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Posts Tagged ‘heritage breed’

HOMEGROWN Life: Praising our Pigs

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011






On the heels of Iowa and Florida pushing legislation to criminalize folks who make undercover films showcasing the horrors of industrial animal production, I figured now’s a good time to be a little anti-big-ag and boast a bit about our newest animal project at YellowTree Farm: the Mulefoot pig.

heritage breed pigs

There are seven different pig breeds listed by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy as “critical” status, with Mulefoots being on that roster. They are also on Slow Food USA’s “Arc of Taste” – a catalogue of approximately “200 delicious foods in danger of extinction.”
Their origin in America dates back to when Columbus’ ships first docked on our shores, and though the breed flourished in the early half of the 1900’s, by 1985 the only herd remaining belonged to a gentleman named R. M. Holiday of Missouri. As mega pork producers have foregone heritage breeds like Mulefoots in favor of better producing commodity pigs (a typical commercial sow will give birth to litters of around 12, while Mulefoots are less productive, birthing litters of just half that number), it is estimated that fewer than two hundred purebred Mulefoots exist in our country today – and we are proudly raising nine of them, direct descendants from Holiday himself.

We currently have one sow, one gilt, one boar, and six piglets – all thriving and naturally foraging at our Waterloo, Illinois location. The breed is critical to our deforestation efforts of eradicating invasive weeds and plants: First we run our goats through paddocks of wooded land to eat their fill of high brush; Then we invite the Mulefoots to follow in their path, turning the soil with their snouts as they dig for nuts, persimmon seeds, greens, grubs and worms; Lastly, the chickens come behind and finish cleaning up the mess.

Find more videos like this on HOMEGROWN.ORG

The breed possesses striking, thick, woolly black hair, giving the Mangalista breed (popular with chefs and other gourmets-in-the-know) a run for its money. The meat from Mulefoots is a rich, beefy color, and is valued for it’s high fat content, lending itself deliciously for cured applications like hams and various other charcuterie. While we intend on allowing two years to pass before we’ll consider them ready for slaughter, as an older pig will develop better flavor, we hope that in time our efforts will help to ensure the survival of this rare breed, and help restore a greater diversity to our diets.

Yellow Tree Farm’s web site is


Danielle Yellow Tree

“I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008. Together, my husband and I grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri. We speak publicly about urban farming, sew, and make our own toiletries.  I don’t have children. I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”