When it comes to farm animals pigs have it all - they are smart, inexpensive to buy, delicious, the most versatile protein in the kitchen and they efficiently convert a wide array of resources into a more bio-available state for farming. With so many unique breeds now available from small scale farmers, consumers once again have the ability to make a choice and support the producers bringing pigs off the factory floors and back to the pastures.
Common White Pig:
The common white is a term for the Yorkshire breed, which is the most domesticated and factory farmed pig in North America. These pigs have been bred overtime to put on weight very quickly in industrial conditions, and these conditions force the pigs to be far leaner than those raised outdoors, which require that fat for insulation. Common white pigs are also preferred by processors, because their hair is light in color and doesn’t show up on the carcass as easily as a red or black haired pig.
Heritage Breed Pigs:
Most factory produced meat comes from breeds specifically designed to do well in that environment, which is to say they produce the highest volume of meat for the lowest cost. Ultimately what this usually means is horrible environments for animals where they are kept in only the needed conditions so that they put on weight and don't get sick. A good example of this is the "Common White" pig. Heritage breed tends to refer to pork, and by using that term the farmer is telling the consumer that they are using breeds that may grow slower, require more care, have better flavour, or more fat, but are likely not raised in an industrial way. In Canada choosing breeds that originated in the UK, and Eastern European countries that share our climate, are better suited to living outdoors, naturally.
A domesticated pig over 54 kg (120 lbs) and reared for slaughter.
A very old strain of black-skinned pigs with very little hair, and most commonly found in Spain where they traditionally pasture on acorns. The adult has slender legs and a very long snout and a high fat content. The large amount of fat covering each ham, enables the meat to be cured for a much longer period, resulting in a much more complex flavour. This breed grows slowly and produces small litters adding to their steep price on the market, and because of this has a created an international market for counterfeit products.
This pig breed comes from Eastern Europe and is one of the most valued in the world for its dark red muscles and enormous bands of silky fat. The mangalitsa is a very slow growing pig compared to other breeds, which can grow to maturity within a year, but the full development of these pigs will take several and cannot be factory produced, making their production very limited in Ontario.
One of the more valuable things a pig on pasture will do is root around in the soil, which naturally plows it and works their manure back into the land, fertilizing it for wild plants.
The wild boar commonly sold in Ontario is most likely not wild at all and is in fact farmed like other pork and a cross breed of an old breed called an "iron age". A real wild boar will have dark purple and red meat, a long slender frame, rounded rib bones and tusks. Wild boar production in Ontario is facing an all out ban for a number of reasons, but the main one being that if these animals escape into the wild they could quickly multiply and become an environmental disaster.