This last year we raised American Guinea hogs and in this podcast and blog post, I'm sharing all the details of raising them including what the final price per pound was, how we liked the meat, the pros and cons of raising this breed, plus whether we'll raise them again.
In this episode of the Pioneering Today Podcast (episode #294) I'm sharing my opinions and my experience with raising American Guinea Hogs. This is a follow-up episode from podcast episode #282 where I interviewed Cathy Paine all about the history of the American Guinea Hog.
We raise pigs about once every two to three years. Because we also raise and butcher our own meat chickens, we raise hens for laying eggs, we raise our own grass-fed cattle, and we catch our own crab every year we have plenty of variety of meat so raising pigs every other year is sufficient for our family.
However, this past year when we went to our normal breeder, we didn't realize he had retired since the last time we bought piglets! So we were left to find another solution which led us to try out the American Guinea Hog.
Raising American Guinea Hogs
There were certainly a lot of pros about the American Guinea hogs, many of which I was pleasantly surprised with. However there were also some cons. So did the pros outweigh the cons and will we raise this breed of pigs again in the future? Read on (or listen to the podcast) to find out.
Time Until Pigs Are Fully Grown
Surprisingly, this breed took much longer to grow to full size than the pigs we've raised in the past. You'd think for a smaller breed they'd grow more quickly, but this isn't the case with the American Guinea Hog.
The Hereford piglets we've raised in year's past have taken, on average, six months until they were at a butcherable size (which is about 200 pounds). By six months the Guinea Hogs weren't near that size and took an extra four months until we butchered them.
This was considerable since this was through the winter months which meant we were feeding them all that time (read below for more info on feed costs).
What We Feed Our Pigs
We always buy certified organic feed in bulk from our local feed store. Because we purchase what's called a “super-sack” (which is 400-500lbs of feed) we save money and one super-sack will feed our pigs for the six months we have them. However, because we ended up having our pigs for 10 months instead of 6, we needed to buy extra feed.
We'll also gather up extra apples from around the valley, boil them up to create a mash, then soak the pig feed in that mash. The pigs love this and always gobble it up! Then, when the garden is plentiful, we feed the pigs any extra veggie scraps we can get from friends, family, neighbors or grocery stores (we get what the store considers “seconds”).
American Guinea Hogs are considered grazing pasture pigs, so they will eat some grasses and will forage for nuts when they can. However, because the Guinea Hogs took so long to grow we were in the dead of winter for their last few months, which meant our grass was dormant and even veggie scraps from the garden were long gone. So we had to supplement even further with extra feed and some alfalfa (as the pigs didn't seem to care for the hay we feed our cows).
Because American Guinea Hogs take longer to get to full weight, they need to be fed longer and through the winter months which means they're eating more on a daily basis than during the summer.
Since we’d hit dormancy where none of our pasture was growing and we didn’t have extra scraps from the garden, they needed more feed in order to just stay warm and maintain weight, which we were trying to keep them on the gain since we were approaching butcher date.
So the feed cost was doubled, but the meat in return was not doubled.
Now if you live in the south or a warmer climate where grass grows year-round and you have an abundance of nut trees (Guinea Hogs love to eat nuts) then you wouldn’t need to feed them that much extra.
They will eat some hay, but they didn’t actually love what we feed our cows, so we had to supplement with alfalfa. Unfortunately, alfalfa tends to be one of the higher GMO crops, so I wasn’t thrilled with the potential of the alfalfa not being non-GMO.
Average Hanging Weight
We raised five American Guinea Hogs this past year (we were raising them not only for ourselves, but also for family members and friends), they all came from the same litter and the largest hog’s hanging weight was 164 pounds. The smallest hog was 108 pounds but most of them were between 110-120 pounds.
Quantity of Meat
The quantity of the meat was perhaps the most surprising thing of all about this breed. Not to much is overall quantity, but the quantity of certain cuts.
In fact, when we went to pick up our pig from the local butcher, we got so much more bacon than we expected that we thought we had been given the bacon from all five pigs.
Since we thought the butcher had made a mistake, we actually called my brother to see if he was missing his bacon, but when we talked to him, he was thinking the same thing as we were! He had so much bacon as well that he thought he had received it all!
I'd say we got about triple the amount of bacon as we typically get from our Hereford pigs. Because our family loves bacon, this was a very pleasant surprise.
We also got a lot of pork chops from our pig, and since American Guinea Hogs are considered a “lard pig” we got quite a bit of lard for rendering as well. We'll use the lard for making homemade soap, homemade beeswax and lard candles, and baking (check out great-grandma's flaky pie crust recipe made with lard!). If you’re not planning on utilizing the lard from your pigs, then this breed may not be the best for you.
Sadly, I only got 5 pounds of sausage from our pig, which I wasn’t thrilled about. This isn't a game-changer, because, in our family, we eat more bacon than we do sausage. Plus, since we raise our own beef, we have plenty of ground beef which I can add lard and seasonings to and make a mock sausage.
But if you're hoping to raise this breed for the sausage quantity, you'll be disappointed.
Taste and Flavor
The flavor of these pigs is phenomenal! We’ve already cooked up bacon and pork chops. Since we fed these pigs the same way we did our Hereford pigs (and use the same butcher so everything was the same) we could do a true taste comparison.
We very much prefer the flavor of these guinea hogs, however, that doesn't mean the Hereford pigs weren't also delicious, these were just outstanding! The bacon has the best flavor and the pork chops are juicy, flavorful and so delicious.
We haven’t yet tried the ham yet, but I’ll update this post once we have.
These are the sweetest pigs we’ve ever raised! When we were raising our Hereford pigs, once they were full size, it was so hard to go in and feed them because they'd get so excited and energetic that they'd knock you over if you weren't prepared!
The Guinea Hogs are so sweet and, even though they were hungry, you could hold them back with your boot and they would back off. I could even send the kids out to care for them because they are so sweet and much easier to take care of.
Overall Cost Per Pound
We estimated out the price we paid per piglet plus the feed cost (not including the apples and produce or the supplemental alfalfa) and it was $4.69 per pound. This did include the butchering fees for cut and wrap.
Overall this is a pretty good price for organic, pasture-raised pork. You’d have a hard time finding that from the grocery store, especially since this included all the lard and so much bacon!
The Verdict – Will We Raise American Guinea Hogs Again?
All in all, we don't think we’ll raise American Guinea hogs again. Because they took an extra four months to raise, meaning hours of extra work throughout the winter, feeding, watering, and caring for on our end, plus the extra food costs all for less return in poundage of meat.
We’ll likely go back to the Hereford breed we've raised in the past simply because we know we can raise a delicious product for about half the cost of the American Guinea Hogs.
We may also try out the Idaho Pasture Pigs. This is a breed we've been told has a lot of the pros of the American Guinea Hogs without the cons listed above.
NOTE: I haven’t researched the Idaho Pasture Pigs so this isn’t a recommendation from me!
In This Episode:
- How long it took until the hogs were fully grown.
- What the average hanging weight of the hogs was.
- The taste and quality of the meat.
- How much of each type of meat we got.
- The temperament of the pigs.
- What did the total feed cost?
- What the price per pound ended up being.
- The verdict… will we raise American Guinea hogs again?
- Verse of the Week: 1 Corinthians 15:7
Other Helpful Links:
- Saving the American Guinea Hogs
- 12 Tips for Raising Pigs for Meat
- Raising Chickens for Meat
- Raising Grass-Fed Cattle for Beef
- Pros and Cons of Raising Grass-Fed Cattle
- Raising Grass-Fed Cattle – What You Need to Know on Butcher Day
- Planning Your Livestock for a Year
- Raising Egg-Laying Hens
- Catching a Year's Worth of Dungeness Crab
- How to Render Lard and Why You Should
- Homemade Beeswax and Lard Candles
- Best Flaky Pie Crust Made With Lard
Hey, Pioneers, and welcome to episode number 294. Today's episode, I'm going to be sharing with you what our final experience was with raising the American Guinea hogs as our pigs that produce our pork that feed our family for the year. It was a new breed to us if we will do it again, and my advice for anyone who is looking to raise American Guinea hogs as their main meat or one of their main meat sources. Now, if you have not listened to episode number 282, where I had a guest on, that talks all about the American Guinea hog, the history of the breed, how it's different than our modern pork, it's a very old heritage, often referred to as the homesteader pig, and kind of that whole story and about the American Guinea hogs with their history and the breed, and it's really fascinating, it's an episode definitely worth listening to. Highly recommend that you check that out, but this is kind of the part two or the followup because we have now butchered our hogs, gotten all of the meat, and are deciding if we will raise this breed ever again.
That's what today's episode is going to be all about. Welcome to the Pioneering Today Podcast. If you are a brand new listener, I'm excited to have you, and if you are one of my long-time listeners, well, welcome back. A quick recap if you didn't listen to episode number 282 yet, just so that this makes a little bit more sense to you, we decided to raise pigs again this past spring, which was right when the pandemic hit, so that would have been about February, March of 2020. We usually raise pigs about every other year because we raise so much of our own meat.
We have our own grass-fed beef cattle, we raise and butcher our own meat chickens. I also have my hens that are just for eggs, and the pigs, and then we get salmon and crab. We go crabbing just in our little, old ... It's like a 25-year old, 17-foot ski boat. It is not anything luxurious by any means, but we are able to go crabbing just within some of our local bays, and so we have a lot of different sources.
We're very fortunate that way, that we're able to use to feed our family for our meat sources. I share all of that to say that's why we only raise pigs every other year simply because we don't need that much pork meat with everything else that we have. Our breeder that we had been using, the cattle we breed back ourselves, so we always have the moms that we breed back for the livestock that we're going to be butchering or et cetera, that type of thing. I don't have to buy calves, and then raise them to be butcherable size, but we do not do that with the pigs, so we don't breed them. I just buy piglets from local farmers, and that's what we've been raising.
Well, the breeder that we were using, we've raised Hereford pigs in the past, he retired from breeding and we didn't realize that, so the only pigs that we were able to get during the pandemic were American Guinea hogs. Then, I found out even more about the breed, and was really excited to raise them, which is everything that you listened to in episode 282, that you will be listening to after this one, I hope. We got the pigs, and we buy organic pig feed from a local grainery to help supplement. Now, the American Guinea hogs are more of a grazing pasture pig. They will eat grass and nuts, but we still have to supplement them with some pig feed, so even though they will graze and are more of a grazer than a lot of your other breeds, we still have to supplement, and they are a much slower-growing pig, a lot of the breeds we have now. Herefords are still considered more of a heritage breed of pig, but they have been selectively bred, so no, it's not GMO or any Frankenstein stuff like that, but when you're raising a litter of pigs, whichever pig were to gain weight the fastest or reach butcherable size the fastest, then that's what you would select as what you would breed, and so you're breeding in these desirable traits.
That's how we get a lot of our modern breeds now. The Hereford pigs that we raise, generally speaking, we'll get piglets at about eight weeks old. We'll get them in the spring, and at six months old, they are at a butcherable size, and usually around 200 to 250 pounds, just kind of depends at butcherable size when they're about six months old with the different litters and the different ones that we have had. Well, the American Guinea hogs are a much slower-growing pig. At six months, they were nowhere near the size that you could butcher them, unless you were just planning on doing a whole pig roast, where you're just going to be roasting and eating the entire pig like in one sitting, which is generally, you do with much smaller pigs, but that's not what we're wanting to do with these guys, so we took them to about 10 months. Normally, we would get our pigs in the spring, and we would butcher them the end of September or into October, so we're not feeding them through the winter months.
It's colder during the winter months. You're going to go through a lot more feed just for the animal to be able to stay warm and to sustain body weight, not even putting on body weight, which is our goal when we're raising something to a butcherable size. We want them to be on the gain. It's really hard to get animals to be on the gain during winter, which is typically why you see a lot of butchering is done in the fall before you move into winter, because the animal is at its peak weight for then. You don't have the additional cost of feeding it over the winter, and then it was also a chosen time because back in the olden days, they were waiting.
They didn't have refrigeration, right, so they're waiting for that cold winter weather to come that would help keep the meat during those winter months from going bad, so kind of multiple reasons there. These guys, unfortunately, as we hit October, November, were not large enough to butcher. We ended up butchering them the end of January, which puts them right at 10 months old. We raised five because we were raising them for family members and friends, as well as our own, and of those five, they all came from the same litter, so they all have the same sow and boar bloodlines and everything. The largest one, now, this is hanging weight, so they have been gutted, but you still have the bone in, et cetera.
They've been skinned and gutted at this point. The largest pig was 164 pounds. The smallest was 108 pounds, and they kind of ranged ... Most of them ranged between like 120 to about 110 of the five that we had. The one that was 164, he was definitely the largest of the whole litter, and normally, I would say averagely at 10 months, most of them are not going to weigh that much, so that's a decent amount.
That's a decent size. A lot of it though, because they are considered a lard pig, they produce a lot of lard, a lot of that was fat, so that's great for us because I render down my lard and I make soap out of lard, I do candles out of lard. I'll use lard in my baking, of course, and some of my cooking. They have multiple different ways that I will put the lard to use, whereas a lot of people don't do that, so they wouldn't want to have a ton of extra lard. If you're wanting to know, "How do you render lard, and how do you do those things?," we will link in the blog post that accompanies this episode, so you can hop over to melissaknorris.com/294, because this is episode number 294, and you can see some of those links for the different ways that I use and put lard to use in some of those tutorials and recipes.
They gave a lot of lard for that amount of weight, which it can be good on one hand, but not so much perhaps on the other if you're not planning on utilizing all of the said lard. One of the interesting things was when I went to pick up our pig from our local butcher, we've got so much bacon in comparison to all the other pigs that we have raised and butchered, that when I brought it home and my husband and I were unloading it from the ice chest that were in the back of my car into our deep freezer, he's like, "I think they may have made a mistake and given us all of the bacon from the all five pigs. We need to contact our family who got the other pigs and make sure that they got bacon with theirs." We thought they had made a mistake because there was so much bacon. We called my husband's brother, who got one of the pigs from us, and he was contacting us to see if they had gotten our bacon.
The moral of this story is these babies produce bacon like no other breed we have ever raised. Everybody got, I would say, I'm not kidding, triple the amount of bacon that we have gotten with other breeds, so if you are after bacon, my friend, these pigs produce bacon like none other, so that was really exciting, actually. That was definitely a plus, and the flavor is phenomenal. We have had multiple things with bacon, and we have also done pork chops, and the flavor has been by far ... Now, this is the same butcher we've always used, so same curing process, same flavoring, same, all the things so that we're truly doing a comparison. We fed the pigs the same that we fed our other pigs, which I'll go over the feed because that's definitely going to come into play on whether or not we would do this breed.
Again, will come into play, so same everything, becuase we're comparing apples to apples or bacon to bacon. The flavor is phenomenal. We have never had bacon taste so good. The pork chops were beautiful, delicious, not dry. The flavor, phenomenal.
I can't wait to try the ham and some of the other cuts that we just haven't had a chance to get into, but I wanted to give you the results because I know several of you have asked me and are thinking about raising them this coming spring until you really wanted to get the results in order for you guys to be raising them, so I wanted to get you this episode out before we had tasted absolutely every cut from the pigs. Flavor wise, cannot be beat. I don't think we've ever had pork that tasted that good, and the amount of bacon we got was amazing. However, I only got, out of a 164-pound pig, I only got five pounds of sausage, so five one-pound packages of sausage was all I got. These are definitely a bacon pig.
They are definitely a lard pig. I got tons of pork chops. A lot of pork chops. We did ribs, my ham hocks, all of the ham, the ham cuts, but very, very little sausage, and these are the same cuts that I have gotten and requested on all of our other breeds, so that has been interesting to see with the Hereford pigs. I got a lot of sausage, much smaller amount of bacon, and I did get a decent amount of lard off the Hereford pigs too.
American Guinea hogs, tons of lard, tons of bacon, lot of pork chops, very, very little sausage. We eat more bacon than we would sausage. Now, I love sausage, don't get me wrong, but overall, I actually would prefer to have more bacon than it would sausage, because we have so much hamburger from raising our beef cattle when it comes to ground meat, and I can put spices and different things into our hamburger if I need to make like a mock sausage just by adding certain spices, so that's not really a big deal. Plus, I've got the lard from the pig, so if I want to add that to my hamburger and make a mock sausage, not a big deal, but it's important for you to know that because you might be like, "Well, I want a lot more sausage," and of course, I could have taken some of those pork chop cuts. We could have taken less of some of those cuts and had that turned into sausage, but, oh, no, I'm not sacrificing my pork chops for sausage, so just different yield amounts based upon the breed.
That was very interesting. Now, temperament wise, they are the sweetest pigs we have ever raised. Even at full size, they were just such a sweet temperament. Like the Herefords, when they're full size at the end and you go in to feed them, you do not want to get knocked down and you best be bracing yourself because they are big and they are coming for the food. Now, they're not necessarily mean, but they will definitely get aggressive, so you have to be prepared for that, but the American Guinea hogs were not like that at all.
They were so sweet and docile, they would come up to you like they were ready when it was time for you to feed them. Like they were excited, but they didn't really push on you, and if they got too close, you could simply just take your boot, your ... I always wear boots when I'm going into the pig pen. Then, I can just take my foot and kind of push them back, like, "Back off, guys," and they would totally back off. You could pet them.
They were very curious. They were just much more sociable and sweet-natured than any of the other breeds and litters that we've had, so I really enjoyed that aspect, and so did my husband. It's like, "Man, they're so much easier to take care of," but here's the cons. The cons were the feed cost. Because they take longer obviously to get to weight, you're feeding them longer.
That also means that we were feeding them through the winter months, so because we were going into the winter months, we were having to feed them more because there was no pasture. We had hit dormancy, where none of our grass was growing. We ran out of extra vegetables and whatnot, like from the garden and just different things like that, that we would normally feed them, and because it was turning colder weather, they needed more feed in order to just stay warm and to maintain weight, and we were trying to keep them on the gain because we knew we had this butcher date of January, so our feed costs were doubled, and the amount of weight or pork that we got was not doubled. As far as cost effectiveness goes, living in a northern climate, they really aren't ideal. Now, if you live in the south or a warmer climate where your grass grows almost year-round and you have an abundance of nut trees, which is a lot of their natural habitat and what they will eat, then you probably would be fine with them because you wouldn't have that incurred extra cost.
You'd have more feed available. You wouldn't have to be feeding extra because it's not so cold. Now, they will eat some hay because they are a pasture-type pig. However, they did not really like our haylage, which is what we get to feed our cattle, so we had to purchase alfalfa, and they would eat the alfalfa, but alfalfa is much more expensive than what we're used to buying when we're buying the big, round haylage hay bales, and alfalfa unfortunately is one of the higher genetically modified crops, and we bought from a local friend that we know that raises alfalfa, but I don't know that it was technically genetically modified or non-GMO certified alfalfa, so I wasn't really thrilled with that side of things. I buy, and we only buy and we only feed our livestock certified organic feeds, so we have a local grain mill where I can go and buy, what they call their Super Sacks. They are about four to 500-pound bags of feed.
Because I'm buying in bulk, I get a great discount, so normally, I only have to buy one of those, and one of those will feed the pigs all throughout the time that we have them, and then we supplement. Of course, they are on pasture, so they do have access to the grass, but it's not going to be enough to keep them sustained and put them on the gain, so we get apples from anybody and everywhere that we can throughout our valley, and we will boil up the apples and make like a mash, and then we soak their feet in that, and then of course, any extra vegetables, produce, et cetera that we've got, or family members or friends, or even the grocery stores have. That's kind of what they call ... It's like this seconds, but a little bit beyond. Then, we get that and feed them that, so they aren't eating exclusively, just organic pig feed.
They are getting a lot of produce, and apples, and other feed with them, and the apples we feel gives the meat, regardless of breed, both the American Guinea hog and the Herefords that we've done before, gives the meat a really sweet finish taste, and the pigs love the food. They slurp it up when it has those apples in there, and we feel like it really improves the quality of the meat and flavor as well, but I had to buy two Super Sacks of feed and some additional bags of feed because as it got to the end, we knew we wouldn't go through four or 500 pounds of pig feed, but I did have to buy some 50-pound bags of pig feed to take us through until butcher date, so my feed costs were at least doubled, if not, a little bit more for the same, if not, actually less pounds of meat from the harvest. In that aspect, when it comes to the cost, plus our time, we were having to feed them daily, of course, and take care of them. As it got into the colder weather, neither my husband or I are ... It's colder out, so nobody really likes to feed as much in the cold, but obviously, it has to be done, and so normally, we would not have to be dealing with the pigs and worried about keeping them warm, putting extra straw on their bedding, all of those things.
We'd just be done with that by October, and then we wouldn't have to deal with it until the next spring or even, we usually take a year off and do every other year for a whole another year, so there was definitely the extra labor costs, which your time ... We're not paying ourselves our time, but it is an investment and it is a cost that you have to consider, so excellent meat, lots of bacon, great temperament pigs. The kids could even feed the pigs. That part was great, but double the cost for less amount of meat, even though it is excellent and high quality meat, better flavor than we'd ever had before, I don't know that it was worth it. We're not sure that we will raise them again just based upon all of those factors, and I don't want to say never because there were a lot of great things about them, but it's really hard to justify the extra time and the extra cost for that, so we probably won't raise them again.
We will either go back to the Herefords or we're going to look at some Idaho pasture pigs, which is a breed that a lot of people said, "Oh, if you liked this aspect of the American Guinea hog, but not so much," all of the cons that I'm listing out to you right now, a lot of people suggested looking at that breed. Now, I have not done any research into the breed, so I'm not recommending it. I'm just saying it's one that we're going to look at, and if I like what I see, we may try them, but I think we're going to go back to the Hereford breed again as our next, but we probably won't be raising them this coming year because we have enough meat, so it'll be a couple of years before you get any type of update if we do try out the Idaho pasture pig. I hope that you found this helpful. I know a lot of people, I had shared on my Instagram Stories when we were actually picking up the meat and had a lot of questions about cost and everything like that, so we estimated out with the price that we paid per piglet, and then all of the feed costs, and not including the apples and the produce, but just the purchase pig feed cost, and actually, as I'm saying this to you, I don't even know if we calculated in the cost of some of the hay, but it ended up being on ...
It was $4.69 a pound that it cost us to raise them, and that included the butcher fee as well, so that was the cut and wrap. All said and done, $4.69 a pound. For organic grass-fed, pasture-raised pork, you'd have a hard time buying that at the store for that price for all of the different cuts, mind you, because I'm paying $4.69 a pound for everything, like all cut regardless, and then I got all of the lard, so it was still definitely worth it, but when I know I can do it for like half that amount, by picking another breed, it's really hard to justify. If you are curious about how much pasture it takes and raising a year's worth of the other types of livestock that I mentioned, I have a fabulous blog post and YouTube videos so you can actually see the layout and the different requirements and the amounts and things that we raise, and I will make sure that those are in today's blog post link and in the show notes as well if you want to check out all of that too. Now, for our verse of the week, we are in 1 Corinthians 13:7, "Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening."
That is the Amplified translation of the Bible. I've been going through ... At the time of this recording, it's in the month of February, which of course is Valentine's day, and oftentimes, people think about love, but I've been coming back to the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, but especially this verse because I feel like as we look at the landscape and in dealing with people both in-person and online, which most of us are in a digital age where we are doing ... I mean, obviously, if you're listening to a podcast, that's digital, right? We're dealing with people in both aspects of a digital world and an in-person world, and when we think about love for our fellow humans, and of course, people in our own family, maybe it's friends, true love ...
I mean, we use the word love so freely, and my kids use, "Oh, I love this," "I love that." I say love a lot too for things. Like I love Mason jars, and I do love Mason jars, but when we really are talking about what true love is, it bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person. If we could approach every situation, believing the best about the other person, instead of assumptions or judgements that oftentimes are the opposite of that, they're towards the negative, if we, and I'm challenging myself at this, if I can approach every email, every message, every comment on YouTube, every comment made in stores, or in family conversations, friend conversations, even within my own household, like with my husband and my children. Have I always assumed the absolute best of every person and in every encounter, how different would my response, my reaction, and ultimately this world, how different a place it would be? I am purposely meditating and studying on the section of verse in order that I can hopefully bring my actions and more aligned to show true love.
I hope that you find that helpful, and that the both of us can believe the best of every person in every situation. Thank you so much for hanging out with me. I appreciate you, and I can't wait to be back here with you next week.
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