Pork is one of the most common and most popular meats enjoyed around the world, and accordingly pigs are some of the most important livestock animals.
But all pork is not created equal, and each breed of pig has unique qualities which influence the resulting quality of the pork that they produce.
From the juicy, delectable marbled meat of the Kunekune to the savory, almost spicy dark red meat of the Ossabaw Island Hog, gourmets from around the world can appreciate the differences in taste and texture that different breeds of pig provide.
But wherever you fall on the spectrum, you’ll find 15 of the tastiest pig breeds below where I will tell you all about them.
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Deserving of the top spot on our list, the Mangalitsa is one of the most coveted pigs on earth when it comes to the sheer quality of the pork they produce.
Unique in almost every regard, the Hungarian Mangalitsa is covered with curly, wooly hair, and is particularly slow-growing.
Mangalitas produce uniquely dark, sweet, juicy and savory pork that has been in demand for hundreds of years.
Various pork products are made from them like bacon, sausage, salami and lard command serious premiums over mundane varieties.
Mangalitsas are notably independent and excellent foragers…
In fact, they need a lot more room to roam and exercise compared to other pigs, and this means that raising them, per head, is more expensive than other breeds.
That’s another contributing factor to the cost and rarity of their meat, but the high price is one that chefs from all corners of the globe are happy to pay.
The Yorkshire pig, also known as the English Large White, traces its origins back to the 18th century in England where it was developed to grow as big as possible.
Today, they’re much smaller, and the breed is medium-sized, white in color with notably erect ears and possesses a long body and stout legs that give the Yorkshire a distinctive look.
Yorkshires are one of the most recorded breeds of swine in North America, the single most numerous in U.S. and also very popular in Canada.
The meat from Yorkshire pigs is known for its high overall quality, and considering the size, health and dependability of Yorkshire pigs it is no wonder that it’s a ubiquitous choice for pork production.
The breed’s lean meat is flavorful, tender, and has a good amount of marbling.
The Spotted pig, also colloquially known as “Spots”, has its roots in the United States.
The breed is known for its distinctive black-and-white or ‘spotted’ coat, hence the name to absolutely no one’s surprise.
Spotted pigs are medium to large in size, with a sturdy body and strong legs.
They’re recognized for their ability to adapt to a range of climates and conditions and also for their fast, dependable growth, which makes them versatile for different farming systems.
Developed from two other noteworthy meat breeds that appear on this list, the Poland China and the Gloucester Old Spot, a heritage of tastiness is quite literally in this pig’s DNA.
Spotted pig meat is noted for its tenderness, juiciness, and flavor despite being quite lean which makes them a versatile producer of many different pork products and cuts.
It’s no wonder that these are such popular pigs for larger operations and smaller homesteads and farms alike.
Originating in the United States, the Duroc pig is a breed that stands out for being a mainstay of pork production.
Durocs are medium to large in size and have a unique, rusty or coppery reddish-brown coat that is instantly recognizable along with a muscular and slightly elongated body.
Durocs are well-known for their hardiness and growth rate, which contributes mightily to their popularity in commercial pork production.
Although not truly exceptional compared to some of the other prestige pigs on our list, the meat from Duroc pigs is highly regarded for its consistently rich flavor and tenderness.
This means it’ll always have a place no matter what sort of cuts you want or what kind of products you are producing.
In fact, the Duroc is something of an American claim to fame when it comes to pork, and has been exported to many locations around the world.
5. Gloucestershire Old Spot
The Gloucestershire Old Spot hails from England, and is a pig with a storied history.
This breed is easily recognized by its large size, drooping ears, curved spine, and distinctive spots on its pale white coat.
The breed is renowned for its docile nature and excellent mothering abilities, along with being capable foragers.
These pigs used to be fed a diet of fruit that fell from trees, and were once called “orchard pigs” and recognition of their foraging habits.
But today, the Gloucestershire Old Spot is prized for producing ample amounts of sweet, succulent pork, and particularly large primal cuts.
Old Spot hams in particular are sought after for their marbling, moistness, and depth of flavor.
6. Guinea Hog
Once a mainstay pig in the southern United States, the Guinea Hog is today, sadly, in serious danger of extinction despite its excellent qualities.
Guinea hogs are relatively small and typically red or black pigs that are known to be very capable foragers, and also enjoy notably good health.
Despite its small size, it’s sturdy and well-adapted to different environments, and especially good at weathering the intense heat of the American South.
Guinea Hogs are also known and loved for theit flavorful, dark pork and overall fattiness, and they were once one of the most important breeds when it came to the production of lard.
And they aren’t just an interesting footnote in American pork history, either…
The breed has specifically been named on many “best of” lists regarding noteworthy pork, making it highly sought after by chefs and food enthusiasts.
The Hampshire pig, originating in the northern reaches of the United Kingdom, is a large, black pig with a distinctive white belt or mantle around its front legs and shoulders.
Hampshires are known for their rapid growth and efficient feed conversion, traits that make them ideal for commercial pork production.
Calm, but healthy and easy to care for they make for a pig that is easy to handle especially for inexperienced owners.
The meat from Hampshire pigs is notably lean and mild-tasting, often being described as clean or clear.
This makes it a highly versatile meat for various pork products or for those with discerning palates that might blanch at richer food.
8. Large Black
The Large Black pig is a, what else, huge black pig! Actually, they don’t just come in black only, as they can be various shades of gray or even have a “broken” fur color that consists of blended black and gray patches.
They’re also easily recognized by their drooping ears and lengthy snouts.
Native to England, they are appreciated for their hardiness and ability to forage, two factors which can help offset feed and medical costs, and also help them cope with the wet and cold weather of their native region.
And while the Large Black’s physical traits make it suited to a sometimes rigorous life outdoors, it is the quality of their pork which has earned it a spot on our list.
The pork from Large Black pigs is known for its exceptional flavor and fatty succulence, which is attributed to the breed’s particularly good marbling.
The Mulefoot pig is a rare breed native to the United States, one with several distinctive physical characteristics.
Named for its distinctive hoof shape that resembles that of a horse, and possessing drooping folds of skin and fat on their necks and chins, these pigs are medium-sized and solid black in color.
The pork from Mulefoot pigs is highly prized for its unique flavor, dark red color and tenderness, with a high degree of marbling that enhances its taste.
Also worth mentioning is that the origins of this pig are, at this point, almost entirely unknown.
What we do know for sure is that they used to be a lot more common in the US than they are today, being particularly known and used throughout the Midwest and much of Arkansas.
However, beginning in the early part of the 20th century, the Mulefoot became less and less common for some reason, even though its overall good health and foraging skills along with the quality of its meat makes it a uniquely excellent pig for pork.
Who knows, it might wind up being just the right pig for your homestead!
10. Poland China
Originating in the United States despite everything the name might tell you, the Poland China pig is a large, black pig with white markings on its face and sometimes on its legs and hind quarters.
The pork from Poland China pigs is known for its lean quality and subtle marbling, making it a favorite among health-conscious pork lovers and anyone who prefers a delicious, lean pork chop.
Also worth mentioning is that the Poland China is among the very heaviest of the common pig breeds kept for pork production today.
Boars will routinely clear a mammoth 650 pounds, while females don’t weigh much less, often tipping the scales at a staggering 525 pounds. Big girls, indeed!
The hardiness of these pigs, and the mixed genetics that produced them, means they are popular as breeding stock for developing new breeds.
11. Red Wattle
The Red Wattle pig, native to the United States is a huge, rusty red pig named for the distinctive wattles, or tassels, hanging from its neck.
This is a domestic breed that still retains much in common with its wild ancestors, namely its foraging capability, overall hardiness and tolerance to extreme conditions.
More than most other domestic breeds, the Red Wattle needs very little care so long as it has adequate conditions and room to forage.
But, just as notable, they haven’t seemed to inherit the surliness of their ancestors and are known to be mild-mannered and even friendly.
The breed is also known for its super-delicious pork; deeply flavored and juicy, with a moderate amount of marbling.
And there will be plenty more where that came from, because Red Wattles are among the most reliable breeders, as mothers have excellent maternal instincts and skills, large litters, and the piglets grow big and fast.
The Berkshire pig, originally from England, is a medium-sized, black pig with distinctive white patches all over its body.
They also have a decidedly tired or dour expression thanks to their short snouts, squinty eyes, and flaring ears. Even when they’re in a good mood, you can’t help but feel sorry for them!
But what you won’t feel sorry for is their absolutely delectable pork, coveted around the world for its supreme quality: Their meat is renowned for its deep color, marbling, and intense flavor.
In fact, Berkshire pork is so distinctive that it’s often referred to in a class of its own around the world, and some of the most refined dishes call for it specifically. It’s quite the honor if you ask me!
The Kunekune is one of the most interesting, adorable and remarkable pigs on our list for a whole host of reasons.
These tiny, friendly pigs are native to New Zealand, and Kunekunes are so well-known for their friendly disposition that they are routinely kept as pets, not for meat!
But make no mistake: Despite their friendliness and small size, the Kunekune produces a surprisingly large amount of incredibly flavorful meat.
Their meat is so good because of their unique physiology: Kunekune pigs have short snouts and tend to graze rather than root and dig.
This makes them very capable and speedy foragers, and because of their diet, their meat takes on a special succulence and flavor.
Juicy, and almost always marbled to perfection, Kunekune meat is truly something special.
14. Chester White
Originating in Pennsylvania and previously called the Chester County White, the Chester White is a large, all-white pig just as the name suggests.
An older heritage breed appreciated for its mothering abilities, longevity, and meat quality, it is nonetheless on the way out today in industrial pork production because it is not as well suited to intensive husbandry practices.
However, these hogs do grow quickly and show special suitability for use as crossbreeding stock, and so they are sticking around for the time being.
Very interesting stuff, but how is their meat? As it turns out, the meat from the Chester White is remarkably good even if it has no standout characteristic compared to some of the other more exotic breeds on our list.
The pork from Chester White pigs is known for its tenderness, flavor, and good marbling, and these pigs are known to produce especially good pork chops, hams, and other larger cuts.
15. Ossabaw Island Hog
The Ossabaw Island Hog, “native” to the United States, is a small, black pig that’s notable for only barely being considered a domestic breed at all.
The story behind these pigs is really quite remarkable and worth telling!
But the short version is that these hogs are descended from pigs that were released on Ossabaw Island, just off the coast of Georgia, by Spanish explorers way, way back in the 16th century.
When the Spanish packed up and left, these pigs basically went feral but continued to breed, and today they have produced a breed unto themselves that’s almost completely untouched by mankind’s breeding practices…
These pigs are tough, robust and superb foragers.
They’re also known to put on fat quickly and hang on to it longer compared to other pigs because they depend on it to survive when they don’t have access to food in their usual habitat.
The strange origins of these pigs has resulted in pork with a unique quality, too.
The pork from Ossabaw Island Hogs is described as dark red, with a variably savory or spicy taste that is completely unique among pigs, and this has made it a rare and exotic commodity for restaurateurs and gourmets.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.