Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Darwin on Pigs

Charles Darwin (who would have had a 200th birthday a few days ago) wrote some neat things about pigs. Google Books makes it available here.

Darwin is interesting because he wrote in the period where European pig breeders were improving their breeds (derived from wild boar) with Asian pigs. The European breeds were generally lean and unprofligate. The Asian pigs had better meat quality (more fat!) and bigger litters. Germany's best-tasting pig breed was produced from them. Swabian-Hall and Mangalitsa both taste much better than other breeds.

Despite being an extreme lard-type breed, the Mangalitsa was developed in 1833 from breeds derived from European wild boar, not by crossing with Chinese breeds.

I like to keep this blog on the topic of Mangalitsa - but Darwin's work reminds me of the Meishan and other similar Chinese breeds.

Text not available
Charles Darwin's Works By Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin

A small number of pigs of these Chinese breeds exist in the USA, mostly in research labs. They are in danger of going extinct, because the labs that have them want to shut down their research on them.

They are economically important, because they are the most prolific pigs in the world. They are obviously historically important, because of the role they played (and continue to play) in improving pig fertility.

Best of all, they taste very good! They also have great personalities. They are very different from other breeds of pig - very slow-moving and lazy.

Despite them tasting better than most breeds, Slow Food USA is not going to save them, because they have no historical connection to the USA. This is similar to the their take on the Mangalitsa.

Slow Food China (if it exists) might try save them - but given that the pigs are in the USA already, it is a shame to have them go extinct here unnecessarily.

If you'd like to help keep the Meishan going in the USA, please contact me.

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