Fat in Heritage Pigs

Heritage breeds tend to be fatty (with the exception perhaps of the Tamworth, a heritage breed raised primarily for bacon). Ours live outside most of their lives, so they need fat to stay warm and happy when the weather cools. And the fat gives exquisite flavor that standard industrial pork (“the other white meat”) lacks. There is simply no comparison flavor-wise. However, the marbling and thick back fat––and sometimes smaller loins––may come as a surprise to those used to modern breeds intended for confinement operations.


Up until several decades ago, farmers valued pigs that produced enough fat to make lard. With the advent of industrially processed vegetable oils, lard (as well as the fat, flavorful pigs that produced it) fell out of favor. Many butchers these days see super lean, “white meat” pigs as the ideal for meat production and consider backfat on heritage breeds as waste. We encourage you to think differently and to claim your share of heritage pork fat. Since any fat on the animal is included in the hanging weight (which is how the USDA requires us to figure our price when selling custom-exempt), it’s part of what you’re paying for when you buy a portion of a live animal. It’s also one of the many benefits of buying pork by the share rather than by the cut.

Rendering lard from the fat is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment. A google search will provide you with lots of different methods. If you don’t want to render lard yourself, perhaps you have neighbors or friends who would love a gift of pork fat. Seriously. It’s good stuff.

If you are interested in the fat from your pig share, you’ll need to ask Valley Meat Service to include it (and may need to emphasize the request) when you give them your order at harvest time. They don’t routinely give you that option.

Also, please understand that the amount of backfat varies. Some pigs will have more, some less. It all depends on the pig. We can’t guarantee fat yield on any particular pig.