With the advent of industrial agriculture, some livestock breeds of pigs, poultry, cows, horses and sheep have become threatened by extinction. Three of the ten heritage breeds of pigs–breeds that had been raised for hundreds of years before industrialization–are critically endangered (Choctaw, Mulefoot, Ossabaw Island) with populations estimated at only a few hundred animals of each breed. Bred for longevity in a free range environment, four of the breeds are threatened and the other two are on “watch lists” for livestock conservancy organizations. Six of the breeds are unique to North America. As factory farming has become commonplace for pork, many larger pig farms have become less focused on animal welfare, less sustainable, and more wasteful. Also as a result, smaller pig farms have limited access to successful farming techniques, especially when it comes to heritage breeds.
What can be done?
Heritage pigs are uniquely adapted to particular climates and terrains and are raised by small-scale family farmers that care about sustainable farming. Heritage pig farm give pigs unlimited access to open pasture and range, where they have sunlight and can exhibit their natural foraging behavior. Pigs are also free from routine prophylactic antibiotics and from administered growth hormones. By providing easily accessed information about sustainable heritage breed farming practices, more farmers can focus on heritage pig farming, which will increase the availability of higher quality, sustainable pork available in local and regional foods systems throughout the country.
How Piggy Bank is meeting the challenge:
Piggy Bank is a farm-in-the-making which, in addition to serving as a living genetic sanctuary to preserve rare heritage pig species, will provide an open forum about heritage breed pig farming, where the public will have access to information on all heritage breed pigs and free access to business plans written by other farmers. Breeds on the farm will include conservancy listed species such as the Mulefoot (critical), Large Black (threatened), and Hereford (watch). In 2017, Piggy Bank partnered with The Butcher’s Ball to collect monetary contributions for relief and recovery efforts in support of heritage breed pig ranchers in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.