An interesting question I’ve seen come up from time to time on discussion lists about pigs is “what is the best meat breed?” I don’t know since all I’ve dealt with is our herd which are Yorkshire x Tamworth x Berkshire x Glouster Old Spot, etc. They look like Yorkshires for the most part. My wife Holly calls them Heinz 57 Yorkshires as they have a bit of several other breeds in them which shows up as the occasional colored piglet.
So, in the interest of science and culinary research, I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours… Could you take photos of pork chops from the various types you have and post them labeled as to breed mix. It would be interesting to compare. I’ll go first. These pork chops were from two pigs from our herd – they looked alike, were the same sex and the genetics are essentially the same. The pigs both were gilts that looked like Yorkshires but they also have some Glouster Old Spot, Tamworth and Berkshire in them based on what the piglets look like from our sows. For photos of our herd, see these posts: Pig Pile, Pastured Pigs, Dogs Rule, haPiggyness, Boars with Piglets, Piglet Counting and Pig Tickling.
Note that a purely pastured pig grows sightly slower than a corn/soy fed penned pig. The main reason the pastured chop is so much larger is the pig was older and bigger. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to make a perfect comparison as these pork chops were not cut from the exact same ribs on each pig and the pigs were different ages and sizes. But it does show some interesting differences.
Purely Pastured: The pork chop on the left was a 11 month old gilt live weight 300 lbs who was raised totally on pasture, no other feed except the occasional treat of bread or such. There is less marbling in the pastured pork chop. The pastured pork chop also had better, redder color and better flavor.
Penned & Grained: The pork chop on the right was from a 6 month old gilt live weight 250 lbs that was pen raised on commercial grower pellets by someone who bought the piglet from us. The penned/grain fed pork chop was certainly better tasting than a store bought pork chop and more marbled than either a store bought chop or the pastured chop but a little lighter in color, whiter, than the pastured chop.
What this photo doesn’t show is our more recent pasture / dairy fed pork. That has the better color of the pastured plus some marbling of the penned/grain fed chops. Both the meat and fat on the pastured / dairy fed chops is exquisite tasting – the best of all.
Note that all tests are from pigs that are very closely related so genetics is not likely to be the difference and all the same sex so that is not likely to be the difference either.
If anything our pigs tend to be a bit on the lean side so the Berkshire blood line interests me. I think that the leanness in our pigs has to do largely with our methods of raising them – free ranged, the diet, pasture/hay and whey feeding. Currently we are using whey as our primary dairy feed. That is low on calories and makes the pigs a bit lean. The years we fed milk the pigs were heavier on the fat although not as fat as penned/grained pigs. The years we’ve had a lot of cheese it has been between the whey and milk.
These tests shows that how the animal is treated (penned vs free ranging on pasture) and what the animal is fed are very important factors in how meat comes out. Breed may also be a factor. Some people claim it is. Do you have pigs? What breeds? What do the pork chops look like? How do they taste? How is the texture? Other observations? How do you feed them and manage them? I would dearly love to see pork chops from a variety of other breeds as at some point I am going to need to bring in a new boar. If you email me photos of your pork chops with the info I’ll add them to this post in updates. I’ll also put up some of the more recent whey fed chops soon.
If you can photograph your pork chops on a white meat cutting board like the one above that will help keep the comparison the same. Include any comments and a link to your web site to go with your chops. That photo was done with a flash in a room lit with warm fluorescent lights. Note the angle I did the photo at to avoid flash back reflections. Don’t do any color or other adjustments to the photo – just send original images in high quality. I have DSL now so I can handle large incoming email files.
Oh, and if you don’t have pigs, but want to participate, take a photo of a raw pork chop you buy at the store or from a local farmer and send along any details you can. Then we can compare store and other chops too.
Update 20070407: UpNorth from gave me permission to use her chops photo here:
She says Here are chops from a purebred Hereford gilt. This pig was raised on a modest amount of corn as well as milk and alfalfa.
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