By Caitlin Aylward
Pork plays a prominent role in Chinese cuisine, particularly in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River Valley. As a result, swine, like the Taihu pig breed, are important components of native agriculture and livestock production in the region.
The Taihu pig is a Chinese heritage breed known for its tasty meat (Photo Credit: Robin Loznak)
The Taihu is a domestic breed of pig from the Taihu Lake region in the lower Yangtze River valley of China. In general, the Taihu is a relatively large breed of pig, characterized by its thick skin, black color, large floppy ears, and distinctly wrinkled face. However there are several different varieties of Taihu, including the Meishan, Fengjing, Jiaxing Black, and Erhualian varieties, all of which are differentiated by the variability in character and the region they inhabit.
The Taihu pig is one of the most prolific pig breeds in the world, and is particularly well known for its high fertility rates. The Taihu sows are capable of producing multiple litters throughout their lifetime, often averaging around 14 piglets each; however litters can range in size from anywhere between 12 to 20 piglets. The Taihu also matures sexually at an early age, making it a popular swine among breeders.
Taihu pigs are typically raised in densely populated townships and cities. Consequently, the Taihu are often kept in enclosures year round. The diet of the Taihu is mostly comprised of barley and rice brain, but also includes radish, pumpkin, grass, and certain aquatic plants. The Taihu’s rich diet contributes to its highly desirable tasty and juicy meat. The swine’s exceptional resistance to disease is yet another advantageous characteristic that distinguishes the Taihu pig from other breeds.
The recent rise in income and living standards among the Chinese has resulted in an unprecedented demand for high quality meat. In response, pig farmers in the region have become increasingly interested in rearing greater numbers of Taihu to meet this emerging market demand. The Taihu’s proflicacy, in addition to its high fat to meat ratio, has made it a highly desired breed among pig farmers and consumers.
The Taihu’s desirable rearing characteristics and exceptional taste have interested genetic engineers and breeders around the world. Although native to the Taihu Valley region in China, the Taihu have since been introduced in nations around the world, including France, Japan, and the United States. The Taihu is often crossbred with other swine to improve the overall quality of meat, as well as the birth weight and survival rates of hybrid pig litters. Given the breed’s many desirable rearing characteristics and high quality meat, the Taihu is an indigenous livestock breed that is undoubtedly worth preserving.
What are some lesser-known breeds of pig that you know about? Share with us in the comments below!
Caitlin Aylward is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.
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