The other day we were cutting a half hog during class and it was from small local processor. It weighed just about 100 lbs., making it a very average market style hog. This size is the most popular throughout the country and is what most large processors look for. The typical processor in Iowa is looking for a 6 month old, 265 lb white haired, grain fed hog. This pig, even though it was raised in upstate NY, fit that description perfectly.
When we broke it into it's primal cuts the pork was pink, the fat was firm but there was very little marbling and the fat back was only about a 1/2 to 1 inch along the back. I know this pig was not fed any growth promotants or fed antibiotics preemptive but other than that, is it much different than the mass produced pork I can buy for almost half the price?
When purchasing local, you need to consider a few things. First, just because it is local doesn't guarantee it will be much different than the commercially raised large farm pork. Second, local doesn't always mean "heirloom" breed and many farmers are raising hybrid, fast growing pigs that are easy to raise indoors. Third, the feed a pig gets will be reflected in the flavor so if a grower uses a basic pre-mixed bagged feed the pig will taste pretty much like a mass produced commercial pork.
So no matter whether you choose to buy an heirloom barley fed pig or a standard market style hog, buying local will have advantages for any chef looking to showcase unique products.