Enhancing pork flavor and fat quality with swine raised in sylvan systems: Potential niche-market application for the Ossabaw hog

Charles W. Talbott, M. Todd See, Peter Kaminsky, Don Bixby, Michael Sturek, I. Lehr Brisbin, Charles Kadzere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Our global food supply becomes more vulnerable as we continue to lose diverse genetic resources. The Ossabaw hog is a feral breed that is unique to North America, a distant relative to the renowned Iberian hog and is considered an endangered swine breed. The objective of our farmer participatory project was to examine the meat and fat characteristics of Ossabaw hogs raised in alternative management systems for niche-market application. At one farm, eight Ossabaw pigs were randomly assigned to a grass pasture and fed a free choice corn-soy (CS) ration or placed in a mixed hardwood forest plot and provided free choice peanuts in the shells (P), alfalfa pellets (A) and mast from the mixed hardwoods (diet collectively referred to as PAM). The two diets had no effect on Ossabaw production data or pork quality characteristics; however, fat profiles were altered. Ossabaws weighed approximately 70kg when harvested at 400 days and produced chops with small loin eyes (21-23 cm2) and minimal evidence of intramuscular fat deposits (1%). The unsaturated fatty acid (USFA) to saturated fatty acid (SFA) ratio improved from 1.6 to 2.6 (P < 0.01) as a result of feeding the PAM diet. Forest-finished Ossabaw pork was considered more flavorful by food critics and renowned chefs than that of conventionally fed animals. Mast from hardwoods offers the possibility of enhancing pork flavor for niche markets and using a renewable forest resource as a food source. For farm two, eight Ossabaw gilts and eight crossbred progeny (from European breeds) were randomly assigned to one of the two dirt-lots and fed free choice a CS ration or PA diet (same ration as mentioned above with no mast). Ossabaw hogs grew nearly one-third as fast as the crosses and weighed approximately 80% of the crosses' harvest weight at twice their age. Loin eye areas of the crosses were nearly twice as large as the Ossabaws while the subcutaneous back fat deposition was nearly half. Compared to the CS diet, the PA ration decreased SFA by 23% while polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) increased by 60%. The USFA to SFA ratios improved from 1.5 to 2.2 (P < 0.01) when PA diets were fed. Differences (P < 0.05) in USFA profiles were observed for breed effects; Ossabaws had 8% higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and 18% lower PUFA levels than the crosses. When adjusted for breed effects, no differences in sensory characteristics for the CS versus PA diets were detected by a trained panel. Ossabaws were more flavorful than the crosses (2.3 versus 1.6); (P < 0.05).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalRenewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 27 2006


  • Alternative diets
  • Endangered breeds
  • Healthy pork
  • Mast
  • Niche markets
  • Ossabaw hogs
  • Sylvo-pastoral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Food Science

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