What is “Rare Breed” Pork?


The question often comes up… what exactly is “rare breed” pork?

Simply put, it’s pork from rare breeds of swine. All rare breeds are heritage breeds, but not all heritage breeds are rare! In many cases, rare breed pork is produced by breed conservators working to secure the future of the rare breeds they work with. Animals have traceable pedigrees and parent stock is registered. Sometimes rare breed pork may be a cross of two rare breeds, such as a Meishan/Kunekune or Meishan/Gloucester Old Spots cross.

The pigs we raise are rare breeds. The Kunekune pig, utilized as we are, for pork production, is incredibly rare for pork use- most Kunekune pigs are sold as pets. The American Kunekune Pig Registry has averaged approximately 1000 piglets born annually over the last fifteen years, but of those, only an average of 300 piglets per year were actually registered as breeding stock (source: AKPR Herd Book). If the Livestock Conservancy did place the Kunekune pig under study, these statistics would place the Kunekune under “Threatened” status, which equates to less than 1,000 animals being registered per annum. “Critically Endangered” status is 200 or less registrations per year, which means the Kunekune are much closer to being Critically Endagered, than they are Threatened. Rare breed pork? You bet. Very rare, and in need of our stewardship.

In the 70’s, the Kunekune was almost extinct- just eighteen pigs saved the breed that today, is recovering. As the Kunekune is very rarely used for pork, it isn’t considered on many livestock lists, or pages showcasing rare breeds. The number of producers offering Kunekune pork in the USA is extremely small- a google search doesn’t yield much about Kunekune pork, or where to purchase it. Our farm is one of few offering USDA cuts and value added products. Commercially available Kunekune pork is a rarity, and dedicated breeders are seeking to change that!

The Meishan pig is globally threatened and under study with the Livestock Conservancy. The number of Meishan pigs in the United States is extremely small, and an even more minute percentage is registered.

The moniker “Rare Breed Pork” is often used erroneously.  Example (in the USA) Berkshire isn’t a rare breed.  Duroc isn’t a rare breed. Or Landrace. Or Yorkshire. Or Spots. Or Poland China. Or Bluebutt (that’s a cross!). Or Hampshire. Yorkshire is the most common breed of pig in the United States. Berkshire is the THIRD most common! (source: Pork.org). The former examples could/would more accurately be “Heritage Pork”in some cases (such as utilization of old lines from breeders raising for old fashioned, non-commercialized attributes), although for all intents and purposes, many of the breeders were “modernized” for muscle, leanness, fast growth, and less fat.

So, what breeds in the United STates ARE rare breeds?

Kunekune (Considered rare in the USA, especially for pork production. Conservation status listed with zoos nationwide as “not studied, considered rare” Kunekunes were originally raised for pork by the indigenous Maori people, but most in the UK and US see the breed as a pet)

Meishan * – Critically endangered as per Livestock Conservancy – Fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000)

Ossabaw *

Mangalitsa – An imported rare breed from Hungary.

Gloucester Old Spots (not to be confused with “spots” or “old spots”– these latter two are not the same breed as the GOS!)

Red Wattle *

Mulefoot *

Choctaw *

American Guinea Hog *

Large Black *

Hereford *

Tamworth *

Saddleback *

* – asterisk breeds are listed rare with Livestock Conservancy.


Our historic first litter of Meishan piglets has arrived!


We are ecstatic to announce the arrival of our first Meishan litter, out of God’s Blessing Farm “MooShu” (Illinois/Iowa) by God’s Blessing Farm “General Tso” (USDA/USDA). 100% Foundation bloodlines.

This is a historic litter for us and for the breed. It’s our first litter of Meishans, and (to my knowledge) the first Meishan litter born in South Carolina). It’s also the first litter born in the world that combines the bloodlines from all 3 research herds (Iowa State (via Carl Blake/Rustik Rooster Farms stock originally from the Iowa State Herd), University of Illinois and USDA)- 0% COI and incredible genetic diversity previously unknown in this country. (Prior to the Illinois and USDA herd dispersals in 2016, all Meishans in the USA were descended from the Iowa State herd’s 2008 dispersal)

This unification of the three research herd bloodlines is one of the goals that we and other foundation breeders are working on. The reason is that after the original Chinese imports arrived, they were kept separated, with no cross breeding between herds, for over 20 years. Genetic drift studies (The Blackburn Studies) revealed that they had become differentiated from one another. “[Blackburn’s authors] confirmed that to truly breed a hog most similar to the classic Chinese Meishan ,and to assure the broadest genetic base for the breed, a coordinated effort to interbreed the bloodlines (but still preserve pure examples of these bloodlines) would be in the best interest of the breed.” MooShu’s litter is the first litter to do just that. (More extensive breed history: http://www.meishanbreeders.com/breed-history/ )

Ten month old MooShu farrowed ten piglets- 6 gilts and 4 boars, all healthy and active. MooShu was bred at 150 lbs and today is approximately 225. She’ll potentially be 300-350 lbs when fully grown. Meishans are a hyper-productive breed with early sexual maturity, this litter was successfully sired by a 16 week old boar (He was born October 1st and sired this litter on January 21st)- on his first pairing with our gilt (and her first exposure!). We’re thrilled with the profligacy of this rare heritage breed.

As champions of Heritage breeds, my Son and I were immediately drawn to the Meishans after learning about them early last year. At the time, 14 year old Connor had written about them for a 4H project. When I read about God’s Blessing Farm’s incredible acquisition of the last remaining Meishans from the USDA and Illinois herds, I knew this was a breed conservation effort that we had to be a part of.

A few months later, we picked up MooShu (Illinois/Iowa) and her sibling, a barrow. In November we picked up ShuMai (USDA/USDA gilt), General Tso (USDA/USDA boar) and KungPao (Iowa/Illinois boar). Thank you Ricardo Silvera and Angelia Silvera for making the opportunities available for us and others to access these valuable genetics and continue the lineage of these incredible pigs!

Photos include this new litter, some of the incredible Meishan pork we just picked up from our USDA processor, and some of our Meishan herd.

A few select piglets will be available as breeding stock from this litter. I don’t sell Meishan as pets.

Eagerly Awaiting our First litter of Meishan Piglets!

We’re in the final countdown for the arrival of MooShu’s litter. Less than a month left now, as she grows immensely round!  This litter is historic for two reasons. Forgive me if that sounds pompous, but I’ve not done much that’s history-making in my life, if ever at all… so being part of Meishan history in the making is very exciting for me! This will be the first litter of Meishans to be born in the state of South Carolina, and it’s the first litter in the entire USA to be born that combines all three research herd bloodlines, Illinois, Iowa and USDA. Many more will follow, of course, as other foundation farms are involved in this breed conservation effort… but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited that MooShu’s litter will be the first.

This litter is also bittersweet, in that we lost the litter’s sire, our then 16 week old USDA/USDA boar, General Tso, this winter. Our weather this winter was harsh for pigs. Full of extreme temperature fluctuations, respiratory issues were common in our herd, and many other breeders across our region. Unfortunately, General Tso, stressed from new arrival, quarantine, and the constancy of sows being in season, didn’t make it. We had a necropsy done to confirm his cause of death. As such, boars from this litter will be very special, as they are the last of his bloodline.

We are in the process of completing Miss Moo’s farrowing stall, and she’s biding her time in the back pastures, grazing in the cool shade most days. Anna and her piglets often join her, and she is gentle and sweet with them as can be. I think she’s going to be an incredible Mother. Despite being so large and round, she lays down most delicately, a sure sign that she’ll take care to gently ease down to the ground when moving to nurse her piglets.

We’re not sure how many she’s going to have… she’s so large that she seems fit to burst! Meishans are known for their prolific litter sizes, but these large litter sizes usually don’t occur at first parity. Perhaps Lady Moo will prove us wrong! At this point, we are just hoping for a smooth farrowing and healthy piglets and transition for this new Mom, above all else… no matter how many or few there are!

Are you interested in adding a Meishan to your herd? Send me a message!

Some moments from MooShu’s quickly growing pregnancy, and Connor, holding General Tso: