 

Similarly, American Guinea Hogs are more well known for the lard they produce than the meat. While they do have tender meat and solid hams, their lard is sought after to use in baking. Selling lard is another great way to get into the market if you are interested in this breed. 

Poland China

Poland Chinas are an extremely common breed in the United States and are similar in size to Berkshires, ranging between 500 and 700 pounds. They are also similar looking to Berkshires, having black hair and white feet, but with floppy rather than erect ears.  

Because of its large size, this breed is known for producing lots of lean meat and can be purchased for a relatively low price depending on the demand. As long as they are taken care of, they will quickly mature and remain docile. 

While their size makes them great meat producers, it can also hinder their ability to take care of their young. Sows have been known to crush their piglets in the days following birth due to their massive size and inability to adequately roll off their side. 

Even so, many would consider Poland Chinas to be one of the best options when choosing meat pigs. 

Chester White

A heritage breed, Chester White pigs are known for their solid white bodies with ears that are neither erect nor floppy. This breed is popular among pig farmers for its durability, mothering instincts, and profitability. 

Because Chester Whites are great mothers, they are able to rear many healthy piglets which will help you easily grow your pig farm. Their mothering ability is so great they are often crossbred with other breeds to pass this trait on. 

These pigs are stocky and have well-muscled carcasses due to their lack of the stress gene that often compromises meat quality in pigs. They grow rapidly and are easily manageable. 

You need to be sure you have enough shade to cover all your pigs, however, due to their lightly colored skin. 

Gloucestershire Old Spot 

Gloucestershire Old Spots are a docile breed of pig that has been around for centuries. This heritage breed is known for its ability to forage, lower feed cost, and adaptability. They are white with black spots, meaning they require shade from the sun. 

Producing large litters, usually ten or more piglets, you can quickly increase the size of your pig farm with this breed. However, Gloucestershire Old Spots are considered to be rare and may be hard to find or be expensive. 

Their meat is known for being nutty in flavor and very tender as the meat is marbled with fat. 

Hereford Pig

A newer breed of meat pig, this breed is relatively common and easy to find. They are distinguished by their red bodies, white face, and at least two white legs. The red coloring of their skin protects them from the sun. Fully grown, Herefords can weigh from 600-800 pounds. 

Herefords grow extremely quickly but do not require heavy feeding. They can even supplement their diets by foraging and grazing. It is recommended they have a lot of space to do so if you want to cut down on feed costs. 

They can be ready to butcher within 6 months or when they reach between 180 and 200 pounds, so you may not have to worry about their size. Even so, they are extremely gentle and docile. 

The meat they produce is known for being high quality and delicious even though it is typically fattier. 

Tamworth Pigs

Tamworth pigs are one of the oldest breeds of meat pigs and are a light golden-red color with erect ears and long snouts. They are slightly smaller than other breeds mentioned on this list, ranging between 500 and 600 pounds when fully grown. 

They are known for being great mothers, able to feed all of their piglets. This breed will allow you to easily increase the number of pigs on your farm. Easily adaptable, they can survive in all climates and are more resistant to sunburn than their lighter-colored counterparts. Therefore, they work very well on pastures. 

Having a lean, muscular body, Tamworth pigs produce great bacon and have good marbling in their meat. Due to their gamey flavor, however, their meat can be considered more of a specialty, possibly limiting your market. 

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Large Black Pig

Known for their robustness and adaptability, Large Blacks are a great option if you are trying to fill your farm with pigs. They have a long period of fertility and can easily produce large litters of piglets. 

Because they are resistant to sunburn, Large Black pigs do very well in a pasture setting and are able to forage for their own food. Because of this, their meat is very lean and delicious.

Landrace

Landraces are white in color and can be very large and lengthy. The length of their abdomen makes room for them to produce more bacon than other breeds which comes from the stomach muscles. Similarly, their large loins mean more pork chops are available per pig, as well. 

Hampshires 

Hampshire pigs are one of the most sought-after breeds for producing meat. They have a lower amount of back fat than other breeds, making their meat some of the leanest pork available. Similarly, their large size means they can produce larger cuts of meat. 

They are characterized by their black bodies and white belt that runs across their shoulders, around their upper abdomen, and down their front legs. These pigs are extremely adaptable and can survive in all climates. 

It is important to note that they are more susceptible to Porcine Stress Syndrome which can cause them to become overly stressed. Stress can be detrimental to the quality of meat that comes from a pig. However, you can have your pigs genetically tested for the presence of the gene that causes this syndrome. 

What Kind of Pigs Should I Raise for Meat?

best pig breeds for meat

Based on your specific needs and circumstances, there may be one breed or several breeds that are right for your small-scale farm. There is a lot to consider, particularly if you are looking to sell the meat your pigs produce. 

Thanks for reading and happy breeding!

Author: Anna B

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