Chinese Meishan pigs are one of the oldest breeds of livestock pig. They originate from the Taihu region of China where pigs have been domesticated for over 5000 years. Today however the population levels of the Meishan Pig have become critically low. This has put the breed perilously close to possible extinction. In the spring of 2018 The Livestock Conservancy estimated the world wide population of verifiably pure Meishans at less than 2000 breeding animals. Consequently, in their 2018 Conservation Priority List, the Livestock Conservancy classified the Meishan Breed as “Critically Endangered.” Until recently, verifiably pure Meishan Pigs have not been readily available to private farmers in North America. With the release of the final Meishan Genetics from the USDA Meat Animal Research Center and the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois, the A.M.B.A. believes that now, a sufficiently genetically-diverse base herd of Meishans exists to preserve the breed. This conservation effort will require a base of dedicated breeders. The A.M.B.A. was formed to organize this base and document their breeding efforts.
The Meishan defies all classical descriptions of typical swine behavior:
Their large litters and mothering capabilities also set them apart from popular heritage breeds. The hyper productivity of the hog and its documented superior mothering abilities allows farmers to maintain smaller, less expensive breeding herds while still achieving the same number of piglets for use or sale. Their docile nature requires less infrastructure (ie: electric fences) and manpower.
Meishan meat is an incomparable combination of tenderness, succulence and flavor. Meishans produce an intensely micro-marbled red meat pork. Meishan lard and fats are significantly lighter, finer and render at lower temperatures than other breeds. The result is incredibly tender meat as compared to more common swine breeds.
Meishan banyou (lard) is the highest-grade oil on the hog derived from caul fat which surrounds the internal organs. Banyou is prized in baking and cooking alike for its finer grain and lighter-on-the-pallet taste than commercial hog lards. In China, Meishans have been prized for their tenderness and flavor for centuries. Throughout East Asia, Meishan is a delicacy, and considered the “Kobe Beef” of pork.
Meishans have been selectively bred over time for profligacy, temperament and flavor. Today, farmers, foodies, and chefs alike are discovering the incredible flavor of the Meishan pig. In 2016, the Meishan won the prestigious Denver COCHON555 hog “Nose-to-Tail” chef competition.
Whether an efficient lard hog for the sustainable small holder homestead, or as a component in a small to medium size craft pork operation, the Meishan is an excellent choice.
Breeders wanting a docile hog for home use no longer have to settle for smaller breeds (with smaller cuts of meat). The Meishan is simply a larger, faster growing, more docile and less destructive pig.
Breeders today have a unique opportunity to not only preserve this breed in North America but to pioneer that effort.