There are two main types of heritage breed pigs: lard breeds and bacon breeds. It is important to consider the differences between these breeds when deciding which one to raise on your homestead. Today, we are going to discuss lard pig breeds.
What are Lard Pig Breeds?
Lard breeds are pig breeds that produce a large amount of quality fat (or lard). These breeds were commonly used before agriculture became more industrialized and lard was still used in the home daily.
Examples of Lard Breeds include:
American Guinea Hog
Ossabaw Island Hog
3 Common Characteristics of Lard Breeds
1. They Produce Quality Lard
Heritage lard breeds are known for their fat, but don’t let that scare you! They have an amazing buttery fat that’s not gristly when you bite into it. It isn’t rubbery fat that you have to fight with. Despite the delicious fat, these pigs have fallen out of favor over the decades. At one point in time, they were really important and highly prized breeds.
Before cheaper oils became readily available, pig fat was more valuable than the actual pork itself. This fat could be used for so many things such as candle making, soap making, salves, lubrications, explosives, and (of course) cooking & baking!
The lard from heritage breed pigs isn’t the same lard that you find at the grocery store. This is premium lard that you will be able to make yourself. That allows for there to be higher nutritional value and a higher quality overall.
This heritage breed lard isn’t a “porky” tasting fat. For example, “leaf” lard is silky smooth and great for cooking (baking, sauteing, etc.). Since vitamins are stored in pork fat, homegrown lard will add nutrients such as Vitamin D & B and will boost any meal with amazing texture!
2 . They Are Slow Growers
Another reason why lard breeds fell out of favor with farmers was that many of them wanted pig breeds that grew faster. Lard breeds tend to take a year to a year and a half to grow out to whatever market weight they might be. That's a long time compared to some other breeds that can take only six to eight months to grow to a weight similar to or even heavier than lard breeds.
This isn’t totally a bad thing, though. During this timespan of growth, the pig will put on a large amount of high-quality lard if fed a high carb or high grain diet. Just understand that if you do decide to raise a lard breed, then you're going to get a lot of good fat, but it will take a little extra time to be able to enjoy it. Additionally, their genetics will lead to smaller portion sizes for pork cuts. This may be a turn-off for those who are wanting more meat and less fat. But for those who love fat and smaller portion sizes, these breeds can work very well for you!
3. They Have a High Forage Conversion
Heritage lard breeds were also bred to be gleaners. This means that they were meant to forage a high percentage of their diet. There weren't many formulated pig feeds available when these breeds dominated the market. Pigs like these were being fed off of what they could glean in the fields after harvest was done and what they could find in the forests that they were raised in. Because of this, they have a higher rate of conversion for forage than a lot of other breeds do.
This characteristic is advantageous because these breeds can cut down your feed bill significantly. You don't have to feed these pigs a lot because they find their nutrition on their own via foraging and gleaning. They will need rotated access to pastures and forested areas so they can forage most of their diet. You can also add silage into their diet as a forage component.
I would recommend giving formulated feed in controlled rations. It is not a good idea free feed lard breeds as they will eat to their heart's content and end up with obesity issues.
Should You Raise Lard Breeds on Your Homestead?
Heritage lard breeds are incredible animals, but they aren’t for everyone. Let’s discuss a few main considerations to look at when choosing whether or not these breeds will work for you.
What is Your End Goal?
Think about what your market is looking for (or what your family prefers to eat). Do you need to produce more retail meat cuts or do you want to have cuts with fat caps and extra lard for cooking?
Heritage lard breeds are great for families who are wanting to incorporate more fat into their diets, like those who are on Paleo, Keto, and Carnivore diets. For home consumption, these breeds are more suited for households (1-3 members) and empty nesters.
These breeds can also be game changers for those who make candles, candles, soap, salves, and lotions; providing a buttery smooth texture to your home, beauty, and skincare products!
What Type of Pig Operation Do You Have?
Is your operation one where pigs are raised in confinement or an outdoor setting? Heritage lard breeds need access to pasture or forested areas as they are foragers by nature.
These breeds do very well outdoors and they will reduce your feed bill if they can glean and forage.
Do You Want to Protect Endangered Breeds?
If you decide to raise heritage lard breeds, then you will be helping to rebuild the population of struggling pig breeds.
Heritage 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.