The Meishan pig was once the focus of an intensive study by the USDA, Iowa State and The University of Illinois beginning in 1989. This study spanned over a decade. You see the Meishan pig is a Chinese hog breed that has been selectively bred to produce high levels of succulent fat for thousands of years.They are also unique in that they are a "hyper productive" .While most heritage hog breed have litters of 4-8 piglets and Commercial breeds target 10-13 Meishan routinely have 15-18 piglets.One Meishan in the USDA study had 28 piglets in one litter.They also enter puberty in 90-120 days as opposed to the 6-10 months of many breeds. It took years of negotiations and literally millions of dollars to bring 33 Meishan sows and some Meishan (among other) boars to the US. The pigs proved that their hyper-productivity could increase the productivity of other breeds.The rub was that Meishan are a lard carcass and the crosses had increased levels of fat.Remember in the 90's the USDA (the same people who told us Crisco was good for us) were trying to create the super lean rooting machines we have today.The poor Meishan was deemed to have outlived its research value at one of the research facilities and around 2008-2010 the Iowa State herd was dispersed. The remaining herds at the University of Illinois and at the US Meat Animal research center remain sequestered from the average farmer still today.The Iowa State herd was scattered,some were completely lost ,some watered down by other breeds.In fact the lard carcass genetics of many breeds (AGH, Old Line Berkshire,Large Black etc) also fell into disfavor and entire breeds were almost lost. The drawing below is a representation of what Berkshire hogs USED to look like..
Yes all the herds traceable to the original stock were not lost. But its taken a long time to research, locate,,negotiate and obtain our first certified pure Meishan stock traceable directly to the original USDA herd. On December 10th 2015 our boar "Mr Wu" and 2 unrelated gilts "Chiyo" and "Pumpkin" joined the family here.
Now if you had told me six years ago that I would make the effort,and the investment to obtain pig genetics I might have laughed you out of the room. Alas homestead planning rarely follows the homestead path. But the preservation of Meishan Genetics(which are almost irreplaceable in the US) calls to me.Yes I have a vision but mostly I have a gut feel that these pigs are too important to be lost.And no I dont run a museum I run a farm. At the end of this journey I hope and I am gambling on the idea that these pigs can improve many different breeds that can benefit the small holder.
But before you think I claim this as original thought its already being done in different places at different levels. There are already forward thinking breeders using Meishan(along with other lard breeds like Mangalista) to fix the pork the USDA "improved". Our efforts are a small drip in a tidal wave of a pork revolution that has already quietly begun.I hope we are good stewards of these and all of our animals. And that is part of my daily prayers to the Lord. Looking forward to keeping a log of the journey. Thats all from Gods Blessing Farm today.....