I’ve raised lard pigs in a permaculture-type setting for 7 years now. Having tried various breeds, I’ve got some real data for you.
The best small breed lard pig is the Pot-Bellied Pig, but among larger breeds, the most popular are the Berkshire and Hampshire. It really depends on just how big of a pig you want. The larger pigs are common for pork sale but the smaller breeds are easier to handle on a family homestead.
I’ll talk about the breeds I’ve raised, then we can cover other popular options.
Best Lard Pig for a Homestead
The best lard pig for a homestead is probably the Pot-Bellied Pig, also called the Asian Heritage Hog. It’s a landrace breed, making it incredibly adaptable. They are the cheapest pig to buy. They are small, weighing 50 to 70 pounds at butcher age, produce quality lard, and are of an easy-going demeanor.
The Pot-Bellied Pig has an exceptional quality of meat and tends to have a really nice marbling of fat. They produce a much darker and richer flavored pork than what’s available at the grocery store these days. The texture of the meat is different, consisting of smaller, finner-grained muscles.
I have butchered quite a few of those and sold several and have yet to get a single complaint about anything unpleasant or unfavorable. I have gotten remarks praising the tenderness, richness, and flavor of the pork. They produce great pork and can handle various alternative feeds well.
They usually have litters of between 5 and 10 piglets, like other older breeds. 8 is considered a good litter size. Good Pot-bellied Pigs sell for $100 and under all the time, especially at livestock auctions. I paid less than $50 each for my breeders.
Small pigs eat less, are easier to fence in, and don’t pose the dangers that large pigs do. If you’re looking to breed your own pigs on the homestead, I recommend Pot-Belied Pigs. They rarely get over 150 pounds when fully mature compared to the 500 or 700 pounds of larger breeds. They’re much safer around kids.
I wrote a full article going into more depth on the Potbellies as meat pigs. Here’s a link to it.
Other Popular Breeds
American Guinea Hogs were the first breed I got into. They are somewhat similar in appearance to potbellies but get a bit bigger, generally by about 50 percent or so. They produce a meat of unbeatable flavor and with great marbling. They are a classic, old, smaller-sized, American homestead hog.
The only downside to them is that they are less common and usually quite expensive. I see them sold for 5 to 10 times the price of other breeds. They used to be fairly popular due to the fact that they are smaller and do well on a less intensive diet than commercial-type hogs.
They were bred more as a way to use up food and garden waste and forage for their food in the woods and fields. Our first Guinea Hog has a screaming deal but we were unable to find a mate for him so I ended up with other breeds shortly after. I was only going to raise pigs if I could breed our own.
The Kunekune is another landrace breed, and currently the homestead pig everyone is talking about. We had a Kune a few years ago and her genetics are bred in to our Potbelly herd. It’s small like the potbelly, and shares many genetics of the dwarf Asian pigs. They were wild right up till the 80s and will do better than most breeds in a good woods or pasture where they can forage.
That’s the case with all three of these breeds so far. They all do better than the average pig when it comes to utilizing less-than-desirable feed options like greens and wild forage. They digest leaves and grass a bit better and don’t need as much protein as the bigger, leaner breeds.
That right there is why I recommend a pig of this caliber as a homestead pig. They do better on a diet of the things I can grow myself and that grow in the wild. They don’t get big, but that’s not bad. Up to 150 pounds for most healthy potbellies, 200 for Kunekunes, and 250 for American Guinea Hogs
They are smaller than that at butchering are (6 to 9 months). Smaller but more efficient on feed. I have charted feed conversion ratios as low as 2.8:1 during good weather. That’s as efficient as the best commercial hogs. They’re small, but if you have a breeding pair, you get plenty of pork.
They’re also much easier to butcher than any larger breeds. It takes half hour to an hour to dispatch, skin, and carve up a 7-month-old potbelly pig and end up with a month’s worth of pork for family dinners. A 300-pound hog will take all day and is a lot of meat to Store at once.
Mangalista pigs are another older breed. They also seem to have a high-forage diet pretty well. I haven’t raised them myself but know folks who do. They are a smaller breed, still a bit bigger than the others here. They are also quite expensive and tough to find. That’s the only reason I don’t recommend them too often.
If you have some available nearby, it’s worth asking about a price. But, be prepared for sticker shock. None of these pigs are usually worth it to buy just one simply to rais it out for butchering. But, buying breeding stock can oay itself back. Still, cheaper (not crappy) breeding stock pays back sooner.
Best Lard Pig for Comercial Sales
If you want a fattier pig that’s more suitable for commercial sales (200 to 250 pounds at 6 months) look at the Berkshire Poland-China, Chester White, Duroc, and Hampshire. They are all older breeds that were much prefered up to the 1960s when the suggar industry blamed the heart diseade epedemic on grease.
Unfortunately, a kot of them have been breed leaner over the years, trying to reflect the modern comercial standard of very lean pork. Still, they do make more fat and have a lot better marbling throughout than the classic commercial hogs of today.
The downsides of them for me is that they are usually harder to get ahold of, and they grow to be very big pigs. In order to make it doable for us, we breed our own instead of buying piglets every year. Having mature breders of the larger breeds means keeping pigs upwards of 500 pounds. Some will crest 1,000.
Pigs are much more destructive than horses or cows. A big pig can make a lot of destruction and it very hard to adequately contain. My potbelly boar (150 pounds) is hard to handle when a sow is in heat. I’d hate to have a 700 pound boar trying to bulldoze the gate every month.
Anyways, there’s a lot of points here to consider. I realize that I don’t take a conventional approach to this by recommending a no-no breed like potbellies, but that’s what we have come up with as the most cost-effective, safe, and functional way to raise healthy, clean pork for our family.