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Are Bacon Pig Breeds Right for Your Homestead?

There are two main types of heritage breed pigs, bacon breeds and lard breeds. Comparing and contrasting the two is important before choosing which to raise on your homestead. Today we are going to talk about bacon breeds.

What are Bacon Pig Breeds?

Bacon breeds are pig breeds that are known for longer bodies that produce mostly lean muscle and small to moderate amounts of lard. These pigs are fast growers and will give you quality retail cuts.

They weren’t always popular, but they began to be used over the fattier pig breeds when cheap oils took the place of lard in kitchens and industrial lubrication across the country.

Examples of heritage bacon breeds include:

  • Red Wattle

  • Tamworth

  • Berkshire

  • Hereford

3 Main Characteristics of Bacon Breeds

Bacon breeds, sometimes called meat breeds, are great options for many homesteads and even commercial operations. Knowing the traits of these breeds is important in deciding if they will work for you or not.

1. They Produce Less Fat

These heritage breeds are generally breeds that don’t put on much fat. These breeds are known for building meat instead. They can get fatty, but it takes a lot more feed and time for them to gain a lot of lard weight.

Bacon breeds aren’t as lean as commercial breeds like Yorkshire, but they are a leaner version of heritage lard breeds. These pigs are really good for retail cuts because typical consumers don’t tend to like a lot of fat. Now, I love pig fat, but consumers are relearning about the value of lard. Some don’t even realize that lard used to be one of the main fats used in cooking and baking.

I, as a producer and educator, want to help bring back lard… but using bacon breeds in the meantime can help to familiarize consumers with heritage pork.

With bacon breeds, lard isn’t so much a factor in processing. That means that the pig’s weight is mostly meat rather than fat. If you can make more money selling meat than fat because of your markets, this gives you quite the advantage.

2. They Have a Quick Grow Out Time

Another reason heritage bacon breeds could be an asset to your operation is that they allow for a quicker turnaround on grow-out. You can expect heritage bacon breeds to be finished growing out (around 250 lbs) somewhere between six months and eight months. If you want to add more fat, then you can grow them out for another month or two while increasing their grain intake to get that fat cap up.

3. They Are Not Prone to Obesity

Most heritage lard breeds are prone to obesity. This is because they convert the majority of their grain (mostly carbs) intake straight into lard. However, bacon breeds tend to convert their grain into meat so obesity isn’t as much of a concern.

Should You Raise Bacon Breeds on Your Homestead?

Now we are down to the real question… are bacon breeds right for your pig operation? There are a few things to be considered before making your decision.

What is Your End Goal?

Is your market looking for retail meat cuts or cuts with fat caps and lard for cooking?

If your market wants primarily retail meat cuts, then bacon breeds are the right choice for you! They will produce cuts of pork with an average amount of fat making them desirable to many consumers.

I have raised Red Wattles and they produced great pork, but the fat on them was very moderate. When raising bacon breeds, you aren’t going to get a whole lot of fat unless you grow them out for a couple of extra months to add more fat back to the pig.

What Type of Pig Operation Do You Have?

If you are running an outdoor operation, then bacon breeds will work in your favor.

These are breeds that are resilient and have a lot of opportunities to make a profit on your farm, but they do not do as well in a confinement setting.

Do You Want to Protect Endangered Breeds?

If you decide to raise heritage bacon breeds, you will be helping to rebuild the population of struggling pig breeds.

Heritage bacon breeds are becoming more popular, however, the breed numbers are still threatened or critical. So when you are thinking about raising pigs, always consider heritage breeds especially if you have a pasture-based operation or an operation that's not in huge megafarm barns.

Curious about Lard breeds as well? Check out this article!

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