About Our Large Black Hog and Tamworth Pig Heritage Breeds
At Full Circle Ranch, our Certified Organic pork comes from two great Heritage breeds of pig, the Large Black and the Tamworth. Both breeds are native to England and were once very popular when small scale farmers raised pigs outdoors, expecting them to forage for most of their diet and produce quality pork.
After World War II, as farming became more industrialized, outdoor pigs fell out of favor because they couldn't compete in intensive indoor pig barn conditions. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists the Large Black pig as critically rare and the Tamworth pig as threatened. Fortunately, consumers have re-discovered just how good heritage pork can taste and more farmers have realized the benefits of raising pigs outdoors. This has resulted in a strong demand for heritage breed pork and breed-stock that is creating a come-back for these wonderful pigs.
In short, the Tamworth pig is renowned for its ability to farrow large litters of piglets and raise them successfully in natural conditions. The Tamworth is said to have the highest piglet survival rate of all breeds when farrowing outdoors. This pigs' ancestors were the native hogs of the forests of Europe that foraged acorns and beech mast for their entire diet. The Tamworth continues to be one of the thriftiest breeds, making pork from whatever nature provides. The Tamworth was selectively bred to become a “bacon pig”. Due to their fine bone structure, their carcass yields up to 70% lean fine grained meat. Its long deep sides and the perfect ratio of fat and lean have earned it the title as “The World’s Best Bacon Pig”. The Tamworth is a fast growing pig compared to most heritage breeds. Tamworths are hardy and relatively impervious to both heat and cold. Last but not least, they are intelligent pigs with a friendly and agreeable disposition, which make them a pleasure to raise.
Like the Tamworths, the Large Black pigs are also renowned for their maternal instincts and their ability to produce large litters of healthy piglets outdoors. They too can withstand heat (they don't sunburn) and they are remarkably tolerant of cold climates. The Large Black pig is famous for its ability to thrive on pasture. They love to graze clover and green grass. Like the Tamworth, the slower growing Large Black was bred to be a “bacon hog” that fattened easily on low cost feeds, producing tender, rich flavored, juicy pork chops and roasts with intramuscular marbling. The Large Black is an easy-going, docile breed that is less active than the Tamworth.
Blackworth Heritage Pig
The Blackworth Heritage cross (our favorite pig for organic pastured pork)
At Full Circle Ranch, we raise both the Tamworth and the Large Black pig, providing certified organic heritage stock to farmers who want to propagate them and insure their survival as distinct breeds.
For our organic pork production we cross the Large Black and the Tamworth, creating a "Blackworth Pig". This combines the best qualities of both breeds, resulting in a long, well-muscled, handsome black pig (with tinges of red), that is suited to grazing pastures, finishing on acorns and most importantly, producing fantastic pork. The hybrid vigor, the result of crossing two pure unrelated breeds, is very strong in these pigs causing the piglets to be exceptionally hardy and to grow faster than those of either pure breed.
As far as the pork is concerned, the Large Black side is dominant, the pork being well marbled, juicy and tender. The Tamworth compliments this by adding depth to the sides of bacon and muscle to the shoulders and hams, while mitigating the Large Blacks tendency to over-fatten. The Blackworth boars have proven to be eager and potent breeders with a friendly disposition. The maternal abilities of the Blackworth sows are very good as a result of the strength in this trait coming from both sides of the cross.
Overall, we think the Blackworth pig is the best pig out there for producing excellent pastured pork. The continual re-creation of the Blackworth cross has been our main reason for propagating the Large black and Tamworth pigs. Click here to view prcing for Blackworth Breedstock.