We still do not know if the pig is a descendant of the wild boar, if it was domesticated on the initiative of humans or whether it approached humans in order to feed from their waste.
What is known is that there were domesticated pigs in 10,000 BC in Turkey and South-East Asia.
Since they are easy to rear, pigs spread across Asia, Africa, and Europe.
In the Middle Ages, it was the most widely consumed animal.
It was naturally Columbus who introduced pigs to America during his second voyage in 1493.
They soon multiplied, living in the semi-wild in the countryside, but also in the cities, where they fed on waste. Pigs were present on the streets of New York until the 19th century.
On all farms across all continents, pigs have always been kept as pets, easily fattened because they are omnivorous, and slaughtered when they had enough fat to cure the meat, a process that was developed by the Romans.
In France, in the 18th century, the sacrifice of a pig was an opportunity to gather together and celebrate in rural villages. Saint Cochon is still a traditional festival in rural France. The date of this festival is different depending on the region.
Industrial pig breeding really took off in the 19th century in all countries. China is the world's largest producer.
White or pink flesh, and firm white fat, are characteristic of good pork meat.
Pork meat is sold fresh, frozen, salted, cut, or in half-carcasses.
Suckling pig is sold whole.
Bacon comes from the fatty parts of the back and chest. It is sold fresh, smoked, or salted.
Lardo di Colonnata, produced in Carrara, Italy (PGI), is flavored with sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, and garlic and made using a traditional method.
Lard is rendered pork fat, which is filtered and then solidified.
Much of pork meat is used to make deli meat: hams, pâtés, and terrines, etc.
Fresh pork should be stored between 0–4 °C. Each piece must be wrapped (butcher paper or aluminum foil or plastic wrap) to stop it drying out. It can also be brushed with olive oil.
Besides protein, the main benefit of pork is its richness in B vitamins, especially vitamin B1. But it is quite low in iron.
Its fat content varies greatly, depending on the cut: the fillet and loin are lean cuts, while the ribs and shoulder blade are particularly fatty.
Pork, considered an unclean meat in some religions, has always carried parasites, including, for a long time, tapeworm. Long cooking destroys them.
Animals raised in battery cages are highly monitored. Tapeworms and other parasites are eradicated. Nevertheless, pigs do not escape salmonella bacteria, despite the medication they receive in their food. These very harmful bacteria are destroyed at 85°C, in other words, when well cooked.
Crossbreeding based on genetic selection has created industrial pork, which is a leaner but meatier animal, and therefore more profitable.
Pigs are usually slaughtered when they are 5–6 months old and weigh 100 kg. They spend their short lives in huge buildings without ever seeing the light of day. Castrated, tail and teeth cut, they are fed meal composed of cereals, vitamin supplements, and often antibiotics.
These pigs provide a meat that is dry with little flavor, which decreases in volume during cooking because it loses water.
These pigs, from so-called local breeds, are raised outdoors and fed well, and naturally, according to their needs. They take longer to raise: the animals are slaughtered when they weigh about 300 kg and are fat enough. Their flesh, very tasty, is pink, firm, and a little bit moist.
Among the local breeds, there is: Large White (UK), Cul Noir du Limousin and Noir Gascon (France), Cerdo Ibérico (Spain), Neijiang (China, Sichuan region), Duroc (USA), Lacombe (Canada), Moura (Brazil), Pot Belly (Vietnam), Mangalitsa woolly pig (Austria), and Berkjala and Kaman (Philippines).
In France, many pig breeds have been awarded quality labels.
PGI: those from Franche-Comté, Sarthe, Limousin, Normandy, Vendée, and the South West are protected by a PGI.
Label Rouge: Cocholin (Brittany and Pays de la Loire), Cochon du Druide (Brittany), Francochon (Franche-Comté), Porc au Grain du Sud Ouest (Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées), Porc Délice (Grand Massif central), Porc de Normandie, Porc du Limousin and Porc fermier du Limousin, Porc Fermier d'Argoat (Brittany), Porc Fermier d'Aubergne, Porc Fermier de la Sarthe, Porc Fermierde Vendée, Porc Fermier du Sud-Ouest, Porc Paï (Pays de la Loire and Brittany), and Vallegrain (Pays de la Loire and Centre).