Tell us about pigs, Joe!

That’s a big subject, reader Bobbi, no pun intended. I’ve already written about pigs in America but that’s a pretty easy since historians can point to a clear arrival date. The British pig is a lot harder to pin down. No one knows for sure when pigs or their wild ancestor, the wild boar, first got to the British isles. What is known is that boar were present there a minimum of 6,000 years ago, the time when neolithic humans arrived, as they appear in neolith art. Prior to that it’s anybody’s guess, for the truth is that pigs in their wild form are among the most widely distributed large mammals in Eurasia and Africa. Only the dog was domesticated earlier than the pig, which was thought to have been first bred by humans in what is now southeastern Turkey some 15,000 years ago. Presumably the pro to-Brits took them up for the same reason so many other societies did: because they breed easily, grow fast and taste great!

11 thoughts on “Tell us about pigs, Joe!”

  1. I heard someone assert that the reason pork is more popular than beef in the southern states is because pork could be preserved, whereas beef could not. The reason for this isn’t immediately obvious to me. Any thoughts?

    1. Hello Faith!

      From what I know the popularity of pigs in the South is primarily economic. The southern U.S. has always been poor relative to the industrial north. Cattle require quite a bit of land to graze upon, and they mature rather slowly (just 5% of what they eat is converted to more cow). Pigs by contrast need little space, will eat just about anything, multiply rapidly and convert fully a quarter of what they eat to body mass. If you’re a poor subsistence farmer living in the South, the choice is clear. Indeed wherever you find poverty you generally find pigs. Dirt poor tenant farmers in Ireland kept a pig about for use as either Christmas dinner, as insurance against a crop failure or as a tradable good.

      From a preservation standpoint, it seems to me that the two are pretty much equal. People have been salt-curing beef for millennia, just like pork. Granted people don’t make hams and sausages from cattle (thought I guess a lot of hotdogs are all-beef these days) but the basic principles still work!

      Great question, Faith. Thanks!

      – Joe

      1. Google for “jeju black pig” if you want to see just what pigs will eat. Fair warning, it’s gross.

  2. Those are some really fat pigs there. I wonder if one of them is the Empress of Blandings? Fans of P.G. Wodehouse will understand.

    1. Britain’s most famous Berkshire sow!

      Thanks for the reference, Ellen! 😉

      – Joe

    2. Ha! I’ve been thinking about the Empress since the folks @ Downton Abbey decided to take up pig farming.

  3. I just grab more n my brain n mind s enlighten I love pastry n trying to do a new thing for people to see. Thank you for the information I receive its a eye opening

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