Swine have been a part of the American agricultural landscape since the arrival of New World colonists. Swine indigenous to Europe were brought with immigrants during the colonization of America, and the many different types of swine they brought have provided pork, lard, pest control, and land improvement services for centuries. Modern breed associations maintain pedigree registries of purebred animals for each breed that descends from these colonial, as well as later, introductions. Registration of animals destined to become breeding stock is essential to the long-term security of the breeds. Registration validates purebred status of animals and assures their availability for conservation by future generations.
Many swine breeds that were once core components of regional cultures are now in danger of extinction. As cultures are homogenized and historic agricultural traditions abandoned, the flavors and food traditions that revolved around specific breeds are threatened as well.

How do we save them?

In response to this threat, The Livestock Conservancy is defining Heritage Swine, and the Heritage Pork products that come from them. This ensures that the legacy left to succeeding generations has as much genetic breadth and biological robustness as the current generation has itself inherited from previous generations. The definition draws attention to endangered breeds of swine, supports their genetic integrity and long-term conservation, encourages management strategies that are biologically appropriate and agriculturally sustainable, and celebrates the cultural and culinary traditions of these breeds. Swine and pork products marketed as Heritage must meet all of the following criteria.

Definition of Heritage Swine

Heritage Swine must adhere to all of the following:

  1. True Genetic Breed. The breed is a true genetic breed of swine. That is, when mated together, it reproduces the breed type.
  2. Endangered Breed. The breed is or has been endangered, as defined by The Livestock Conservancy, and appears on or has recovered from the Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List in the Critical, Threatened, Watch, or Recovering categories.
  3. Long History in US. The breed has an established and continuous breeding population in the United States since 1925. If developed since 1925, foundation stock is no longer available. If more recently imported, the breed is globally endangered. (Please refer to The Livestock Conservancy’s criteria for the Conservation Priority List for details).
  4. Purebred Status. Heritage Swine must be registered purebred animals or immediate offspring of registered purebred animals. Swine that are the result of a breed association sanctioned grade-up program must have obtained purebred status.

Definition of Heritage Pork Products

Heritage Pork and products must come from:

  • Breeding herds consisting of purebred Heritage hogs only.
    • Meat animals and their products that are the results of mating registered animals of two different Heritage breeds may also be sold as Heritage.
  • Herds with ongoing breed selection practices for longevity, fertility, and productivity.
  • Herds that follow management practices consistent with the history of the breed, including:
    • diets that allow hogs to exhibit natural omnivorous behavior.
    • permanent access to open, pasture or range, environments.
    • free from routine prophylactic antibiotics.
    • free from administered synthetic or natural growth promoters or growth hormones.
  • Heritage Pork and products must include the name of the breed on the label or the two Heritage breeds used in crossbred production.

Note: Terms like “heirloom,” “antique,” old-fashioned,” and “old-timey” imply heritage and are understood to be synonymous with the definition provided here

Endorsed by the following individuals:

D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD., Technical Advisor, The Livestock Conservancy, and Professor, Veterinary Pathology and Genetics, Virginia Tech;
Tim Safranski, PhD, State Swine Specialist, University of Missouri; Board member, The Livestock Conservancy