Though once considered unsuitable for mass production techniques, heritage pork breeds are now being raised in answer to consumer demand for higher-quality pork products. Farmers are now using artisanal methods to produce these traditional breeds in humane and healthy ways. The overall result is darker meat streaked with flavorful fat for which leading chefs are clamoring. Following are some of the better-known breeds of heritage pork. The Berkshire/Kurobuta breed can be traced back over 300 years. The Berkshire's positive traits were mentioned in historical notes made during the 17th-century stay of Oliver Cromwell's army in Berkshire. In 1823, the first Berkshire hogs were imported into the United States. In the nineteenth century, they were given as a gift to Japan and have since attained a status that rivals that of Japanese kobe beef. In Japan the Berkshire is known as Kurobuta, meaning "black hog." This fatty breed is recognized for its dark and tender flesh with fine marbling and rich flavor. Duroc hogs were developed in the United States in the 1830s by breeding two strains of hogsone from New York, the other from New Jersey. The red Duroc was named after a famous thoroughbred stallion of that time. This breed is known for its excellent marbling, which results in juicy, flavorful meat. Gloucester Old Spot is a large, fatty breed that originated in England's Berkeley Valley region. Although not raised in great numbers either in England or the United States, this breed is valued for the high quality of its meat for chops and roasts. Large Black is a breed that was developed in the Devon and Cornwall areas of England. As the name implies, this hog is very large and black. Though quite popular at one time, the Large Black is now only raised in limited numbers. It produces juicy, savory meats and lean, full-flavored hams. Red Wattle is a breed brought to New Orleans in the 1700s by the French from the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. It has lean, dark, tender, flavorful meat and gets special recognition for its hams. Tamworth is a red heritage breed that originated in Ireland. In 1812, it was brought to Sir Robert Peel's estate in Tamworth, England, and subsequently to the United States in 1882. The Tamworth is a lean hog that's considered by many to produce the best bacon in the United States.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.