Cinta Senese, originating in Tuscany, Italy, translates to “belt of Siena” and is a breed of pig that was almost lost forever due to extinction. Cinta Senese is an ancient, dating back to the Middle Ages, and hardy breed that was widely raised free-range all over the country since it was prevalent to eat. No part of the animal was wasted either – from snout to tail, every bit was utilized in some fashion. The main body of the pig was typically cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, salted, and cured. After the Second World War, the Cinta Senese populations declined rapidly due to the popularity of more prolific breeds.
Around the 1970s, efforts to restore these pigs accelerated, cross-breeding them with a larger domesticated pig called “Large White.” Today, they have been brought back from the brink of extinction, though they are still considered endangered and are available for limited consumption. Cinta Senese is one of only six autochthonous (native) breeds of pig recognized by the Italian ministry of agriculture and forestry (Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali). As such, authentic Cinta Senese meat and meat products are strictly regulated and must bear a label, stating Suino Cinto Toscano D.O.P., indicating its authenticity.
Cinta Senese pigs are more similar to wild boars than your common barn pig. They have a dark coat, usually black or dark grey, that features a belt of pink or white that crosses their chest, withers, and front legs. They are primarily free-range animals and prefer their dense woodsy habitat to root around for acorns, tubers, roots, and other natural food materials. Their diet gives their meat unique characteristics and a distinct darker color. The meat from a Cinta Senese pig is much redder in color, deeply rich in flavor, and contains higher concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids (in particular Omega 3 and 6) and oleic acid.
Cinta Senese is prized meat! The exceptional quality of succulent Cinta Senese makes it perfect for charcuterie of all kinds. It is lean, tasty, tender, succulent, and aromatic. Aside from the usual cuts of pork, the most popular cuts, parts, or meat products created from Cinta Senese pigs include finocchiona, pancetta, other cured meats, copocollo, rigatino, bacon, sausages, shoulder, thigh ham, porchetta, and especially their lard.
Have you ever tried Cinta Senese? Let us know in the comments!