An increasing number of customers are coming to us seeking breeding stock so they can move from buying in a couple of finishers to producing their own pigs for fattening and sale.
Most want to make the move because they believe producing their own weaners will be cheaper than buying a pair of birth-notified weaners from breeders like us. (It’s not cheaper and their sums are usually wrong to non-existent, but that’s a post for another day.)
A number of these potential customers already have “Berkshire” pigs that they’ve acquired from a variety of sources and believe that by putting one of our pigs with theirs they will then be able to sell Berkshire pigs and pork.
Unfortunately, that’s almost always untrue as most of their “Berkshire” pigs have no paperwork and the handful that do are birth-notified, not registered in the herd book.
Genuine Berkshire pigs have the provenance of having both their sire and dam listed in the herd book, which is maintained by the British Pig Association.
The pigs will come from registered litters and each pig will have its own unique number as well.
Most will be birth-notified pigs, which means they are intended for finishing as meat and are not intended for breeding.
A handful of Berkshires will be registered in the herd book themselves because their breeder considers them to be of a sufficiently high quality to be bred from.
Meat from birth-notified Berkshires can be sold as Berkshire pork and is covered by the BPA’s Pedigree Pork marketing scheme. Birth-notified animals can not be used to breed registered or birth-notified stock.
If a pig is neither birth-notified nor registered then it is emphatically not a Berkshire, no matter how much it resembles one nor how many of its antecedents were in the herd book.
Earlier this year, the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, issued guidance on labelling of meat and meat products that makes this quite clear.
The guidance states, in part, that “any reference to a specific breed should refer to an animal registered by an officially recognised registration authority licensed by DEFRA, for example the British Pig Association”.
While the LACORS guidance relates to the meat and not the live animal, it follows that the same distinction would apply while the animal is alive.
Despite this, people continue to tell me their pigs are Berkshires or that by using our birth-notified Berkshires with their pigs then they too will have Berkshires.
They believe that if they have two pigs that look like Berkshires, despite having no paperwork or having birth-notified status only, then the off-spring will be Berkshires that can be registered.
No, they aren’t and no, they can’t.
And no, the meat can not be sold as Berkshire pork.
A black pig with white feet, snout and tail is just a pig. The meat from such an animal is just pork.
To be a Berkshire, the black pig with white feet, snout and tail must have the provenance of being either birth-notified or registered in the herd book.
For its off-spring to be Berkshires, it must be registered in the herd book as must the other parent of the litter.
For the meat to be Berkshire pork, the pig must be birth-notified or registered and the meat must be accompanied by its Pedigree Pork marketing certificate.
People looking for genuine Berkshires with provenance should look at the BPA’s list of breeders with birth-notified pigs and registered breeding stock for sale.
Remember, without provenance it’s just a pig.