Native hog extinct? In a pig's eye!
Aguu hogs are Japan’s only existing native hogs. Also called “shima-buta,” or island pigs, they have inhabited Okinawa Prefecture’s Aguni Island since the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom. They are usually black and weigh only about 220 pounds, less than half of the weight of Western hogs such as Berkshire and landrace breeds.
Although there were more than 100,000 aguu hogs being bred on the island before World War II, as larger more profitable foreign breeds were introduced hog breeders stopped producing them. As a result, the number of aguu rapidly dropped to only about 30 by the 1940s, making them nearly extinct.
The Okinawan government along with prefectural museum and agricultural schools, began a campaign to preserve the native hog by promoting its meat as an Okinawan staple food. Breeders began crossbreeding aggu with Western pigs. The efforts were successful in that the pigs have so far avoided extinction.
There are around 955 purebred aguu hogs this year, according to the Okinawa Prefecture Stockbreeding Division. Officials say such purebreds are used to produce 30,000 second-generation aguu brand pork annually, which is sold in stores and restaurants.
Aguu hogs are low in cholesterol and contain three or four times as much glutamic acid as regular Western-bred hogs; this makes the meat tender and ideal pork for people who care about good health, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Government.
There hasn’t been much publicity about the taste and health benefits of aguu brand pork compared to its purebred counterpart, however.