The Casertano black pig: history of the noblest of pigs

by Federico Quagliuolo

We find it everywhere. Come on menu from sandwich shops to pizzerias, up to supermarket shelves. The label black pig from Caserta And in all the "gourmet" dishes of Campania and it is a bizarre fact, if we think that in reality it is an animal that it exists only in a few specimens.

Our pig, in fact, he was saved from extinction by a miracle: in 1995 they were present only 25 animals, who were rescued by a group of local farmers. Today they are about 2000. Very few to feed all the pubs in Campania.

So let's be precise: the pig from Caserta And one of the oldest breeds in Italy and the oldest in the south. Thanks to his very tasty and fatty meats, was also regarded as the most valuable and it was sold abroad to improve foreign farms.
Era beloved by the Samnites and then by the Romans and we even find it on coins of the first century BC, while the first written testimony of its existence we find it in the 1st century AD
Nor is it excluded that the wild boar of Benevento, in fact, it may be related to our pig.

suino casertano pascoli
Pigs in pastures: they must grow in very large places and with maximum freedom. Photo by Yuri Buono

Black pig from Caserta? Not really

Its correct name is "Pig of the Caserta breed”And it's not even black, but Grey. In the 19th century it was considered the finest type of Italian pork and the Bourbon government he sold at a high price to foreign breeders to improve the quality of farms across the Alps.

He also has another one particularity: it is not a question of a "race", but of a native species, that is an animal born and lived in Campania since the dawn of time. It is also recognized for a very mild and friendly character, to be particularly fat, low and short-legged and for the particular attachment of the sows to their offspring.
They are also nicknamed "peeled tomatoes"Because in fact they are naked, with little hair on the neck and behind the ears.

Their too growth in captivity takes place with a very rigorous procedure: they live for two years in the woods or in any case wide and free spaces, where they can live in tranquility, which is particularly suited to them mild character thanks to the long snout they manage to get acorns, chestnuts and other products of the earth, without resorting to feed and supplements. This very special diet makes the meat of the Caserta pig very rich in polyunsaturated fats, "Responsible" for good cholesterol, even to a greater extent than the saturated ones.

Whole breeding procedure is strictly governed byANAS, which is obviously not that of the highways, but theNational Association of Pig Breeders, who created a swine registry e a complex regulation to ensure the breeding of animals for food purposes without ever compromising their well-being during their time short and illusory life. Also the killing of the same must be carried out in the least painful way possible, avoiding any unnecessary suffering.

suino nero casertano
Not really a "pig". Photo by Yuri Buono

An ancient companion, a foiled end

But let's go back to times when industries didn't even exist and pigs really lived in the wild. The peasant people of Campania raise the "black pig from Caserta”Since the dawn of time, as it was discovered in 1899 from the professor Baldassarre of the Royal Higher Institute for Agriculture of Portici: in his opinion, in fact, the pigs depicted in the archaeological excavations of Capua, Pompeii and Herculaneum were our Caserta people.

It was certainly never a friendship relationship, but of convenience, where the skin of the poor pig has always paid for it: in all the families of the villages of the Campania hinterland it was in fact present at least one pig, which fed on leftovers and abundant fruits present in the countryside of Caserta and in the woods of the Samnite area. Then, as per rural tradition, in the months of January and February there was the traditional feast for the killing of the pig in which the whole family gathered to skin the fattened pig and obtain food for the entire winter season. It is a ritual that in Calabria it's still felt very deeply, while in Campania it only resists in some inland towns.

We know with certainty that the "black pig from Casertait thrived until World War II when, between hunger, raids and black markets, saw his species decimated. There was no gratitude for his support for human salvation even after the conflict: very numerous American and Northern European breeds were introduced in Italy to be able to grow into cages and intensive farming, certainly much more profitable for breeders, but atrocious and inhuman to animals. So, when faced with money, the pig from Caserta slowly stepped aside until it reached its historical low in 1995, when it was almost extinct.

Salumi maialino nero casertano
The famous salami of the black pig from Caserta. Photo by Yuri Buono

So why do you read "Caserta black pig" everywhere?

The marketing is always the answer. In the best cases - the experts explain - it is crossbreeds with other pigs, in the worst cases it comes to "Ordinary" white pigs who, in the name of the god of money, neither do they retain the dignity of their species on the label.

Salvation and the return to vogue of the labelblack pig from Caserta"Came in very recent times thanks to the incessant activity of promotion carried out by breeders: in 1995, when they remained only 25 animals alive, began a careful campaign of recovery of the species. On the other hand, it was enough to say something already known 2 centuries earlier. And so, offering cured meats, preparations and other delicacies to the national and international fairs, the interest of all lovers of traditional slow food has increased. The fashion ofgourmet sandwiches"Post-2010 then did the rest, increasing demand dramatically (and with the latter, scammers have also increased to an even greater extent).

Destiny is strange and perverse of this pig that seemed destined for not see the third millennium: the life of the whole of the famous "black pig from Caserta”Has been preserved, paradoxically, showing the qualities it has assumed after death.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Photographs by Yuri Buono
Cover photo by Stefano D'Amico

To know more, an excellent article by Marco Contursi on Luciano Pignataro's blog

References:
Campania Region
Agricultural magazine
The black district

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