Pork Chop Comparision – Best Meat Breed?

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.

Click on the image for a larger closeup.

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.

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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.

Outdoors: 25°F/18°F Sunny
Farm House: 61°F/51°F
Tiny Cottage: 53°F/40°F door open a lot

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About Walter Jeffries

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27 Responses to Pork Chop Comparision – Best Meat Breed?

  1. Podchef says:

    Happy to oblige Walter. . . .gotta wait until November though. My Yorkshire mixes are being raised in douglas fir woodland pasture and so far have received bread, whey, veggie scraps, cooked potatoes, surplus y2k oatmeal and pig grains as a treat. They don’t seem to like hay much, but I am into two year old bedding hay at this point.

    Before their end they will have access to orchard windfalls, nuts, corn leavings and garden surplus.

    I no longer have any of the pork chops from the half hog I got from the neighbors last spring, but they weren’t what I would call generous–more like the chop on the right in your photo. They were milk and scrap raised, but not pastured.

    Photos of my piglings thus far: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86571141@N00/sets/72157594527318176/

  2. Pete says:

    We pasture raise a couple pigs a year that we buy as piglets from a local hog barn. The hog barn owner could hardly believe we could pasture raise his pigs to almost 300lbs without them getting fat. They ship at 220lbs because anything beyond that and their factory farmed pigs turn into lard balls.

    It makes sense to me. If I were trapped in a tiny room with food in front of me 24/7, I’d probably get fat too.

    Pete

  3. Urban Agrarian says:

    I have no pork chops, but I actually remembered a post that might interest you by Helen of Beyond Salmon. She is a neighbor of mine.

    http://beyondsalmon.blogspot.com/2006/06/pigepiphany.html

  4. pigfaemer56 says:

    sorry we dont have a digital camera yet. I will tell you that Wilber the pig we slaughterd The first of march at 11 months looked much like your chop(the pastured one) same beed,amix in fact he was black and pink with almost yellow hair. we feed our pigs Colostrum and donuts along w/ a little cracked corn. always seems to be just enough fat, but if you broil a chop you can see the sugar carmilize in it our pigs are penned Wilber hung at 266# thats a skinned wieght! He was quite long, we got 22# of bacon from him!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is it too early to have pork chops for breakfast?

    This comparison study is a tremendous idea. Might I suggest folks putting a ruler at the bottom of the cutting board?

    Know what I did with this post and pic? I emailed it to my friends and family and said, THIS is why I want to get into this line of work (pastured pork and other foods.)

    Great job, Walter & Co.

    Brian H in Greenville, WI

  6. Helen says:

    Hi Walter,

    Thanks so much for undertaking this project! I can’t wait to see your findings as I am in complete pig confusion. The pictures from my post were from the first time I tried “kurobuta” pork. It was very pricey ($20/Lb), but very red, well marbled and absolutely delicious. I have tried to buy what’s labeled as “kurobuta” pork again from the same butcher and a different one too. It had more marbling than a store bought chop, but less than original kurobuta one. It was also much lighter in color than the original kurobuta chops that you saw in my pictures. Taste-wise, it was tougher and not as flavorful. I noticed that these subsequent times, the chops were cheaper ($15/Lb). I asked the butcher about it and he said that they are from a different supplier and that they can’t get the good expensive ones anymore. I also noticed that there is a pretty significant difference between which exact ribs you buy. The beginning of the rack is much redder and better marbled than the part closer to the T-bone type cut. Well, so where does all this leave me? It’s very hard to get what I want from a pork chop. And I find the marketing terms annoying. The butchers figured out that if they slap the “kurobuta” label on pork, they can sell pretty much anything.

    Keep me posted on how your project is going and if there is anything I can do to help. I cook pork very rarely, but if I do, I’ll send you pictures.

    Cheers,
    -Helen

  7. The ruler is an excellent idea. I wish I had thought of that when I took the picture.

    Do blip on over to the Beyond Salmon article. Most excellent. If anyone else knows of any other comparisions, please do post links.

  8. Jon Crane, Warren Maine says:

    Walter –

    Neat idea. My wife and I have been going round and round about pork chops this winter mainly because of our 4 pigs one of them yielded very fibrous chops, very difficult to chew. Here are some of the particulars:

    Breed: white, yorkshire most likely predominant, some hampshire or other black influence, all gilts
    Production: Raised on grass in poultry netting, rotated weekly, whey fed, and pellet fed avg 2 lbs/animal/day
    Harvest: first two animals, age 7 mos, approximate live wt 200lbs, went to butcher A, hung for one week before cutting. Chops were lean, great flavor in the meat and fat – no complaints from customers. 2nd two animals, age 9-1/2 mos, approx live wt 250-275lbs, went to butcher B, hung for at most 2 days before cutting. Chops from one we got good feedback on, chops from the other pig (we split with another family) were TOUGH, FIBROUS, NOT GOOD. All 4 animals were in good health, similar temperament. One theory we’re bandying about is possibility of some major stress to the tough pig just prior to slaughter. (They waltzed off the truck with no problem.)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Walter,
    I once bought a large amount of fat (to be rendered down into blocks of lard and put into the freezer). The two pigs were raised on goat whey/milk as part of their diet because the farmer raised goats and had an abundance of milk. I found that the raw fat had a terrible odor to it when the lid of the cooler was lifted; very prominent, very detectable. You’d swear there was a goat stuffed into the cooler. Personally, I would never feed out goat whey or goat milk to a pig I wanted to eventually slaughter for human consumption.
    The ages of the pigs were not known, nor the genders of them, but I suspect the pigs simply absorbed and retained the smell by eating the goat whey/milk. (You are what you eat?)
    I included cow’s milk into the organic feed, veggies, bread, eggs, etc. that I fed to my 2 pigs when I raised them, and there was no problem with any smell “leaching” into the pork.
    Isn’t it goat whey that you feed out to your pigs? Do you ever detect the “goat smell” in the meat or fat of your slaughtered animals?

  10. Jon, stress is my guess too. The other difference you mention is the hanging time and the age. The age difference is not great but the hanging time is.

    Anonymous, my guess is it was particular to that that feed you experienced. The whey we get is also goat but it smells sweet and the fat and meat of the resulting pigs smells and tastes sweet. We use the lard and it is delicious. I suspect you have an anecdotal bad experience rather than a generalizable one.

    There is another possibility. You say the ages and genders of the pigs are unknown in your bad tasting ones. It could be that they were older males who exhibited the infamous boar taint. That would make what you experienced totally independent of the goats whey. Boar taint, when it happens, is concentrated in the fat so that makes sense. I have heard that it out-gasses though so it may be removable via rendering although that would be a stinky job…

    • Jeremey says:

      Hi Walter,

      My wife and I grew up suburban kids and over the past 6 years have done a 180 and now own a small 5-acre farm where our goal is to eventually produce nearly all of our own food. We’re getting there, and this fall came across three piglets that we are now raising to put in the freezer in a couple of months.

      We’ve learned how to process a great number of poultry over the past several years, but this will be our first experience with four-footed food. I have found a plethora of information about butchering (i.e., making primal cuts, then standard culinary cuts, etc.), but I am having a terrible time finding a “how-to” for the necessary steps between the gun shot and the butchering table.

      Do you have any posts related to the DIY version of getting the pork from the pasture to the table? I did run across one post where I saw a pic of a split carcass hanging from your front-end loader, but the post was about boar meat (which was interesting, by the way). Do you take the animals your family will consume to the processor? If not, how do you go about doing one on your own?

      Thanks in advance for pointing me in the right direction or any tips you may be able to offer.

  11. Don says:

    I bet you are right about the bore taint being the reason that guy had smelly lard. Ive fed goats milk and goats whay to my pigs for 17 years and the meat and fat and lard have always been sweet and wondrful. It wasnt the whay. Thats for sur.

  12. Interesting stuff…..we have just raise four hogs heading to the butcher this weekend. We have feed them a cracked corn feed from our local feed mill, mixed hay & water only…. no milk of any kind… oh, and a few vegetarian only scraps. Any thoughts on the milk vs. water ?? Is milk or whey necessary. Next, I’d like to try pasture raised & supplement w/ a small amt. of corn feed.
    Thanks
    Jenny

  13. woody589 says:

    Walter,, my husband slops our hogs with moldy fruit, veggies and meat scrapes. I know your pigs are pasture raised, but is there any ill effect from slopping with materials I feel better for the compost heap?

  14. Jessica says:

    Slopping is a terrible idea–you need to control the type and amount of oils and fats in your pigs diet. Otherwise, you can have terrible off flavors. Slopping is also problematic for pathogen concerns.

    Kurobuta isn’t a type of pork–it just refers to pork from Berkshire pigs. Kuro=black, buta=pig

  15. Slopping, the feeding of post-consumer garbage, is not a very good idea because it could transfer pathogens from people to pigs which can get some of the same diseases. Likewise, don’t eat your pork raw or under cooked.

    On the other hand, the feeding of compost to the pigs, that is pre-consumer wastes, is not a problem. I do avoid feeding meat scraps to our pigs. But then if I were ever to consider it our livestock guardian dogs would give me a jealous eye. They get first dibs on all meat left overs and there are never any scraps after them. Thus our pigs are vegetarians except for any grubs and such they root up themselves in the fields.

    Kurobuta are Berkshire pigs that originated in England from what I’ve read. It is very possible, even likely, that there is a fair bit of variety in the Berkshires sold under that label. Even if they were all from the same tight lineage, how they were raised (confined vs pasture) and what they ate (corn/soy vs hay/pasture/diary/veggies) could make a tremendous difference in the quality and the taste of the meat. Even the age of the animal at slaughter can make a big difference as pigs don’t really start putting on a good fat layer and marbling until after they get to a certain age.

  16. M. Sucsy says:

    Wonderful to see farmers all experimenting and gathering information from each other. I am very interested to see some other comparisons. I’m a butcher and always trying to push the consumer to become closer to their food and the people that grow it. You touched briefly on the fact that the cut from your comparison wasnt the same one. The chop on the left is a rear loin chop, equivalent to a porterhouse in beef, while the one on the right is a rib chop. Incomparible as far as size relations. The color and texture is an interesting variation though. Is there a way you could do a similar comparison with a closer rib side by side comparison? And the ruler is a fantastic idea! Do you find the imput costs of pasture fed less than that of processed grain? Please keep up the experiments!

    • Yes, the input costs are less than grain feeding, especially with the massive increases in grain costs in the last few years. Because of this we have been able to keep our prices to our customers reasonably stable with the only increases due to the butcher increasing their fees. One butcher’s fee increase was due to the hike last year in the cost of sausage casings, for example.

      I would like to do more comparisons of exactly the same cuts but that will have to wait until we have our butcher shop up and running complete with slaughter. Then I’ll have more control and can do all sorts of interesting experiments.

  17. jennifer says:

    I am so glad I came across this blog while researching raising pigs. We currently raise cattle and different types of poultry for our family. This will be our first endever with pigs. We hadnt planned on pasturing them but also not putting them in small pens that I see around here. I live in Phoenix AZ. If anyone could give me iputs I’d appreciate it. We currently have chickens where the piglets were going. Is this OK? Or should they be separated. When feeding milk, are you talking about a dry milk, cows or goat milk? What about vaccines? We never give any to our cows and have been fine but we were told pigs are completely different. The breeder we are looking at getting the pigs from feeds them table scraps ( no meat), fruits and vegetables and show masters pig feed. Sorry if I’m asking silly questions. Basically what advise would you give to someone just starting out? Thanks for any inputs.

    • I have heard of people in arid climates buying hay to replace pasture, much as we do in the winter when we’re up on snow. Since hay to arid areas must be trucked in it is expensive.

      If you’re just doing feeder stock and no breeders then you may be able to skip vaccinations. It is really a question of what diseases are a problem in your area and from incoming stock. Check with your department of agriculture to see what they have on their list as issues locally.

      We run our chickens and pigs together just fine. They are raised from birth being around chickens and there is plenty of space. In a tight pen situation I have heard that people sometimes have problems with pigs cornering chickens and then killing and eating them. Chickens will also eat pigs, although not kill them. In the winter we feed meat scraps to our chickens to replace the summer’s insect bonanza.

      You may be interested in reading the article Keeping a Pig for Meat.

  18. RLM McWilliams says:

    Since hogs are omnivors (like chickens) and naturally consume meat as part of their diets, why do so many people make a big deal about not feeding them any meat – or brag about ‘vegetarian only’ diets for them?

    Of course, no one wants to eat pork that has been feed waste from an industrial slaughterhouse/packing plant – especially since those animals being processed there are essentially all from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). And post consumer food scraps can carry disease from humans, etc, but all the old-timers I know always fed the waste from processing their own chickens, rabbits, and game at home to the hogs. The joke was that the ‘perfect murder’ would be covered up by feeding the body to the hogs (this was before DNA tests on the feces could detect and indentify the human consumed).

    Then again, many pastured or ‘forest glen’ (to use a Joel Salatin term) pigs are likely supplementing their diets with a bit of animal protien on their own.

  19. anita Evans says:

    I’ll send a photo of our tiny chops! These came from a pure bred Wessex Saddleback pair, one of 9 piglets, this barrow was killed at 7 months and weighed about 70Kg. There was lots of deep fat under his skin, probably from all the extra carbs he gets with the grocery store leftovers, (bread, veggies, fruit). They get soaked barley and occasionally commercial feed pellets but these are expensive so in limited supply. They are out on poor native grass pasture that wouldn’t contribute too much. We have been inspired to plant more decent mixed perennial and clover pasture with mixed brassica and other herbs to see if we can rotationally graze them next summer.

    [Anita emailed me photos which I’ve attached below. She’s in Australia where it is 23°C right now – balmy. -Walter]


  20. Denise says:

    Hello
    I am just getting started and have a couple of questions and have been reading all I can find on this subject. Based on this blog I am looking for Berkshire type pig and have decided that my original pen of 900sqft won’t do. I can expand my pen to include a grove of trees in the back pushing the area to just over 1/4 an acre. So, when I was a kid my neighbors gave their pigs whole eggs, corn mash and expired bread products from wherever they could get them and kept them in small horrible pens. Out of that the only thing I gleaned is the eggs, is it ok to give pigs “whole” eggs? I read that people give eggs but not in their shell. I only have 3 acres and currently mow 2 of the 3, would it be ok to give the grass clippings to the pig? I have always wanted to keep dairy goats, but never like the taste of their milk, discovering that y’all give goat’s milk to your pigs has brighten my day. Is there any other place or means I can look to for my pig’s diet? I live in Tx and there just isn’t the abundance of fruit here.

    • Berkshire is one good breed known in particular for marbling. Rather than a pen I would suggest setting up a managed rotational grazing system. Ideally at least ten spaces but even simply dividing the area into four will help. See the article One Day of Grazing and be sure to read the articles that links to as well.

      Whole eggs are excellent food. Ideally cooked to double the available protein and help resolve the biotin antagonist in the whites. Shells are fine to give to the pig. Boil, bake or scramble. Grass clippings are fine for the pig as long as you’re not using herbicides, pesticides or toxic fertilizers and such. For more on what we use for our pig’s diet start on the Pig Page.

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