Gene Ambrose is one of a few large black pig farmers in Canada
By Diego Flammini
A Vancouver Island hog producer is raising an endangered breed of pig to sell its products and help replenish its population.
Gene Ambrose has been raising large black pigs for about three years at his End of the Road Ranch. There are approximately 400 purebreds spread out across 14 farms in Canada. And about 1 per cent of the breed’s total Canadian population calls Ambrose’s Qualicum Bay, B.C. farm home.
“I’ve got eight right now that are registered as purebred,” he told Farms.com today. “And when you factor in the meat pigs that come from (the purebreds), my herd is about 45 (head). It was around 72 (head) before we came into (the processing) season.”
Ambrose’s decision to raise the large black pigs combines history with simple dietary needs.
The breed was popular in Europe before the Second World War due to their ability to put on weight from a diet of mainly pasture, he said.
“Without fertilizer, grain used to be very expensive to grow,” Ambrose said. “Land was cheap, and these pigs were capable of growing from grazing and only needed small amounts of supplemental food. Most breeds of pigs won’t do that.”
Ambrose currently sells his products at farmers’ markets and through an online marketplace. He describes the taste as marbled, juicy and tender.
But if demand doesn’t grow, it could mean the end of the breed, he says.
“If there aren’t farms working with them, the breed won’t survive,” he said. “There’s only one farm in Australia working with them and they’re pretty much endangered in every other country that has them.”
Top photo: Large black pigs
Photo: End of the Road Ranch/Facebook