COPORCEL, Celtic Pigs in Silvopastoral Systems in Spain

by Miguel Ángel Negral Fernández (M.Sc. on Forestry, member of COPORCEL)

The breed Celtic Pig (Porco Celta) was the most important swine breed in Galicia (NW Spain) until the beginning of the last century, when there was an important population decline, mainly due to importing other breeds with faster growth and higher performance. In the 80s, the Porco Celta was close to extinction with very few animals. Through various recovery programs of genetic heritage, preservation of the environment and the added value of high quality products, the population of this autochthonous breed starts to recover from early 2000.

The rusticity of this local breed allows a perfect adaptation to the conditions of native Galician forests, making that animals can be kept in extensive or semi-extensive regime, providing a product of exceptional quality. The pigs are feeding mainly on chestnuts and acorns, improving their intramuscular fat and the content of high levels of fatty acids, e.g. omega-3 and oleic acids and decreasing the level of cholesterol, offering a succulent, tender and aromatic meat. At the same time the free ranging and feeding contributes to control the growing biomass (Ulex sp., Pteridium aquilinum L.) decreasing the forest fires risk in a region prone to wildfires. There is usually a complementary feed based on organic cereals as there are no acorns and chestnuts all year round.

COPORCEL company was established in 2010 with the aim of promoting the commercialization of the derived products of the Porco Celta. It owns a main holding in Triacastela (Lugo, Galicia, NW Spain) and has agreements with other forest owners of Galicia (e.g. in Cañiza and Porto do Son) that raise the pigs in their communal forests of chestnuts and oaks, with integrated assisted reproduction farms. The production consists on rearing animals, piglets and pig butchering and preparation of meat products (fresh and cured). In total, they own in total close to 1,000 animals, thus they are the main producers of this breed in Spain, which is one of the few breeds recognized as Autochthonous Breed by the Spanish Government. 

Regional gourmet stores and prestigious restaurants offer nowadays Porco Celta among their products. Also international markets are demanding their products. Currently there is a high demand of this quality meat contrasting with the yet limited production. The main limiting factors are the lack of homogeneity, between farms, that the processing industry needs and the stability in production over the years and seasons.

Furthermore, COPORCEL invests in R&D projects, partly with public funds, very decisive for the development of the Porco Celta breeding.

More info: http://coporcel.es and info [at] coporcel [dot] es 

Celtic Pigs in Galician forest