Farmer: Sean Stanton
Farm: Blue Hill Farm, Great Barrington, MA
Breed: 7 Month Old 1/2 Berkshire, 1/4 Tamworth, 1/4 Gloucestershire Old Spot
Feed: Organic Feed incorporating of small grain, bedding hay, and dairy from Blue Hill Farm
Farmer Sean Stanton raises pigs, grassfed cows, goats, and chickens, and runs the Blue Hill Farm dairy. He is wise, articulate and among the most talented farmers in our network.
Sean likes to raise mix breeds because the offspring of two or more distinct breeds experience what’s referred to as hybrid vigor. The vigor is expressed in better productivity and health, and the flavor is exponentially better. We’re excited to include Sean’s pork, a mix of three incredible breeds, in this week’s resourcED Meat Box:
Its original name was the Cottager’s pig, and it was the most commonly kept household breed in central England for its resilience: it can thrive in the cold while also being resistant to sunburn, happily forages on bracken and rough forest, and can even follow behind cattle or other ruminants in pasture. The mothers are renowned for caring for each piglet and having plentiful milk. Tamworths are also efficient excavators while rooting for food and were specifically used in fields before planting crops. The breed produces a long belly and large hams, often celebrated for its bacon. Tamworths have been largely kept separate from other European breeds and are thought to most closely resemble forest hogs. They were brought to the United States around the turn of the 19th century and are currently enjoying a small resurgence.
Berkshire pigs were first documented by Oliver Cromwell’s army in southeast England in the 17th century. The breed had prestige, and were renowned for their heavily marbled, intramuscular fat and bred specifically by the English royalty. They were first brought to the United States in 1823, when they were crossed with unknown breeds of Siamese origin to create more resilient genetics for farm production. Today the breed is still known for its marbled fat, which allows for longer or higher temperature cooking. Berkshire is famous in the Japanese wagyu market, where it’s known as Kurobuta. The breed has been measured to have exceptionally high pH, which according to some food scientists is a more important indicator of overall flavor than fat content. Higher pH also explains the breeds deep pink muscle color.
Gloucestershire Old Spot
Originating near Wales, the black-spotted breed was known as the Orchard Pig and grazed heavily around the apple orchards of the region. They were bred to be a four season pig, living outside all throughout the year, while also being easily handled and relatively quiet. Its sows are known for their mothering skills. The breed was easily kept by small farmers for centuries, but has struggled to stay relevant in the modern day. It’s listed as Critical by the Livestock Conservancy, while some homesteaders and small farmers are hoping to celebrate the breed for its even temper and well-marbled, nutty flavor.