Heritage Breed Livestock for Small Farmers: Red Wattle Hogs
Heritage Breeds Pigs are Suited for Pasture Farming
Many small farmers are joining a growing trend toward raising heritage breed livestock and poultry. Heritage breeds come from bloodlines that were historically raised on open-pasture farms, before the advent of commercial farming practices. Many of these breeds are in danger of becoming extinct, due to their unsuitability for modern, commodity farming.
The Red Wattle Hog is one of several breeds of pig listed as “critical” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Like most heritage breed pigs, Red Wattles are known for their excellent foraging abilities and their adaptability to a wide variety of climates, which makes them ideally suited for pasture farming. Farmers who raise Red Wattle Hogs are impressed with their gentle dispositions and ease of handling.
Red Wattle Hogs on Pasture
Compared with raising pigs indoors, raising pigs on pasture results in significantly fewer problems with odor, dust, and waste disposal. Hogs will disperse their waste evenly over the land as they graze, eliminating or decreasing the need for waste management. Also, hogs raised on open pastures have fewer problems with leg and foot problems and fewer respiratory diseases than hogs raised in confinement. Many pasture-based farmers rarely use antibiotics because their hogs are healthier; some farmers completely forgo the use of antibiotics, preferring to let nature take its course.
Other factors to consider when raising Red Wattle Hogs include shelter, shade, fencing and proper layout of facilities to ensure adequate space for farrowing, nursery, and feeding.
Red Wattle Hogs Really are Red
This distinctive-looking pig is named for its two most noticeable physical characteristics: its red hair and the fleshy skin dangling from behind its jowls, called a “wattle,” that sways when it walks.
Red Wattle Hogs come in several shades of red. Their ears stand up straight except for drooping tips, which give them a rather endearing look. While Red Wattles are a relatively smaller breed of pig, adults can reach a weight of 1000-1200 pounds and are full grown by the age of three.
Pigs Have Personality
The stereotype of pigs as smelly, mud-covered beasts that grunt and eat garbage is quickly dispelled upon spending some time with them. When pasture-raised in an environment more closely resembling their natural living conditions, pigs are no dirtier than any other livestock. They love water and enjoy a good wash in the summer. Pigs are intelligent and trainable animals and can be as loving and loyal as a dog. They will “talk” to you and let you know with their squeals, grunts, and growls if they are hungry, happy, or content.
The Best Way to Preserve Heritage Breeds? Eat Them!
The best way to help preserve heritage breeds is to buy them. Creating a demand for their meat will help farmers be able to afford to raise heritage breeds. More restaurants, markets, and butchers are consciously selecting heritage breeds, but it is you, the customer, who can help make a difference by requesting them. Next time you visit your local farmer's market, grocer, or restaurant, ask about heritage breeds and you will be doing your part to increase demand for these quality meats and poultry.
Red Wattle Pork is Served at These Fine Restaurants
- Chef Mario Batali's Del Posto in New York City
- Silverado's Royal Oak restaurant in Napa, California
- Chef Kevin Gillespie's Luna restaurant in Spokane, Washington
The excellent quality of pork produced by Red Wattle Hogs is often observed by gourmet chefs and pork connoisseurs to be somewhat beef-like in its taste and texture. The meat is red and marbled and exceptionally juicy and lean. It is especially valued for its excellent ham. The meat from heritage breed livestock is increasingly becoming the preferred choice for gourmet restaurants who want to provide quality flavor as well as help preserve diversity in our food choices.