A pig is a pig, right? Well, after 10 years in 4H, Amy McKamey realized that might not be true. After decades of industrial farming in the U.S., the variety of pigs you find at county fairs and shows are no longer a representation of the pigs that most farmers actually raise. Instead, they’re museum relics designated as "heritage" and in some cases even endangered.
That's because their unique characteristics don’t lend them to mass-production, confined quarters, and cheap food. But the McKamey's have turned a 23-acre plot in Clayton, Indiana into Heritage Meadows Farm where rare breeds can thrive, restoring a variety of quality and flavor that’s been nearly forgotten to American consumers for a whole generation.
The first animal you might see when you visit Heritage Meadows is a large black hog. And, "Large Black" is not just descriptive, it's the name of the breed. A native breed to southwestern England, the Large Black was once prized for it’s ability to become, as the name implies, large. But they’re especially suited to do so while foraging, grazing on plants, and rooting up dirt to discover delicious grubs underneath. With this preferred diet, the Large Black hog will produce well-marbled meat with tremendous flavor. However, they didn't adapt well to being confined, fed grain only, and reaching market weight in a matter of months.
Free-ranging in and around the hog paddocks, you'll see a variety of chickens and ducks. And what a colorful array you’ll find, too! While most commercial meat producers have adopted exclusively the Cornish-Cross hen, Alan and Amy's farm is home to such century-old breeds as New Hampshires, Phoenix, Buckeyes, Easter egger and barred rocks. Still deeply ingrained with their natural instincts to scratch and peck at the ground, these birds aren’t just putting on a show, they’re hunting for insects—a skill that’s altogether obsolete for the barn-raised birds of today’s industrial farms.
The McKamey’s interest in forgotten pleasures of farming eras long-past extends even to their own ambition for the farm itself. “Our goal is to become fully self-sustainable, off the grid,” Amy explains. “And also have a profitable farm business,” she adds.