What is a Sow?

We are hearing a lot about cage free and sow stall free pork, but just what is a sow?

Simply put, a sow is a mother pig.

There are a few stages, defined by industry jargon, that a pig goes through before becoming a sow and all these terms are a little confusing so we are going clear up the mystery for you.

Piglets, this is a term everyone understands and describes new born pigs. After the piglets are taken away from mum they are referred to as 'weaners'.

Weaners grow very quickly, and appropriately, as they get larger they are known as 'grower pigs'.

We will discuss the difference between a 'porker' and a 'baconer' soon but for now we will continue on the pigs journey to becoming a sow.

If a female pig is lucky enough she will be selected to join the breeding herd instead of being sent off to market.  While she continues to grow to a mature size and before she is mated and has her first litter of piglets, she is called a 'gilt'.

Once the young gilt gives birth to her first litter she is then known as a Sow.

Sows differ tremendously from the pigs or porkers that are grown to produce the pork meat we eat.  Did you know that pigs that produce your pork chops or sunday roast could be as young as 4 or 5 months old?  We do not eat the sows generally unless they are processed into sausages or smallgoods.  They are definitely not used to provide pork chops! They are way too big for that, the meat quality is poor and too fat.

Baconer pigs are quite a bit larger at around 100 kilos but still only half the size of a mature sow.  The pork that is used to produce bacon needs to come from a larger pig to be able to produce that nice large rasher that you are used to.  Porker pigs are too small for bacon production.

Hams can come from both porker or baconer weight pigs, (depending on the size of ham you want) but not from sows.

How big is a sow?

Here is a picture of a 10 year old boy with a sow and her piglets.

Sows are surprising large especially as most people picture a Babe size animal when they think of pigs.  A full grown sow can grow to over 200 kilos and produce around 20 piglets per year.

Compared to a typical porker pig that weighs around 75 kilos, she is huge!


Is a sow a female pig?

Yes, but one that has had a litter of piglets.

What is a litter?

Sows give birth to a large number of piglets (10 - 12 on average) so this group of piglets is called a litter.

What is Sow Stall Free Pork?

You can read all about sow stall free pork and cage free eggs here ....

What is a Boar pig?

A boar is a male pig that has not been castrated. Mature boars are kept for mating in the breeding herd and can grow to 300 kilos in size.

Where do my pork chops come from?

The pork chops you see in the butcher shop window (or perhaps wrapped in plastic in a supermarket) come from the loin of a pig that is around 4 to 5 months old. (older in heritage breeds and pastured pigs)

Where your pork comes from

Suckling Pig - piglets or weaners weighing between 8 and 15 kilos
BBQ Spit Pigs - weaner or grower pigs weighing between 18 and 30 kilos
Pork Chops, pork leg roast, spare ribs - from porkers weighing around 75 kilos (4 - 6 months old)
Christmas Ham - can be from porkers or baconers depending on the size of the leg
Bacon - the loin of a larger baconer pig (approx 100kg and 6 to 7 months old)
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