by intern Alaine Janosy
The Guinea hog, once a prevalent ‘family pig’ in the southeastern United States, is today considered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) to be a critically endangered species. Post-World War II, as industrial pork production increased and other imported breeds, such as the Vietnamese potbellied pig, took over the niche formally held by the Guinea hog, prevalence of this native swine began to decline. Slow Food Charleston, in conjunction with a local farmer/breeder, Gra Moore, a local executive chef, Craig Deihl, and ALBC, is working to improve the breed’s numbers and help kick-start a market for the meat.
In 2005 there were only about 75 Guinea hogs nationwide, but now, just four years later, as a result of dedicated re-population efforts, there are about 300 on farms throughout the country, a fourfold increase. Although this number does not warrant the pigs being considered ready for ‘prime time’ sales and distribution, it is large enough for some of the pigs to start being processed and selectively bred for traits that will best allow the hogs to thrive and be marketed.
According to ALBC Research & Technical Programs Manager, Jeannette Beranger, Slow Food Charleston was a perfect promotional partner for the Guinea hog because having a connection to place is essential when trying to repopulate an endangered breed and Charleston is at the heart of the breed’s historical location. More than just promoting the hog, the chapter is also working to help Gra make raising these animals a profitable investment for his farm.
Slow Food Charleston’s chapter leader, Carole Addlestone, was able to coordinate Gra bringing one of his Guinea hogs to Craig Deihl at Cypress Lowcountry Grille as part of a tasting. Craig wrote about his experience with the Guinea hog on his blog in two separate posts – Project American Guinea hog and Project American Guinea hog part 2. He mentions being “stunned that a pig this small could have so much fat” and that “Gra knows how to raise a pig that makes a chef smile.” Both of these sentiments bode well for the future of the Guinea hog, particularly in professional kitchens and on restaurant menus.