Best Tasting Pig Breeds for Mouth-Watering Bacon, Pork, and Ham!

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This article is part of our Raising Meat on the Homestead series.

Here’s our massive list of the best-tasting pig breeds. If you’re a homesteader or rancher who wants to raise pigs to save money, do your part to increase environmental sustainability, and escape the bland, flavorless pork you buy at the grocery store, this article’s for you!

Continue reading as we explore some of the best-tasting pigs for meat. Before diving into specific breeds, we’ll review some of the various factors that affect how pig meat tastes and go over the basic nutritional profile of this succulent red meat.

Are you getting hungry yet?

Alright, let’s not wait any longer.

Let’s dive into this slop pit head first!

Hog vs. Pig vs. Swine

delicious pork belly bacon resting on a cutting board
We’re hungry. And we need more bacon! But before diving into the best-tasting pig breeds, we want to clarify our pig breed terminology. Most ranchers we know use the words pig vs. boar vs. swine interchangeably. That said, as a good rule of thumb, hogs are usually older, and pigs are often younger. Many food products (like the yummy bacon you see above) come from pigs – including ham (pork butt), pork chops, bacon, pork shoulder, pork loin, pork rinds (skin), and more.

So, before we get going on the best-tasting heritage breeds of pigs, let’s clarify the terminology. Swine, pigs, and hogs are all members of the same animal species called Sus scrofa domestica. Now, if you’re like me, each of these words (kind of) means the same thing to you.

However, here are some particulars between the different terms:

  • A sow is an adult female.
  • A hog can be either female or male.
  • Baby pigs are piglets, regardless of gender.
  • A boar is a male that has not gotten castrated.
  • Hogs typically refer to older pigs or those larger than 120 pounds.

For the remainder of this article, I will use hog, pig, and swine interchangeably, as most people I have ever known do. I understand and respect that this may be grammatically incorrect, but I’m going for it anyway. Sue me! (We’re just joking. No legal action is required!)

Factors that Affect the Taste of Pork

yummy cuts of pork diagram loin ham and bacon
Fat and marbling are two vital variables that determine pork flavor. Consider one of our favorite pig cuts on our pig meat diagram. Bacon! Bacon is the cured belly fat of a pig. It’s arguably one of the fattiest cuts. And it’s also one of the most desirable and delicious cuts. We also read that stress can negatively affect pork quality. In other words – if you want high-quality pork meat, you must minimize stress in your pig’s environment. (Give them a good life – even if you intend on eating them down the line.)

Pork is one of the most favored red meats in the world, and it delivers a unique texture that is succulent and tender like no other cuts of meat out there.

However, different breeds of pigs taste different because they offer different-sized cutting potential, different fat-to-muscle ratios, and different flavors that evolve because of their diets.

Other factors can affect how pork tastes. How it got raised, the environmental conditions and other stressors it lived with, and the circumstances surrounding its slaughter are excellent examples of variables impacting pig flavor.

As with beef, fat marbling in pork cuts is very important and is a splendid sign of the tenderness and flavor you can achieve with careful cooking. Also, you should know that pasty, too soft, or crusty pork is usually low quality. A pig’s genetics can also affect how juicy and tasty the meat is.

Finally, the time length that pork gets cured and how it gets cooked also significantly affect its taste. Many homesteading chefs assert that pork should age at least six to ten days after butchering before getting cooked. Pork curing encourages the development of a more caramelly, sweet taste.

OK, it’s time to learn about some of the best-tasting breeds of pigs.

Of course, nearly all pork can be delicious, but the following common breeds have stood the test of time and developed reputations for extra flavorful meat with superior texture.

You can be sure that any on this list will yield superior flavor and enjoyment relative to anything you can buy at your local Walmart or other mainstream food supply store.

Alright, here we go – Mmm, we love that tasty meat!

The Smoking Bacon & Hog Cookbook: The Whole Pig & Nothing But the Pig BBQ Recipes
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Here's an excellent resource for any homesteader chopping, cooking, BBQing, or grilling hogs. It's the Smoking Bacon & Hog Cookbook by Bill Gillespie. The book contains many tasty bacon, ribs, pulled pork, porkchop, sausages, and other mouth-watering hog recipes. Most of the book's recipes work for Weber Smokey Mountain grills, vertical and barrel smokers. 

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06/21/2024 05:20 am GMT

The Best Tasting Heritage Pig Breeds In the USA

If you’re ever at a farmer’s market or livestock auction and see any of the following breeds for sale, consider purchasing them. Heritage hogs are renowned worldwide because of their consistently superior taste and quality. Giving one or many a happy pasture on your homestead can lead to endless delicious celebrations, money savings, and more happiness!

Berkshire Hogs

young berkshire hog grazing and exploring natural woodlands
Want truckloads of delicious bacon? Then look no further. The mighty Berkshire hog is famous for superior carcass quality with excellent flavored bacon, ham, and ribs. They’re usually black with white on their snouts, feet, and tail.
Boar weight:550 – 650 pounds
Sow weight:450 – 550 pounds
Uses:Fresh pork, bacon
Meat Description:Porky flavor
Association:American Berkshire Association
Berkshire Hogs Profile

Japanese chefs use purebred heritage Berkshire hogs to prepare kurobuta, a delicacy considered the pork equivalent of Kobe Beef or American Wagyu. However, you don’t need to be a Japanese hibachi chef or cooking master to throw a Berkshire pork chop on the grill! 

Berkshire pigs are excellent foragers, efficiently converting legumes, grass, and other plant life into highly marbled, lean, but juicy, high-carcass yields. This breed of pig is also a joy to raise, as they are calm, friendly, and shockingly intelligent.

Chester White Pigs

big white chester pig exploring and looking for lunch in the backyard farm
Chester White Pigs hail from Chester County, PA. Wikipedia states that these lovely meat pigs derived from mixing white pigs from North Eastern US with a white boar. They’re not nearly as popular as other meat pigs. That said, they have a reputation for helping mix commercial breeds used for pork.
Boar weight:Up to 500 pounds
Sow weight:Around 400 pounds
Uses:Commercial cross-breeding, husbandry, delicious bacon
Meat Description:Savory, rich taste
Association:Chester White Record Association
Chester White Pigs Profile

Hailing from Chester County, PA, Chester White Pigs have been around the USA since the early 1800s. The first Chester White Swine Association got formed in 1884. These pigs are big and white. And they have somewhat floppy ears and moderately dished faces. What’s most striking about them is their stretched bodies with extra-large hams.

Chester White Pigs are easygoing pigs to have around your homestead and farm. They also reach maturity quickly and are very hardy animals. The meat Chester Whites offer is somewhat lean yet nicely marbled with delicious-tasting fat. Cooked properly, it’s enjoyable and very moist.

Duroc Pigs

two duroc pigs eating lunch on a small rural farm
Duroc pigs are a tan to brownish-red pig meat breed from the USA. You’ll notice they have droopy, floppy ears and a long body. Duroc pigs are famous for excellent rate gain and feed efficiency.
Boar weight:Over 800 pounds
Sow weight:Around 750 pounds
Uses:Bacon, pork belly, pork tenderloin
Meat Description:Mild, juicy
Association:American Duroc-Jersey Association
Duroc Pigs Profile

According to Oklahoma State University, “Durocs have considerable color variation. An acceptable color may range from a very light golden, almost yellow color, to a very dark red that approaches mahogany.”

Duroc meat is revered worldwide for its incredible juiciness and mild-to-moderate flavor, especially compared to the exotic and yummy flavors of numerous other breeds of heritage pigs. Durocs, the second most common commercial hog breed in the USA, are also recognized by their (rather adorable) droopy ears and amicable demeanor.

Hampshire Hogs

adorable hampshire pig relaxing and lounging in a hay bed
Hampshire hogs, unlike Duroc pigs, have pointy ears that stand erect. Most Hampshire pigs have black tummies – with a white band around their upper body, extending to their front legs. They’re prominent in the USA and have reputations for good carcass quality.
Boar weight:Over 600 pounds
Sow weight:Just under 600 pounds
Uses:Lean meat, sausage, pork shoulder, cross-breeding
Meat Description:Lean, mild
Association:National Swine Registry
Hampshire Hogs Profile

The domestic Hampshire hog originated in Hampshire County, England. Then, later, in the 1800s, the breed arrived in the USA. You can identify these hogs by their erect ears and black bodies with a white band. The Hampshire is one of the oldest varieties of American hogs and is the 4th most popularly recorded in the United States.

Hampshires are medium-sized hogs that grow to weigh as much as 650 pounds for males and about 550 lbs of market weight for females. Their well-muscled bodies develop long legs, making them ideal for meat production. This intelligent breed also displays high energy, impressive endurance, excellent foraging, and attentive parenting.

Large Black Pigs

large black pig resting in a field on a sunny and hot day
What’s this? A wild boar? No. It’s a Large Black Pig! We caught this one sleeping on a hot summer day. It looks tired! If it were awake, you’d have a better view of its floppy ears, long head, and pleasant demeanor. Large Black Pigs are usually laid back and relaxed. And they also taste delicious.
Boar weight:Up to 800 pounds
Sow weight:Up to 700 pounds
Uses:Succulent meat, bacon, ham, pork belly
Meat Description:Beefy, nut flavor
Association:Large Black Hog Association
Large Black Pigs Profile

Whoever named the Large Black pig breed probably lacked imagination! “Hmm, what should we call these guys? They have black hair, and they’re big. Hey, I got it: Large, Black Pig.”

OK then. We’re now moving forward!

Large Blacks were prominent throughout the English countryside, especially in bigger towns like Cornwell and Devonshire, in the early and mid-1800s. They have lengthy bodies, are typically black with grey skin, and sport medium-length snouts. And their floppy ears are so large that they often cover their faces. They’re cute, but I still like eating them! Sorry. (Not!)

Mulefoot Pigs

We couldn’t find any good photos of the Mulefoot swine. Nor do we know any farmers or ranchers who have ever raised them. They’re surprisingly rare! Which is a shame since they have reputations as delicious pig meat breeds. We found a video from Haven Heritage Farm showcasing them in closer detail. Check it out. These pigs are super elusive!
Boar weight:Around 500 pounds
Sow weight:Around 450 to 475 pounds
Uses:Juicy ham, lard, bacon, ribs
Meat Description:Marbled, succulent bacon
Association:American Mulefoot Pig Association
Mulefoot Pigs Profile

The famous and politically eminent (kidding) National Mulefoot Hog Record Association got formed in 1908 in the Ozark Region, including Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. And by 1910, more than 230 registered Mulefoot breeders spread throughout 22 states. They became one of the most popular breeds amongst pork connoisseurs from numerous countries as they got more famous.

Like Hampshires, Mulefoots are medium-sized and black. Some have fleshy waddles on their necks. They also can be distinguished by their fused hooves and their able yet docile characteristics. Mulefoots are lard pigs, meaning they are easy to fatten up. As such, they produce excellently marbled meat known far and wide as succulent and uniquely delicious pork with high-fat content.

Poland China Pigs

massive and strong muddy looking poland china pig
Poland China pigs look similar to Berkshire pigs, with black bodies and white accents along their feet, nose, and tail. (But we couldn’t tell what this one looks like. Its entire body got covered in mud!) These pigs are also tremendously massive – one of the heaviest on our list of meat pig breeds. One famous specimen reportedly tipped the scales at over 2,552 pounds. Who else wants ham, bacon, and eggs?
Boar weight:Over 700 pounds
Sow weight:Around 500 to 600 pounds
Uses:Pork chops, ribs, bacon, lard
Meat Description:Lean
Association:Indiana Poland China Association
Poland China Pigs Profile

Many pig farmers, especially around Butler and Warren counties in Ohio, still work with the Poland Chinas, as they have since the late 1800s. They look like Berkshire hogs with their black and white snouts, tail tips, and boots. They grow to be lean, long pigs with massive jowls and short, inverted snouts. Their ears are semi-lopped and turn inward towards their eyes.

Popular with farmers and homesteaders, Poland China pigs grow to maturity quickly. They’re hardy pigs and rugged foragers, yet have compliant personalities with their human caretakers. The meat that they develop is nicely marbled but on the lean side. Its tender meat is potentially some of the best-tasting of any pork breed anywhere. A popular choice!

Tamworth Pigs

tamworth pig and piglets exploring on a muddy backyard farm
Here’s our favorite pig with adorable red hair and pink skin. It’s the mighty Tamworth pig! These farmyard cuties have long snouts and legs. They’re also famous for having some of the best-tasting bacon of any swine.
Boar weight:Around 500 to 600 pounds
Sow weight:Around 500 to 600 pounds
Uses:Pork belly, bacon, pork rib roast
Meat Description:Highly flavorful, nutty
Association:Tamworth Swine Association
Tamworth Pigs Profile

Rugged, intelligent, and high-energy, Tamworth swine is a widespread favorite breed for small-scale farmers, homesteaders, and others who want to raise brainy pigs that produce lean meat. As the most active American swine lard breed, Tamworths develop excellent muscles yet remain fatty enough to make superb, tender, firm-textured, well-marbled pork.

Like Yorkshires, Tamworth mothers are caring and attentive to their young. The breed is passive and relatively quiet, which is attractive for people living close to others. (Not recommended! Isolation and privacy always work better.) They also like to follow along behind cattle or sheep and are excellent for salvaging crops that would otherwise have to get scrapped.

Tamworth pigs are perhaps best known for their tasty, lean bacon. Their long belly regions accommodate lengthy bacon strips without too much fat. Tamworths are also renowned for their super-sized chops and mouth-watering hams. The breed made its USA debut in 1882, hailing from Tamworth Village in Staffordshire, England.

Yorkshire Hogs

yorkshire pigs foraging in the field on a hot sunny day
We’re finishing our list of the best-tasting pig breeds with a heavy hitter. The Yorkshire pig! Also called Large Whites, these hogs are famous for yummy pork and are one of the most prominent pig breeds worldwide. They produce excellent ham and bacon, and their pork meat is leaner than other heavier hog varieties.
Boar weight:Around 600 to 700 pounds
Sow weight:Around 500 to 600 pounds
Uses:Bacon, ham, cross-breeding
Meat Description:Lean yet juicy
Association:National Swine Registry
Yorkshire Pigs Profile

Here’s what Brittanica says about the mighty Yorkshire hog. “Yorkshire, also called Large White, is a breed of swine produced in the 18th century by crossing large indigenous white pig of North England with the smaller, fatter, white Chinese pig.”

Yorkshires are all-white and very solidly built. They get distributed globally, a rarity among pig breeds. The reason for this popularity is their superior-quality meat that consistently rates among the best in the world according to gourmet chefs and everyday homesteaders.

Yorkshire hogs originated in the early 1800s in England, where they were called Large Whites (I know, the originality never stops!). The Yorkshire became known as an excellent bacon breed, but as time passed, the breed became prominent as a general lean meat variety, especially in the early 20th century USA.

Coincidentally, as the story goes, the heftiest recorded Yorkshire boar measured nearly 10 feet in length, 8 feet in bodily diameter, and weighed more than 1,300 pounds. Foraging ability = 100%!

Massive amounts of meat. Now that’s a boatload of bacon!

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Summary of the Best Tasting Breeds of Pork

Well, here we are! Hopefully, we all know a lot more than we did about some of the best-tasting breeds of pigs. I have eaten plenty of popular pig breeds – some in the kitchen and some straight off the whole pig roaster – and I never complained about ANY of them!

Pork meat is popular meat. All domestic pig breeds would taste good, methinks. Even if it’s dry, slap some gravy on it! I like pretty much any meat. As long as the meat quality is good or better, I’ll take any quantity of meat available!

Lucky for us, all of the above swine breeds are widely available. And we predict they’ll be around for a long time, because of their superior flavor, texture, and other desirable characteristics, like being simple to raise on a homestead or farm. Overall, pork’s a very versatile meat.

The point is that any or all of these breeds, plus many others, make splendid choices for increasing environmental sustainability and feeding your family better while saving money. In my opinion, raising pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens, and rabbits makes sense. Plus, they all taste tremendously good! – A most delicious meat type!

Seriously though. I hope you’ve found the information helpful and developed a huge appetite. Thanks for reading!

Best-Tasting Pig Breeds Resources, Guides, and Works Cited:

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