Story: Pigs and the pork industry

Stout kunekune, with their tasselled jaws, were among the first pigs to be introduced to New Zealand, and now live in the wild or are kept as pets. Domestic pigs introduced from Europe are bred for their meat, and end up on the table as bacon or ham.

Story by Allan Gillingham
Main image: Label for brawn (pork jelly)

Story Summary

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Early breeds

New Zealand has no native pigs. The earliest pigs to be introduced were the fat, black kunekune and the larger Captain Cooker, which destroyed crops, lambs and the habitats of native animals. Māori kept Captain Cookers to eat scraps, and killed them for meat. These breeds now live in the wild. Friendly, smart kunekune are also becoming popular as pets.

Pigs and dairy farms

When European settlers arrived, they brought the Berkshire, Tamworth and large black breeds with them. Pigs were usually kept on dairy farms, where they drank the skim milk left after the cream was separated from whole milk and sent to factories to be made into butter. Later, when whole milk was collected, pig farming on dairy farms stopped, and specialised pig farms were set up.

Modern farming

Today, most pig farms are near South Island grain farms, which sell their leftovers for pig feed. In the past, pig farms were often muddy and smelly. But today, farmers must follow a code of practice to make sure the pigs live in clean conditions.

Welfare

Some people think pig farming is cruel – for example, sows (breeding females) may be kept in small crates. Free-range and organic farming are becoming more popular.

Pig meat

Pigs are killed for pork, ham or bacon. Most pig meat produced in New Zealand is eaten locally, with small amounts exported. Today there are fewer pig farms, but people are eating more pork. About 40% of pork is imported to keep up with demand. In 2007, each person ate about 20 kilograms, up from 15 kilograms in the 1960s.

How to cite this page:

Allan Gillingham, 'Pigs and the pork industry', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/pigs-and-the-pork-industry (accessed 15 December 2018)

Story by Allan Gillingham, published 24 Nov 2008