The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the organization which defines the term “heritage meats” and which works for the preservation of rare breeds of livestock, is soliciting our help to rescue an endangered species, the Choctaw Hog, from extinction. In a newsletter that hit this week, the Conservancy makes a powerful argument for the preservation of not just the Chactaw hog, but all livestock breeds. I hope you find the following information not only interesting but compelling.
First–and in terms of historic significance–the Choctaw hog journeyed West with the Choctaw Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, providing them with sustenance. It was coincidentally while reading these past couple of weeks out of a biography about David Crockett (The Lion of the West by Michael Wallis who’s popularly known as the voice of the Sheriff in the movie Cars) that I learned that the Choctaw Native Americans assisted the United States of America during the War of 1812 in its campaign against the hostile Creek Native Americans in frontier territory. Later, maybe 100 years after these hogs accompanied these Natives along the Trail of Tears, they came to the aid of residents of Oklahoma during the Great Depression, providing food for the state’s inhabitants.
Aside from the ways that the Choctaw Hog provides a living connection with these poignant moments in our national heritage, there maybe the unknown medical benefits to humans to which these hogs hold the key. Take, for instance, the Ossabaw pig which, according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, was “…once a feral pig…[but] is now used for cutting-edge research on diabetes in humans.” The Convervancy further opines, “…perhaps Choctaw hogs will offer new culinary delights, like the Guinea hog, which was once disdained for its muscle to fat ratio, but is not highly prized by elite chefs for charcuterie.”
For their historical significance and medical and culinary value, rare heritage breeds of animals are of inestimable worth. Supporting organizations like the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy or even directly supporting rare breeds themselves by eating the meat that comes from them are both a way of drawing from our heritage as well as an investment in our future.