The Berkshire pig is the oldest recorded pedigree pig in Britain, discovered in the 17th Century by Oliver Cromwell’s army when stationed in Reading. The men couldn’t wait to carry the news to the outside world of these wonderful hogs of Berkshire, larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality.
The Berkshire is a medium sized breed, compact, short legged and with a dished face, medium length snout and prick ears. They are black with white ‘socks’, white tail tip and a white mark on the face.
The breed became popular during the 19th and first half of the 20th century. The excellent carcass quality made them an early favourite with the upper class of English farmers and the breed produced many champions including pigs exhibited by members of the Royal Family, but they declined in numbers when the emphasis in pig farming turned to bacon production and ‘white’ pigs.
Today although still classed as a rare breed, the pig is making a comeback. Prized for its juiciness, flavour and tenderness, it contains more marbling (the bit that makes meat taste amazing!) than most other types of pork. This makes it suitable for long slow cooking and high-temperature cooking, perfect for the spit roast or bbq.
Berkshire pork is especially enjoyed by the Japanese who still consider Berkshires from Britain to have the best taste and flavour. They call it ‘kurobuta’ meaning ‘black pig’.