Can you eat a potbelly pig?
This is a great question.
I have owned potbelly pigs. Not too long ago, I had twelve.
My sow was your run-of-the-mill, standard potbelly. My male was something else entirely. He came with papers. He was a Juliana micro-mini potbelly pig ... who weighed 200 pounds. The story of my boar is unusual; go here to see it.
It wasn't my fault he weighed 200 pounds. Like many potbelly pigs, he was intended to be a pet, indulged on too many groceries ... and ended up being homeless. He lived on a couple of farms before making his way to our place.
The world of potbelly pigs is adorable and sometimes sad. I love those cute, tiny pigs. I want one in my living room! The problem is that without constant management of their caloric intake, those tiny piggies can get large. This is where the problems happen. More potbelly pigs find their way to animal shelters than people realize. Poor pigs.
I know there are many people who raise, keep, and love potbelly pigs. These pigs are typically pets. They live, sleep, and dwell in the living room alongside the family dog, or maybe in the yard, but they fall in the category of "pet" not "food." I'm not suggesting you eat your pet pig who thinks they are the family dog.
There are also people who don't eat meat, or maybe they do eat meat, but not pork. If you fall in that category, you will probably also not want to eat a potbelly pig. This post isn't a consideration on whether or not to eat potbelly pigs; this post is not trying to decide if eating a potbelly pig is right or wrong. This post is not determining whether or not potbellies are Kosher. I'm pretty sure they aren't.
For the purpose of this post, I'm assuming you eat pork ... Your pig is not your dog ... And you just want to know if you can eat the meat from a potbelly pig.
Or maybe you've already decided to eat it and you would like to know how it's gonna taste. Should you have the whole hog made into sausage? Can you get bacon? Is it gamey? Is it weird? Does it taste like chicken?
Well, here we go!
Farm life is an ever-changing adventure. There's a blurry, fine, almost non-existent line between pets and food at our homestead. Our dogs and cats are probably nervous. The chickens are probably in a constant state of panic. There is just no telling when we may wake up and decide to eat someone.
When roosters turn mean — we eat them. When there's not room for seven rabbits in the four-rabbit habitat — we eat them. When you have 8-inch tusks and charge my baby — guess what? You're dinner.
So why would someone want to eat a potbelly pig?
I can think of a couple reasons. I'm sure there are more that aren't coming to mind.
Price: Potbelly pigs can sometimes be purchased for 15 dollars (or free); a "feeder pig" can cost 90 dollars or more.
Small Space: If you have a small homestead or just a little area for pigs, potbelly pigs may be a good fit. They don't get as large as most feeder pigs.
Small budget: because potbelly pigs are smaller, they generally don't require as much feed. They can be raised on garden scraps, vegetable scraps, grains, milk, and many other inexpensive food items.
Size: If you want to raise a pig that won't get too big, a potbelly could work.
Temperament: If you have potbelly who turned mean and aggressive, eating them can be a viable option.
Circumstances: Somebody was given a potbelly pig and they don't want it any longer.
But can you eat a potbelly pig?
Short answer: "Yes. It's a pig. You can eat it."
It reminds me of the movie Home on the Range. The cow was explaining to all the other animals that the farm owner was going to have to sell them. Then the cow explained to the chicken that if she (the chicken) is sold, she will most likely be eaten. To this, the shocked and offended hen replied, "Who would eat a chicken?"
Ha! Everyone! Chickens are about as close to the bottom of the food chain as you can get.
So the answer to the question, "Who would eat a pig?" is, "Lots of people."
"Who would eat a potbelly pig?" Lots of people.
Some even boast that they are the tastiest, best, cream-of-the-crop, most fabulous pork you'll ever eat.
I'm no expert; I'll stick to my experience and what I know. We have eaten Berkshire crosses, Yorkshire crosses, Poland China crosses, standard farm pigs, and potbelly pigs. I have not raised a full-bred Heritage breed, quite frankly because I haven't been able to find a breeder near me. I would love to.
There are many different breeds within the category of "potbelly." I hear some potbelly pig breeds are more suited for eating than others. I wrote an article about "How to Buy a Cow" last year. In it, I talked about buying meat in bulk and things like that. Go here to read it. I also discussed a variety of livestock and how much eating meat you can expect from different animals.
One of the remarkable things about pigs is the sheer amount of usable product you can get from a feeder pig. Whatever your hog weighs "on the hoof," you can expect to get 71-78 percent of that number back in the form of meat inside vacuum sealed packages. This means that a 250-pound hog can yield 195 pounds of pork. That's impressive! When you compare the "usability" of the hog to other animals (deer, cow, lamb, etc), it wins without any competition.
Our experience has been that potbelly pigs do not fall into the same "consumable" category as feeder pigs. They are heavy on the fat and low on the meat.
Does this matter? Not really. It doesn't make them any less edible. It doesn't make them any less yummy.
It did effect the bacon & lard situation for us. Where the bacon should have been there was nothing but fat on the potbelly. This meant two things: less bacon and more lard.
I have also read that if you raise the right potbelly pig breed and feed it the right diet, you can get bacon and not just fat.
How do they taste?
My processor falls into the wonderful, beloved category of "lived 70+ years and has earned the right to say whatever he wants." For more on that and why some of my favorite friends are over the age of 70, go here.
When we showed up at our processor, he took one look at the massive, potbelly boar with 5-inch tusks and said, "You're gonna wish that one fell off the truck."
I said, "Can't you just throw the meat in with the others when you make sausage?" (We were having 2 feeder pigs processed at the same time.)
He said, "I don't recommend it. He'll ruin your sausage."
I said, "OK, so should I just have the potbelly ground into sausage and packed separately?"
He said, "I would."
So, we agreed. I didn't want to ruin 100 pounds of wonderful sausage by mixing in a bunch of strong, gamey boar into it. If the boar sausage turned out horrible, I could deal with it separately. Our processor marked all the "boar" sausage so that we would know which was which.
A couple weeks later, when I picked up my pork, he explained how strong the boar smelled during processing. He said it was awful. He said it was probably gonna taste as bad as it smelled. Then he looked at me and said, "You're not gonna be able to stand to be in your kitchen while you're cooking that boar."
Then he told me to be sure to call him as soon as we ate some of the boar sausage and let him know how bad it was.
I cooked some that night. I had to know.
It tasted like sausage. Seriously. It was great. And I didn't have to leave the kitchen to cook it.
Just in case you think I've gone "taste-blind" to normal food and my taste buds have become accustomed to eating all things weird — I don't think I have. I do not like gamey meat. I don't eat "old" bucks (deer). The bigger the "rack," the less inclined I am to eat it. I am super sensitive to that "gamey" flavor and smell. Ick. No thanks.
The boar sausage wasn't gamey. It wasn't strong. It tasted like sausage. It tasted like pork. It was more "fatty" than the sausage made from the feeder pigs, but the flavor was the same. In the future (if I process another potbelly), I would probably try to get more cuts (chops, steaks, hams, or other cuts).
There are lots and lots of people who would find it disappointing that a potbelly pig found his fate as food. But I am not one of them. If you want to roast your potbelly pig, I am behind you. If you want to raise a potbelly to eat, it's OK with me! It's a pig ... you can eat it.
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