Kentucky's Pork Industry

Kentucky ranks 21st in the nation for total swine production, with approximately 1,284 different swine operations across the commonwealth. 

The value of swine production was 2.2% of total cash receipts for Kentucky agriculture at $122.5 million in 2013. 

On December 1, 2014, Kentucky had approximately 325,000 total head of swine.  40,000 of these were breeding animals and 285,000 were market hogs.  

Top swine counties in the commonwealth:

  1. Warren
  2. Carlisle
  3. Hickman
  4. Nelson
  5. Marion

Data provided by Kentucky Farm Bureau

Source: National Agriculture Statistics Service and Economic Research Commission


Pork in Kentucky

Kentucky farmers raise pigs for pork. The average American consumes 48 pounds of pork per year! While pork represents a smaller part of our farming economy, Kentucky farmers raise between 250 and 300 thousand pigs each year. A typical hog weighs between 300-700 pounds. But the largest pig ever recorded was Big Bill from Jackson, TN. He weighed 2,552 pounds - about the same weight as a Toyota Prius!

Pigs are raised on farms. Some are raised in temperature-controlled barns year-round, and others are raised outdoors. Pigs are not able to sweat to keep cool like humans. Instead, they lay in mud to cool themselves down in hot temperatures. They are omnivores, which means they like to eat both plants and animals. However, most pigs on farms eat a diet of corn and soy.

Lots of baby pigs, called piglets, are born on farms. A mother pig is called a sow, and she can have two litters of pigs per year. Each litter has 8-12 piglets. Many piglets are born in farrowing stalls. These keep the mother from accidentally crushing her babies - remember, she weighs hundreds of pounds, and the piglets weigh only a few pounds when they are born. Farrowing stalls also make it easy and safe for the farmer to feed the sow, check the mother is healthy, and give medicine when it is needed. After three weeks, the pigs are weaned and can move to a solid food diet.

Kentucky farm families work to provide the best care for their pigs and ensure we have safe food to eat. At about 270 pounds, the farmer prepares the pig for market. They will take it to one of Kentucky’s USDA inspected meat processing plants that make pork available to eat through grocery stores and restaurants.

Pork is packed with important nutrients and minerals. It is an excellent source of protein, as well as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus,zinc, and potassium. These nutrients are important to our health.

Many cuts of pork are considered lean, which means they are low in fat. Pork is eaten by more people than any other meat in the world! It is important to cook pork to the correct temperature. To check if your pork is done, try using a digital cooking thermometer. Most pork should be cooked to between 145 - 160 Fahrenheit. Precooked ham can be reheated to 140 or enjoyed cold. Many American’s favorite foods come from pork - such as ribs, bacon, chops, ham, hot dogs, and butt often used for barbecue. After taking these popular cuts from the animal, the remaining meat is used for delicious sausage. It is likely you have enjoyed pork items at a barbecue or for breakfast.

Did you know: pigs are similar enough to humans that scientists can use their tissues and organs in surgeries? Pigs are incredibly valuable for human medicine.

Kentucky farmers work hard to raise healthy lean meat for consumers in our state and beyond. Pork plays an important role in our farming state.


Kentucky Farms Feed Me makes two stops in this virtual field trip. First we visit the North American International Livestock Expo in Louisville to talk with Kentucky high school student Renee about caring for and raising pigs. She also shares her experiences with showing pigs and where different cuts of meat come from.

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