Okinawa Black Pig

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Okinawa Black Pig


Shima-uwa   Black, shaggy long hair covers the body of the shima-uwa, an Okinawan pig breed. This animal has a curved back and drooping belly, thick and short feet, a wrinkled face and drooping ears. Adults weigh about 100 kg, smaller than most commercial breeds, and bear fewer offspring (an average of four to five piglets), but also reach maturity faster, at about 100 days. This breed is characterized by a low melting point for its fat, a delicate smell of the meat thanks to a light fat content, and a strong umami flavor. Shima-uwa pork is used in many traditional recipes such as so-oki (pork rib soup), nakamii (pig innards soup) and chi-iri-chii (stir-fry). Su-chikaa is pork meat preserved in salt, and uwaa-andaa is the name for the lard.   It is believed that attempts to domesticate boars for livestock in Okinawa date back about 7000 years. DNA evidence shows that Okinawan pigs share genetic similarity to boars in the area of Vietnam. During the Middle Ages, pigs were brought to Okinawa, and livestock trade also flourished under the Ryukyu royal court. It is believed that the pigs brought to Okinawa at this time were the ancestors of today’s shima-uwa.   Pig farming flourished in Okinawa with an abundance of feed coming from sweet potato crops and the residual materials of local distilling. This industry was encouraged to support trade with China, and also because the consumption of pork was not allowed in mainland Japan, due to the influence of Buddhism and the Tokugawa Tsunayoshi Shogunate during the mid-Edo period (circa 1700s). Imported, white pig breeds were introduced in the 1800s, and cross-breeding occurred. The breed’s numbers were further reduced by 90% when Okinawa became a battleground during the Pacific War. Today, the Okinawan pig population is comprised mainly of two lineages that have been preserved.   Traditional Okinawan food features all parts of the pig, and shima-uwa pork can be found in some markets and is directly sold to some restaurants. However, the breed still has low numbers and is still threatened by cross-breeding. A low number of producers raise just 300 – 350 purebred pigs per year.

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