We’ve raised several small breed pigs from weaning to butcher and they did great. I don’t think we’ll ever get a large breed for our homestead.
The best small breed meat pig is the Potbelly Pig. It’s the most common, least expensive breed, and has good foraging and mothering instincts. Potbelly pigs, also called Asian Heritage Hogs, produce high-quality pork with good marbling. They are easy to raise and care for and do well anywhere.
I’m sold on potbellies, but there are other good breeds. Let’s go over them.
Small Breed Pigs
- Juliana Full-grown, 60-80 lbs. Butcher size, 25 pounds at 9 months.
- Potbelly Full-grown, 100-150 lbs. Butcher size, 60 pounds at 9 months.
- Choctaw Full-grown, 100-200 lbs. Butcher size, 50-60 lbs. at 9 months
- Ossabaw Island Hog Full-grown, 100-200 lbs. Butcher size, 40-60 lbs. at 9 months
- Kunekune Full-grown, 150-250 lbs. Butcher size, 75lbs. at 9 months
- American Guinea Hog Full-grown, 150-250 lbs. Butcher size, 75 lbs. at 8-9 months
Medium Breed Pigs
- Idaho Pastured Pig Full-grown, 250-400 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs at 12 months
- Meishian Full-grown, 250-400 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs. at 9 months
- Mulefoot Full-grown, 400-600 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs. at 8 months
- Spotted Full-grown, 400-600 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs. at 9 months
- Gloucestershire Old Spots Full-grown, 500-600 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs, at 8 months
- Berkshire Full-grown, 500-600 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs. at 8 months
- Chester White Full-grown, 500-600 lbs. Butcher size, 200 lbs. at 8-9 months
*these are approximates based on the results people see and can vary quite a bit depending on genetics and how you raise them.
If you think some of these are getting big, well they are. But, keep in mind that a large breed hog is expected to reach 250 pounds at 6 months and can weigh 700 to 1,000 pounds at about 5 years old. Compared to that, these are all small.
I don’t know everything about all breeds, so I won’t pretend I do. But, I will talk about the breeds I actually know something about.
Potbelly Pigs for Meat
Now, I’m a huge fan of potbellies. So are the folks who buy pork from us. I like them because of their size, which is about the size of the traditional American homestead pig. Maybe slightly smaller. When born in the spring, they are usually 50 to 60 pounds by fall, and none too fat.
I have one breeding pair, a 2-year-old sow, and a 2-1/2-year-old boar. The sow is smaller in structure, which is fairly normal. She’s around 110 pounds and the boar is probably 160 or so. My sow, Martha, will probably max out at about 175 pounds and the boar will probably reach 250 at about 5 years old.
That’s fairly standard. And those are not fat pigs. In fact, I just had to put more fat on the sow so she could handle her next litter. Birthing and nursing 8 babies takes a lot of weight off a pig. Potbellies can have between 6 and 10 piglets, depending on stress and genetics.
They’re not the most fertile pigs. Commercial breeds usually have 12-15 piglets. The Potbelly is much hardier and that’s worth it to me. A not-too-fat potbelly will yield 50 percent of its weight in pork, plus soup bones, lard, and organ meat.
Contrary to popular belief, potbelly pigs are not supposed to be fat. I usually have about half an inch of fat on mine, which is about perfect for the breed. If you want more fat to render into cooking lard, you can do that by feeding extra. I figure about 150 pounds of dry feed to raise one from weaning to butcher.
If you want to know more about raising potbelly pigs, I wrote an entire article on it. Here’s a link to it.
American Guinea Hogs
American Guinea Hogs are great small-breed meat pigs. They have good temperaments and meat quality but are expensive and hard to find. Guinea hogs are the classic American homestead pig but went nearly extinct by the 1950s. There are similar to the potbelly pig, and have equal quality pork.
Guinea hogs are a bit bigger than potbellies on average, but they do tend to look about the same. In fact, the two breeds are commonly interbred, sometimes without knowing. It’s thought that guinea hogs have significant potbelly in the breed as various breeders worked to bring the breed back from near extinction.
Of course, the purists deny that. I have bought several potbelly pigs that I’m fairly certain had guinea hog genes in them. Most people can hardly tell the two breeds apart. We raised one guinea hog. It was a good pig. He has fattened up for a hefty lard harvest.
The meat was second to none. well-marbles but not too fatty. Most of the fat is backfat, on the outside of the carcass. If you don’t overfeed them, guinea hogs won’t be fat. I do like the breed, but they’re usually quite expensive.
Guinea hogs are usually registered purebred and have become a high-class hobby farm pig. Hopefully, that starts to change in the next few years and they become more common.
The other breed We’ve raised is the Juliana. They are similar in shape and meat flavor as these first two but are significantly smaller. Juliana pigs are less common and often bred with smaller potbellies.
The end result is that guinea hogs, potbellies, and julianas tend to have intermingled genes and purebreds can be hard to find. Although, julianas are likely more likely related to the Mexican javelina. while other pigs are likely purely from European pigs.
I’m not concerned about a purebred. I go by the size, shape, and condition of the parents. That’s how you select good pigs. With these breeds, it can be tough to decide exectly when to slaughter. I wrote an article on how to tell when it’s time. Here’s a link to it.
KuneKune Pigs for Meat
Kunekune pigs are a variation of Asian heritage pig, similar to the potbelly. Kunekunes are compact, easy to handle, and digest wild forage well. The current domestic breed was collected from the wild in New Zeeland in the 80s, where they were introduced into the wild in the 1800s.
Kunekunes are a rounder breed, gaining fat easily and quickly if overfed, just like the potbelly and guinea hog. They are getting popular as a small-breed pasture pig, because they are said to do better than average on wild pasture alone.
But, that can greatly depend on the breeder they came from. Most any breed can be placed in a particular environment, then selectively bred to do better in that environment. Most breeders don’t even go that far. If you want to raise a pig on pasture, find a farm that raises them that way.
Pigs, if not selectively bred for a specific purpose, lose out on things like the ability to utilize a wild high-fiber diet. Potbelly pigs and Kunekunes are a newer adaption of domestic pig and have closer to wild genes.
They are landrace animals, selected by survival of the fittest until they were imported to the US, mostly in the 80s. Most likely, they both share some stock line from the traditional small-sized landrace breeds of Asia. That’s where the potbelly came from, a mix of small Asian breeds. Both certainly look and act similar.
Idaho Pasture Pigs for Meat
Idaho Pastured Pigs are a designer pig, bred to combine small size, pasture utilization, and a longer mid-section. It looks a bit more like a commercial-type hog, but much smaller. They were supposedly bred out of a mix of Old Berkshire, Duroc and Kunekune. They are black and not too hairy.
These are the newest breed in the market and still rather expensive. There’s also not a lot of them around. While not old enough to be considered a heritage breed, they are being sought after by heritage pig farmers. Currently, there’s a lot of hype around them. The same with Kunekune pigs. Not sure why Potbellies missed that train.
Idaho Pastured Pigs, having larger breeds in their stock line, are a more mid-sized animal. They have a smaller head and shoulders and longer belly sections than others. Big heads and shoulders mean larger pot roasts, but a longer belly means a bit more bacon.
Personally, I prefer the big-shouldered breeds. The shoulder roast is one of the most delicious cuts from a pig, and tends to have incredible marbling.
All of these breeds will function in a pasture setting. I find the breeds more suited to foraging and eating vegetation to be the potbelly, Guinea Hog, Idaho Pasture Pig, and Kunekune. We raise our potbellies in a semi-pasture setting, and grow our own corn, fodder beat, and sunchokes for additional feed.
They get a high vegetation diet and do well on it. Even so, a high-fiber diet usually means slower growth for pigs.