Our Berkshire sows were purchased from Ed Brummer, a local breeder. Ed has been breeding Berkshire hogs for over fifty years. One of the oldest pig breeds, Berkshires are known for exceptionally high quality pork. While they are not considered a heritage pig breed, we think they combine the best of what we like about both heritage breeds like the Tamworth and Large Blacks, and the super productive mainstream breeds like the Duroc and Hampshire. We have found that most conventional pigs need to be raised to over three hundred pounds before they have enough fat to keep from drying out when cooked. Raising conventional pigs primarily selected for growth rate and lean meat yield to a size where they have adequate amounts of taste fat is not an efficient use of time or feed resources. Three hundred pound pigs can also overwhelm some of our customers; it's a lot of pork to deal with for whole-hog customers, and portion-size conscious retail customers might balk at the plate-dwarfing size of the chops.
Because Ed and a small group of other small Berkshire breeders have so consistently selected for pork quality and production efficiency attributes (mothering instincts, disease resistance, thriftiness, disposition, etc.) rather than overly simplistic quantifiable attributes such as growth rate and lean meat yield, there are still strains of hogs within the Berkshire breed which produce high quality, tasty pork in a way that we hope will contribute positively to the economic, ecological, and cultural sustainability of our farm.
We plan to breed these pigs at about a year of age, and hope to work with Village Acres and other organic vegetable farmers around us to raise feeder pigs for us. Our sows, when they're not raising young, will also be used to turn winter manure pack compost piles (saving hours of labor and fossil-driven skid steer power) and help renovate our small garden patches (saving hours of labor and rototiller use!).