These aren't your run-of-the-mill-pasture-raised-heritage-breed-non-GMO-fed swine. There's a bit more going on here.
Their sire is a Guinea Hog. So what's a Guinea Hog? It is a distinctly American heritage breed that was once popular on homesteads, valued for its thriftiness on pasture and friendly disposition. Guinea Hogs are quite rare in our modern era, but the same traits that made them desirable on a country homestead make them valuable on a pasture-based farm.
What's REALLY cool about Guinea Hogs is that they get on fine just eating grass and other forage. Through much of the year they require no supplemental feed.
Unfortunately, they are awfully small and take about two years to reach a marketable size. So, we breed a Guinea Hog boar to one of our run-of-the-mill-pasture-raised-heritage-breed-non-GMO-fed sows and the resulting piglets take on some of the best traits of their parents.
These crosses are on the smaller side, but larger than a Guinea Hog. They require supplemental feed, but much less of it than bigger pigs. In good weather, they grow well on small amounts of feed and large amounts of good pasture. Guinea Hogs are also great because they are lard pigs.
Whereas most commercial pigs have been bred to produce lean meat (and this includes certain heritage breeds), Guinea Hogs are bred to develop fat.
And they do get good and chubby. Then there's the other delightful aspect of Guinea Hog: they rank up there with the most delicious pork we've ever tasted.
Before the homogeny of commodity-based commercial agriculture, regions developed distinct breeds of pigs. These pigs displayed traits that allowed them to thrive in specific climates and produce pork of desired qualities. The qualities of pigs that were prized---before large-scale, barn-based, pork production became ubiquitous---are the same traits that still make these pigs valuable to today's pasture-based artisan pork producers. These pigs tend to make more nutritional use of the grasses, roots, worms, and small critters that they forage from pasture.
Generally, they grow slower. They excercise more. They develop more flavor, more marbling in their well-developed muscles.
They also have a greater ability to survive and thrive out on the land. These pigs still have survival instincts that make them hearty in all weather, as well as make them good mothers with little human intervention.
Pigs don't graze like ruminants, because they aren't ruminants; pigs are omnivores and have a digestive system a bit like yours and mine. They graze their salad course from the greens above the soil and seek out heartier fare in the dirt with their snouts.
We rotationally graze the pigs to manage their grazing and keep them on fresh ground. This also allows the pastures to recover between grazings.
Pigs need a varied diet and won't develop a desirable carcass without supplemental feed. We use a locally grown and produced corn-based feed. The pigs raised for meat are fed an exclusively non-GMO feed.
Most of the pigs on the farm are made up of some combination of the following breeds: Berkshire, Guinea Hog, Hereford, Tamworth, and Yorkshire.
heritage breeds and grazing pigs
guinea hog crosses
Left: two Guinea Hogs
Right top: Guinea Hog cross
Right middle: group of Guinea Hog crosses
Right bottom: Guinea Hog (black) eating next to a Yorkshire (pink) in the background