Lard pigs versus lean pigs
Through the end of World War II, the market for lard (a key ingredient in products ranging from cosmetics to explosives to pharmaceuticals) was strong, but after the war, cheaper vegetable-based fats found their way into American diets and petrochemicals largely replaced lard for commercial and industrial uses. The declining market for lard caused demand for lard pigs to collapse and breeders began selecting for leaner hogs.
Initially the Berkshires thrived, thanks largely to their exceptionally tasty meat, but as the pork industry consolidated under the control of just a handful of large corporations in the 1980s and 1990s, and efficiency of production became the name of the game, the Berkshire population plummeted. The “pork industry” simply wasn’t interested in Berkshires because they were slower growing, didn’t produce as much lean meat (which the industry believed was the only thing consumers would buy) and didn’t perform as well in confinement as the Duroc, Hampshire and Yorkshire breeds.
As a family we were looking for a heritage hog that did well on a small farm. We didn’t mind putting in a bit more time to get a product that we can’t get in a store. We feel that if we are going to put the time and effort in we want something special, Berkshires are that something special.