Why do we raise red wattles? Well, there is not a short answer. It would probably be best if I describe what a red wattle pig is….
Red wattle pigs were first discovered and bred for domestication in east Texas in the 1960’s. They have been reported in the US since the 1800’s but remained a wild pig. The early history of the Red Wattle hog is not clear. The modern breed descends from animals found in East Texas in the late 1960s and early 1970s by H. C. Wengler, who cross-bred two wattled red sows with a Duroc boar to start the “Wengler Red Waddle” line. Other animals were found, also in East Texas, about 20 years later by Robert Prentice, and became the Timberline line of Red Wattles. Prentice also crossed his Timberlines with Wengler’s line to make the Endow Farm Wattle Hogs. So the breed is VERY new and has only been domesticated for 40 to 60 years.
The red wattles are defined by their red to red/black hair and most importantly the wattle that hangs off each side of their head. The wattle does not seem to serve any purpose and scientists cannot explain them through evolution. That is just something they have. The breed can grow to a relatively large size with mature animals weighing 600 to 800 pounds. Occasionally males can reach 1,200 pounds. They tend to mature a little more slowly than the modern confinement breeds of hogs. They are efficient foragers and do well on pasture. Sows make good moms and have litters up to 15 piglets but average 7 to 12.
What makes the red wattles different? Since they are a relatively new breed, they have not been selectively bred for production traits. In the commercial hog industry, pigs have been selectively bred for desirable traits for hundreds of generations of pigs. This has led to a fast growing, lean hog that has a pale almost white meat. In my opinion, the meat is grown so fast that it lacks flavor and texture. The meat has little character.
The red wattles produce a marbled red meat. It has grown a little slower so it has a pleasant texture. The flavor is a fuller flavor than the industrialized hogs. The fat is well placed and does not create excessive waste. The loin is slightly smaller but it makes up for it in taste.
The proof is on the plate. You cannot hide the flavor. Meat should be a a nutritious flavorful protein source. Red wattles are a perfect fit for the farm-to-fork producer. It is a cost affective way to put the flavor back into pork.