When Marina and I moved to Missouri, we knew our land was the perfect setting for our dream—humanely raising heritage pork. But, we had to ask ourselves, which breed would we choose to raise? We could take our pick from a short list. Duroc? Red Wattle? Berkshire? Large Blacks? Considering hardiness, temperament, ease of handling, and the flavor of the meat, it wasn’t a hard question to answer.
Circle B Ranch breeds, farrows and raises Heritage Berkshire Hogs.
A Little Berkshire History
A rare type originated from Berkshire England, this pig is Britain’s oldest established breed. Historically, the Berkshire was the favorite of English royalty because of the meat’s distinctive flavor. First introduced to America in 1823, the Berkshire was originally favored by the Shaker religious community, but it has been said that the Berkshire became popular with Cromwell and his troops during the English Civil War.
The Berkshire became so preferred that The American Berkshire Association was formed in 1875. The Association only registered pure English stock with traditional Berkshire coloring. Due to the ABA’s selective process, the Berkshire bloodline has remained extremely pure to this day.
Why We Chose Berkshire
Berkshire Hogs are hardy animals that adapt well to pasture. They have a good temperament for ease of handling and perform well in outdoor operations. Friendly and curious animals, these pigs will follow you all around the pasture while you work. They are very sociable, and you will usually find them romping through the fields with their litter mates.
The Berkshire’s coloring and build are also ideal for pasture raising. The hogs are black with six white points (one on each foot, one on the face, and one on the tail) and pink skin surrounding their nose. Their dark-colored skin reduces the chance of sunburn. They have a firm build, short neck and short blocky legs with strong feet that allow the animals to thrive in a natural environment. Medium to large animals, mature sows weigh in at about 500 pounds, with boars topping out at around 700-800 pounds.
Breeding and Farrowing the Berkshire
Here at Circle B Ranch, we breed and farrow our Heritage Berkshire Hogs all year round. We can do so since Berkshire sows are good mothers that perform exceptionally well on pasture. Because we raise our sows on pasture, they are stress free. The lack of stress allows the sows to birth larger and healthier litters. We have had litters containing as many as 14 piglets!
Farrowing and raising the Berkshire on pasture makes for easier weaning as well. When Berkshire piglets are raised on pasture, they quickly learn how to root for their food. Their diet becomes varied and healthier, and the piglets swiftly become independent.
The Berkshire Flavor
The meat from the Berkshire hog is dark and juicy and has a rich flavor that you can’t compare to any other. As you are eating the meat, you are thinking “So this is what pork should taste like…” Once you have tasted the deep rich flavor of Berkshire pork, you will never buy supermarket meat again. [ ... ]