Buyer Beware Rare Breed

Dec 14, 2013 by

Rare breed pork, the latest, newest buzzword popping up on restaurant menus. Rare breed usually refers to any breed that’s not Landrace. Landrace are the familiar pink pig, commercially bred for specific characteristics such as leanness and to provide a good conversion of muscle to fat ratio. They have little hair and would not be as well able to cope living outside as rare breeds or the original pig breeds (but they can adapt). They also do not lay down a protective layer of fat as the rare breeds do to keep them warm.

Rare breed pigs such as Saddleback, Irish Grazer (Tamworth), Gloucester Old Spot, Duroc, Hampshire etc. are the original pigs our ancestors reared, usually outside but in more recent times in a sty. These were fed a mixed diet of vegetables, grains and slops. Feeding slops was banned after some wise guy decided that it would be an idea to feed a vegetarian animal (cattle) with animal protein and lo and behold BSE materialised. Since pigs are omnivorous like us, it is perfectly fine to feed them animal protein.  However probably not advisable to feed them pork or bacon slops. Although I’m sure in days gone by they were.

It is this mixed diet plus the freedom to root and forage for grass, vegetation, roots and grubs that gives rare breed pork it’s flavour. Free range rare breeds are able to run, root and generally behave as pigs should. Landrace pigs are reared in concrete housing and fed concentrated feed. They get little or no exercise.

Unless rare breeds are reared outside and fed a varied diet their meat is no different from meat from a Landrace. So a restaurant stating that their pork is rare breed is as meaningless as stating a chicken that has the potential to stick it’s head out a gap in the shed, is free range. Do you really want to pay more for something that is no different from conventional pork?

When next you see “rare breed” on a menu ask. Ask if it was outdoor reared. Ask what it was fed. I can guarantee the restaurant won’t have a clue. In fact they probably never gave it a second thought. However for their beef they will know the seed, breed and generation and how long it was hung/aged etc.

Why should pork be any different?

Beware of buzzwords. After all arsenic is gluten-free…….

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