Purebred, Pedigreed, and Pedigree Pork…
When we established Lucky George Farm we had a single goal in mind ~ Make a difference in the world by focusing our efforts on saving one breed of pig, the Large Black. We knew we were going to love farming, the ups and the downs of it all so long as we could leave this world a little better than how we found it. Our passion is our pigs. We stand by them, for them, and hopefully we are providing a voice for them so that others can see the immediate need to conserve rare breed livestock. We live our lives on the farm by the Four P’s…Purebred, Pedigreed, and Pedigree Pork because they are the cornerstones to our conservation efforts for Large Black pigs.
What is a purebred pig? It is a pig that has been cultivated through generations upon generations of selective breeding from a group of pigs (foundation stock) that share the same/similar characteristics as each other. Those specific traits end up becoming part of a breed standard so that breeders have a guideline to breed to. When bred together, two purebred pigs will have offspring that look like their parents and that offspring’s offspring will look like their grandparents. Animals that fall outside of that standard should not be bred. Think about a Great Dane. You know what a Great Dane should look like even if you haven’t read a breed standard. If you see a small dog with long fur is it a purebred Great Dane? Probably not. The same goes with pigs. If it doesn’t look like a purebred pig there is a good chance it isn’t.
In the United Kingdom, if a pig has a single ancestor that is not of the exact same breed it is being presented as then the animal is not considered purebred. To put it in terms for our farm: If a Large Black pig has a single ancestor (no matter how many generations removed) that is not a purebred Large Black pig then the pig in question is not a purebred Large Black. We follow the British Pig Association’s rules defining purebred status because this is what we set out to do as a conservancy farm ~ Raise the highest quality purebred Large Black pigs we can with the most genetic diversity that conform to the British Standard of Excellence. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you have a purebred pig is it also a pedigreed pig? The answer is not necessarily because one doesn’t automatically mean the other. Pigs that are pedigreed are animals that have been accepted into a particular registry by an organization as meeting that organization’s standards for registration. Different organizations have different levels of requirement for addition to their registries. Just because an association allows a pig or its descendants to be registered and given a pedigree, a.k.a. documentation showing the ancestry of a particular animal, it doesn’t mean that the pig meets the definition of purebred. It only means that at some point in time the association allowed that pig/pigs into the registry. Science and genetic testing against a control group of purebred animals is the true determinate of what is a purebred animal not solely the decisions made by a group of people in an association.
If we now understand that a pedigree pig doesn’t mean the pig is a purebred pig then what about the other way around? Absolutely you can have a pig that is a purebred and then not have a pedigree. It unfortunately happens all of the time because people who love pigs don’t always love paperwork!
Scenario #1— A person wanting purebred and pedigreed stock, let’s call him Bob, goes to a breeder and purchases a couple of piglets. At that time Bob may or may not receive paperwork showing that the pigs come from pedigree stock. If Bob never receives paperwork showing the pedigree of his piglets from the person that sold him his pigs he is now the proud owner of potentially purebred stock but not pedigreed because he doesn’t have the paperwork to prove it. This = Sad Bob.
Scenario #2— Bob gets his pigs home and he has either proof of birth notification or a litter certificate for his piglets. If he never sends that information into a registering organization he will not be able to register his piglets or provide buyers of his pigs’ piglets with a pedigree. This = Lazy Bob.
Scenario #3–Let’s say that Bob does receive paperwork and goes so far as to transfer ownership of the piglets with an association moving them from the seller’s name into his own. Bob raises the piglets, breeds them and then sells the resulting piglets. If Bob doesn’t provide the buyers of his pigs’ piglets with pedigrees or supporting documentation at the time of sale it makes it very hard for the buyers to ever prove that their new pigs are pedigreed pigs. Bob can’t possibly provide this type of paperwork because Bob never submitted birth notification of his new litter. This = Bad Breeder Bob.
Scenario #4— Same as Scenario #3 except Bob did notify his breed’s organization of the litter. When he sells the piglets he doesn’t have paperwork to give the buyers because he never received anything back from the registering organization. This = Possibly Bad Bob for not submitting the proper paperwork/submitting it in a timely manner AS WELL AS This = Possibly Bad Registering Organization.
Scenario #5— Same as Scenario #4 except Bob did notify his breed’s organization with the proper paperwork AND in a timely manner. Bob even follows up with the organization one or multiple times to no avail. This = Bad Registering Organization.
In every scenario above the question is not whether or not the pigs are purebred. It is a matter of proving that the pigs in question are pedigreed pigs.
In order to meet our criteria for Lucky George Farm a Large Black pig MUST BE BOTH PUREBRED AND PEDIGREED. Each of the pigs in our breeding program can be traced back to the United Kingdom via unbroken pedigrees from a variety of registering organizations, associations, and registries. We have done hundreds of hours of research tracing every pig’s ancestry from the US, sometimes into Canada, and eventually all the way back to stock that was exported to the United States from the UK. To know the history of our herd Farmer Angela has traveled the United States, spent countless hours on the phone to past breeders, and even traveled to England in April of 2016 to verify that the pigs bred and raised at Lucky George Farm only comes from purebred Large Black pigs. It has been through this research that she found discrepancies in each of the registries. This is going to happen as people are fallible and people run the registries. For us it meant making the hard decision not to have the descendants of those discrepancies in our herd. During the summer of 2016 we culled out a total of 12 breeding boars and sows from our herd. We no longer have every “bloodline” available in North America but we believe we now have stock that meets the British Pig Association’s definition of what purebred pigs are.
We take our duty as conservancy farmers very seriously. We have always intended to breed and raise purebred Large Black pigs not “high percentage” Large Black pigs. In an effort to confirm our paper findings we will be taking our verification a step further in the Fall of 2016 and DNA testing each of our current breeding animals against a control group from England. When we sell a Large Black pig off the farm it will be the best quality purebred and pedigreed pig we can produce both inside and out.
We strive to provide the Midwest with succulent, flavorful, and authentic purebred pedigree pork from Large Black pigs. When our customers buy our pork we want them to know we are selling them the ‘real deal’ and nothing but purebred Large Black pork. Just as a Merlot isn’t a Chardonnay pork from one breed of pig is not the same as the pork from another. Each breed has their own qualities that come through in the pork even when raised with the exact animal husbandry practices.
Beginning in 2017, every customer buying a whole or half pig from Lucky George Farm will also receive a copy of their pork’s pedigree. We believe that if you make the investment into feeding your family rare breed pork from pigs produced in a welfare friendly system that you should know exactly where that animal came from. While our pigs enjoy a life like no other on our farm their story began centuries ago. We want to share their flavor and their history with you. Together, we are writing a new future for Large Black pigs in the world.