What is Kurobuta Pork? Everything You Need to Know About the Wagyu of Pork

what is kurobuta pork

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I like to say that Kurobuta is to pork what Wagyu is to beef.

After using Kurobuta pork to make bacon, smoke ribs, and even make a festive crown roast, I decided to put this guide together to explain what’s so special about this type of pork.

What is Kurobuta pork?

Kurobuta pork comes from a specialty pig breed bred and raised in England’s Berkshire County since the late 1700s. It’s one of the world’s oldest pig species and the first to record pedigrees.

Also known as Berkshire pork, the name Kurobuta means “black pig” in Japanese. Because guess what? Kurobuta pigs have black coats.

Berkshire piglet

You might be wondering about the Japanese connection. Well, the prized pigs were first imported to Japan in the mid-19th century. They were sent as gifts to Japanese emperors. They’re still raised today on Kyushu, a Japanese island.

Nowadays, genuine Kurobuta pork must be descended from an established herd either from England or Japan.

Berkshire pigs made their way onto American farms in the 1950s. Their popularity decreased when commercial meat production increased. But lucky for us, a selection of small family farms in the Midwest persevered.

Berkshire pigs are medium-sized animals that weigh around 600 lbs at maturity. While their coats are primarily black, it’s not uncommon to see bits of white on their faces, snouts, hooves, legs, or tail tips. They also typically grow quickly and have a calm temperament, thanks to the humane conditions they’re raised in.

The “Wagyu of pork”

kurobuta pork rack of ribs

It’s probably become clearer why Kurobuta is called the Wagyu of pork, right? Just like Wagyu cattle, Berkshire pigs have strict pedigree standards and are genetically predisposed to produce highly marbled meat. We all know what marbling means – extra flavor. So expect a rich and robust taste in every bite.

Kurobuta might not get the same international recognition as Wagyu or Kobe beef, but the highly-prized meat deserves it.

Why is Kurobuta pork special?

It’s no secret that Kurobuta pork is roughly three times as expensive as standard pork. But you can 100% taste the difference in quality. Here are a few reasons why we love cooking with kurobuta pork.

1. Unparalleled flavor

Many experts believe kurobuta pork has a slightly sweeter flavor than traditional pork. At first glance, you’ll also notice it has a darker pink/red color compared to standard pork. This reflects a naturally higher pH.

Meat scientists believe higher pH levels translate to higher moisture levels, meaning heavier marbling, more juiciness, melt-in-your-mouth tender texture, and a more distinct flavor.

2. Higher level of fat marbling

frenched rack of kurobuta pork underside

Kurobuta pork has more integrated marbling and multiple delicate ribbons of intramuscular fat throughout each cut. That deliciously consistent marbling equals exceptionally tender and juicy pork.

The marbling makes it a great choice for low and slow cooking, as the fat can slowly break down and tenderize.

3. Strict standards

Just like Wagyu, Kurobuta pork is a heritage breed that must meet stringent pedigree, diet, and breeding standards. Typically grown on small, ethical family farms, Berkshire pigs are clean-fed and pasture-raised. When the pigs live stress-free and good lives, it enhances the meat’s quality and flavor.

Where to find kurobuta pork

Many high-end restaurants and steakhouses serve Kurobuta pork. Popular options include The French Laundry in Napa Valley, Mourad in San Francisco, and La Bernardin in New York. You’ll also find it on the menu at more upscale Japanese restaurants.

But for cooking at home, our go-to is Snake River Farms. The online meat delivery company’s pigs are 100% Kurobuta, derived from the oldest Berkshire bloodlines in the country. Their animals are humanely raised on their network of family farms across the Midwest and Idaho.

They purposely keep their herds small so the pigs get individualized attention. Moreover, they’re slow-bred, approximately 10% longer than commercial pigs for improved marbling.

Snake River Farms should have whatever type of American Kurobuta pork you want. Spare ribs, pork chops, ground pork, pork belly, salami, and ham for Christmas dinner are all included.

Other online retailers offering Berkshire pork include:

  • D’Artagnan is a company committed to humane farming practices for over 35 years.
  • Fossil Farms is known as the exotic meat company. Their Berkshire pigs are pasture-raised outdoors on Iowa and New Jersey family farms.
  • The Wagyu Shop offers hand-carved cuts from 100% certified purebred Berkshire hogs.

Recipes using Kurobuta pork

Surely, we’ve now enticed you to try Kurobuta pork with its unparalleled flavor, marbling, and tenderness.

If so, here are some handy recipes to try next. It’s great for grilling, smoking, and slow-roasting.

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