Bacon is always a favorite, at least it is for me! Since you are raising your own pork, you should raise a pig that will give you more of your favorite cuts, bacon being at the top of the list, of course.
There are a lot of pig available. What breed of pig can you raise that will produce the best bacon?
The best breed of pig for bacon is a commercial meat breed (Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, Spot, or Yorkshire) or a cross of these breeds. Tamworth is a harder to find breed that is also good for bacon. These are full size pig breeds that will put on some fat, but not in excessive amounts.
To get the best bacon, you’ll need to start with good genetics and then do your part by feeding and caring for the pigs in a way that keeps them happy and healthy.
Animal husbandry (how you care for your pigs) will make the best bacon!
How Do You Know When Your Pig Is Ready To Butcher? will show you what to look for on your pigs to see if they are finished (have enough fat).
If you like meaty bacon, any well grown pig will be super
The best pigs for bacon will put on some fat and have plenty of meat, too.
It may sound a bit odd, but you are really looking for pigs with the ability to put on some fat, but not get crazy fat! Of course, bacon has fat, but you still want quite a bit of meat there, too!
Any of the standard pig breeds should produce great bacon for you, when you get your pigs processed. Here is a list of the standard breeds (listed alphabetically):
- Poland China
Any of these pigs will grow well for you and make you very happy when you see the packages of pork, including the bacon, in your freezer!
Traits that make these pigs great choices for raising your own pork:
- Fast growers
- Reasonably priced feeder pigs
- Selected for meatiness
Why standard breeds only? Easy, you want a pig that will grow well for you and keep gaining weight at a good rate. A pig that gains well will reach market weight with a good fat covering, that’s what makes great bacon!
The standard pig breeds have all been selected for their growth and are pretty hardy. Both important traits for easy to raise pigs, especially for the beginner.
For me, there are a few stand outs on this list, so if you have a choice of breed lean towards Berkshire or Duroc.
All the pigs on the list will grow well and taste great (assuming you do your part) with these two breeds at the top end.
Check out Casella’s Salumi pig breed description page. These folks are all about flavor and have my top pig breed choices on their list, too!
Tamworth pigs are a good bacon breed, as well
The outlier breed for bacon is the Tamworth. While not a main stream breed (that’s why it’s not on the list), the Tamworth is a nice pig that has good bacon potential.
The only catch is that these guys might be very hard to find in your area. They are also a very active breed, meaning it will take longer for them to finish out just because they are running off a lot of energy!
If you can find them, go for it. Tamworth’s are nice pigs. If you can’t find them, go with one of the standard breed choices, you’ll be happy.
Lard vs. Bacon Pigs, is an interesting article from Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont.
Avoid small pig breeds or unusual pig breeds
Make sure you avoid small breeds of pigs or unusual pig breeds, neither will make you an ideal bacon pig.
The small breeds are just that, small (and generally slow growers). Small bodies produce less meat, so it only makes sense that smaller sided pigs have smaller amounts of bacon.
Nothing wrong with this, but you are looking to increase your bacon, so you should get a full size pig. There is nothing wrong with the small breeds, they are just slower to grow and will have less meat.
The unusual pig breeds will fall into two camps, extreme muscling and rare breeds.
The pigs with extreme muscling will not easily put on the fat you need them to. Muscle is opposite of fat when gaining.
Muscle means the pigs are still growing frame while fat means the carcass size is there, it just needs finish (the fat).
The rare pig breeds are wonderful animals, they are just slow to grow, meaning they take quite a while to raise. I’m talking about a year to finish a pig, where as the more commercial genetics are taking 6 months!
If you are willing to put in the time (and usually the extra money to get the feeder pigs) give a rare breed a shot, there are a lot of great breeds and breeders out there.
If you want performance, stick to the standard breeds listed above.
If you like fatty bacon, get the specialist pig breeds
To get extremely fatty bacon, consider raising one of the fat specialist pig breeds, like Mangalitsa or Gloucestershire Old Spot.
If you are a person who enjoys really fatty bacon, you may prefer one of the specialist breeds, like Mangalitsa or Gloucestershire Old Spot.
These are pigs that are know for their ability to put on tremendous amount of fat, ideal for anyone who loves pork with quite a lot of fat covering.
From what I can tell, how you like your pork really depends upon what you ate when you were younger.
If you grew up with pork having tons of fat, you’ll probably like it and actually prefer your pork to be from pigs like these.
If you grew up eating more pork from one of the standard pig breeds, you will probably find extremely fatty pork from these breeds to be too fatty for you.
Feed and care of the pigs determines the pork you get
The feed the pigs eat and the way they are raised determines taste more than breed.
Here’s the part that folks tend to gloss over because they think that by getting a certain breed of pig they will automatically get great pork. Not so. You forgot to put in the most important part, your work!
While it’s true, that you have to start with great genetics (starting with junky genetics will doom you to poor results) you’ll only get great results when you also give the pigs plentiful feed, water and ability to be pigs.
Feed and water are pretty self explanatory, but what about the ability to be pigs, where did that come from? Pigs acting like pigs, living with peers and having room to run and root are all parts of raising healthy pigs.
Healthy pigs produce healthy, great tasting meat, bacon included! Stressed pigs are slow growers that never reach their potential and will, of course, have lower quality meat than a happy pig.
Nearly any well bred pig can be a great pork producer. What you get is determined by what you put in, so make sure you are putting in great stuff, as well.
Best Feed For Raising Pigs will go over your feed options and help you determine which one will work best for you and your pigs.