Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hog Heaven - National Pig Day

Just around the corner is March 1st, time for spring flowers, warmer temperatures and bacon. Yes, crisp, juicy bacon.March 1st is National Pig Day. Started in 1972 by Texas art teacher Ellen Stanley, this holiday honors and gives thanks to pigs.

For some of us, the word “pig” conjures up images of Charlotte’s Web’s Wilbur or Babe the gallant pig. For others, it’s mud wallowing, curly tails and snorting sounds, but on this holiday and everyday, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), in Pittsboro, NC, and farmers around the country are working hard to save rare breeds of pigs from extinction. Modern agriculture has made it difficult for these breeds to survive. In 2009, seven breeds of pigs were listed on the ALBC Conservation Priority List as critically endangered meaning less than 200 of these animals are registered in the US. By favoring a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output, modern agriculture has made many heritage breeds “outcasts” because they cannot survive under modern agricultural pressures. Each rare breed pig is a remnant of our cultural and agricultural heritage, but more importantly, they are critical for the continued existence and future adaptation of livestock.

So, on this holiday, - bringing home the bacon takes on a whole new meaning. While it may seem counterintuitive to eat a rare breed to save it, it’s one of the critical components of rescuing these breeds. Without a market for these animals, farmers have no incentive to raise them.
The more demand in the marketplace, the more farmers are willing to raise these breeds.

Just last month, Ayrshire Farms in Upperville, VA, hosted a “Pig Pageant” where rare breed hogs were served to a crowd of journalists and invitees in hopes of raising awareness for these rare breeds.

ALBC is also making strides to raise awareness and production of rare pigs.
Through the Rare Breed Swine Initiative, ALBC is helping to train breeders
and develop a market for rare breed hogs. Many of these efforts are funded
through the Renewing America's Food Traditions Project in which ALBC has
teamed up with groups such as SlowFood USA, Chefs Collaborative, and others
in the hopes of raising awareness for all rare breeds.

So, on this National Pig Day, do a little something to make this rare pig-tale have a happy ending.

How can you help save a rare breed hog on National Pig Day?
-Visit a local farm that raises rare breed pigs to learn more about the breed.
-Eat at a restaurant that serves rare breed hogs.
-Have a BBQ or pork party and take up donations to send to one of the organizations helping to save rare breed pigs.
-Sponsor a herd sire at and help to provide feed, veterinary care and TLC for a stud boar
-Visit the ALBC website and learn more about rare breeds of pigs,

On this day, also remember that there are many other rare breeds that need saving. Visit ALBC's Conservation Priority list to learn more about other breeds that need a helping hand:

By the Numbers:
Rare Breeds of Pigs in the US According to ALBC’s Conservation Priority List:

Status: Critical(Less than 200 annual registration in the US and an estimated global population less than 2,000)
-Gloucestershire Old Spots
-Guinea Hogs-Large Black
-Ossabaw Island (Feral)-Red Wattle

Status: Threatened
(Fewer than 1,000 annual registrations in the US and an estimated global population less than 5,000) -Tamworth

Status: Watch(Fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the US and an estimated global population less than 10,000)


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