What are Heritage Swine? A Heritage hog is:

  1. A 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 continuously 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 listing on the Conservation Priority List for details).
  4. Purebred Status. Heritage Swine must be registered purebred animals or immediate offspring of registered purebred animals. Animals that are the result of a breed association sanctioned grade-up program must have obtained purebred status.

Which breed should I get?
Get a breed that fits your purposes, can help you reach your goals, and fits your geographic and market niche. Once you’ve narrowed the field, be sure you’re willing and able to meet the stewardship responsibilities for your breed of choice. The more critically endangered the breed, the greater your responsibility for quality breeding, promotion, and participation in the breed association. For more information about breeds visit The Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List for swine, and the websites of the breed associations. Go on a road trip and visit area breeders.

Is there a difference between a pig and a hog?
These terms are usually used interchangeably, especially when speaking collectively of swine. Hog is often used in speaking of a mature animal and pig more often describes a young animal. Other descriptive words for pigs include sow, a mature female, boar, a mature male, gilt, a young female, and barrow, a young castrated male pig.

What is lard and what is it good for?
Lard is the solid fat from pigs, which is rendered to remove proteins (connective tissue and so on). Lard was used for centuries as a mechanical lubricant, as a fuel source for lamps, in soap making, and in cooking. It is still useful on homesteads for these purposes. Today lard is making a comeback in cooking, particularly for baking. It is prized by pastry chefs for everything from tender biscuits and pie crusts to the most elaborate desserts. Lard is also used to make homey dishes like fried chicken, pot pies, and home-made noodles, just the way your grandma made them. Advocates of healthy eating have found that lard that is processed using old-fashioned techniques, without bleaching or deodorizing, contains less saturated fat than butter, and a number of plant-derived fats.

Where can I buy Heritage Swine?
It’s not that hard to find heritage hogs. Check The Livestock Conservancy’s Classified Ads and Online Breeders Directory on the website (www.livestockconservancy.org). Join the Conservancy to get a printed directory of members who are breeding and selling their animals. Breed associations often have a page dedicated to breeders.

Where can I buy Heritage Pork products?
Buying directly from farmers helps you know exactly what you’re getting and how the animals have been raised. Ask for Heritage Pork at your farmers market. Find farmers through The Livestock Conservancy’s online resources. Join the Conservancy to get a directory of members who are selling food and fiber products from their animals. Many of them have websites with additional information about their product sales. Visit www.localharvest.org and search by region and breed. Eatwild.com is another good resource, but will require some digging to find heritage animal products. Finally, local restaurants are turning more and more to locally produced heritage meats. Some have special evenings featuring a local producer and product. These are great opportunities to taste, support, and celebrate rare breed conservation.

Swine Care and Keeping
There are a number of good publications on swine husbandry. Your goals will help you determine the right resource for your education. For example, the Cooperative Extension Service in each state publishes materials on agriculture. They have bulletins, both old and new, workshops and websites that will help you learn about how to care for your animals. Be sure you’ve done your homework and have your farm properly set up before acquiring your first animal.

Some of our favorite books can be found in The Livestock Conservancy’s Online Store.