Breed cards: Cinta Senese pig

History and current status of Cinta Senese pig breed, one of the Italian autochthonous pig breeds.

Thursday 8 August 2019 (13 days ago)

History and current status of the breed

The Cinta Senese breed has ancient origins, as evidenced by its presence in the fresco of the “Buon Governo” of Ambrogio Lorenzetti which is in the Sala del Consiglio dei Nove of the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena. It has spread for its robustness, rusticity and easy adaptability to breeding outdoor. This breed is well adapted at Tuscany land because of the type of available feeding resources from these territorial peculiarities that also derive the taste of the meat protected by PDO label since 2012. In the 1950s, most peasant families raised this breed. The introduction of improved breeds has reduced the Cinta Senese breeding to bring this breed, at the beginning of the eighties, to the brink of extinction. Due to the intervention of local breeders and Protection Consortium and the active support of the public institutions as well as a detailed research activity carried out by the University of Florence, to date, 140 farms and about 5000 animals can be recognised (Figure 1). Almost all Cinta Senese breeders are part of the Consortium of Protection of the Cinta Senese obtaining the protected denomination of origin of fresh meat, exclusively for pigs born, reared and slaughtered in Tuscany, and deriving from the mating of subjects recorded in the Register of the Cinta Senese genetic type. According to the PDO rule, after the fourth month of age, during which the piglets can receive daily food supplementation, the animals must be reared in extensive conditions. The permitted daily feed supplement cannot exceed 2% of live weight; additionally, at least 60% of the feed constituents must come from the geographical area of production.

Figure 1. Census of Cinta Senese pig breed, presenting a number of sows and boars per year, starting with the year of herdbook establishment.
Figure 1. Census of Cinta Senese pig breed, presenting a number of sows and boars per year, starting with the year of herdbook establishment.

Exterior phenotypic characteristics

The Cinta Senese is a medium-sized pig, with a light but solid skeleton (Figures 2 and 3). The weight is 300 and about 250 kg for boars and sows, respectively. The skin and bristles are black, except for a white band that surrounds the trunk at shoulder level, including the forelimbs. The head is of medium size with ears directed forward and down. The limbs are thin but solid. In the female the breasts must be not less than 10, regularly spaced, with normal nipples (Table 1).

Table 1. Summary of morphology information on Cinta Senese pig breed.

Measurement (average) Adult male Adult female
Body weight (kg) 200 170–180
Body length1 (cm) 107 104
Height at withers (cm) 82–90 82–90
Number of teats (average) 12 12

1Measured from the tip of the nose to the starting point of the tail.

Figure 2 and 3. Cinta Senese sow with piglets (left) and boar (right).
Figure 2 and 3. Cinta Senese sow with piglets (left) and boar (right).

Geographical location and production system

The farms of Cinta Senese pigs are located throughout the Tuscany region even though most of them are in the province of Siena. Pasture on wood is carried out in more than half of the farms. The sows are mainly raised outdoors, but, frequently, in case of part, single boxes are used. The fattening is always done outdoors, with various degrees of extensification. The forest, when present, is used for grazing throughout the year from farmers. It is noted that neither the farming area nor that used for grazing are related to the number of animals bred. There are indeed farms of large dimensions with a reduced number of animals, as well as farms with many animals but with little available area, both for grazing and for the crops, to be dedicated for breeding. Finally, farms with many animals, even when they have a large surface available, dedicate a very small part of the land to pigs.

Productive performance
Reproductive traits

According to herdbook data recorded by ANAS, the age of sows at first parturition is approximately 20 months, whereas age of culling is 54.3 months on average. Sows of Cinta Senese pig breed have 1.3–1.8 litters per year with 6.3–8.2 piglets per litter of approximately 1.2 kg of live body weight. Stillborn percentage of piglets varies from 2.1 to 9.6%, whereas piglet mortality rate until weaning ranged from 4.7 up to 20.4% in the considered studies. Duration of lactation is prolonged in comparison to modern intensive systems (up to 60 days), which leads to a longer farrowing interval (from 203 to 281 days) and also higher piglet weaning weight (8.5–13.0 kg).

Growth performance

Due to big differences between studies with regard to the live weight range covered, we defined the stages for growth performance as lactation (regardless of how long it was), growing stage (from weaning to approximately 30 kg live body weight) and early, middle and late fattening stages estimated between approximately 30 and 60 kg, 60 and 100 kg and above 100 kg live body weight, respectively. In the considered studies, daily gain in lactation period varied from 133 to 235 g/day. Growing and fattening stages are characterised by a slow growth rate (approximately 370 g/day in growing and 412 g/day in overall fattening stage) but also high variability between studies (from 147 to 473 g/day growing and from 185 to 674 g/day in fattening stage). Slower growth rate can be contributed to the fact that according to PDO rules, Cinta Senese pigs should be reared in extensive conditions. However, in the context of the evaluation of growth performance, it is also of interest to observe the extreme values, because it can be assumed that the maximum figures exhibit the growth potentials of Cinta Senese pigs in ad libitum conditions of feeding (≈674 g/day in early fattening stage).

In accordance to PDO rule that feed distribution should not exceed 2% of body weight, average daily feed intake reported in the considered studies was 2.7 kg/day in late fattening stage and 2.2–2.4 kg/day in the overall fattening stage.

Body composition and carcass traits

In considered studies, pigs of Cinta Senese breed were slaughtered at approximately 381 days of age and from 125 to 175 kg of live weight. In agreement with high slaughter weight, dressing yield was around 81%; back fat thickness span from 47 to 65 mm measured on the withers, from 32 to 58 mm at last rib level and 35–67 mm at gluteus medius muscle level. Muscularity measured as loin eye area was 28 cm2 in the only available study.

Meat and fat quality

pH measured in the longissimus muscle at 45 minutes and 24 hours post-mortem was approximately 6.4 and 5.7, respectively. The intramuscular fat content was highly variable in considered studies and ranged from 2.5 to 6.0%. Colour measured in CIE/Lab colour space spans from 45 to 50, 11.0 to 13.9 and 2.9 to 4.6 for L, a* and b*, respectively. Saturated fatty acid content ranges from 35.4 to 39.0%, MUFA content from 47.6 to 53.4% and PUFA content from 8.2 to 17.0%, with very high n-6 to n-3 ratio (12.8–36.4).

Use of breed and main products

The quality of the raw material of the Cinta Senese represents a strong point of the system. The sensory characteristics of meat are mainly influenced by the acidic composition of the adipose tissue which is affected, as well as the genetic component, also by the diet. Extensive breeding, if practised with rational exploitation of forest resources (acorn and chestnut), can lead to the development of favourable aromas and, therefore, to products with excellent sensory properties. The main cured meats produced with the Cinta Senese breed are dry-cured ham, Tuscan salami, Pancetta, Lardo and Capocollo. These products have reached a high level of quality without, however, reaching the standardisation of flavours. Although the cured meat market is expanding, the Consortium focused on the PDO label of fresh meat, obtaining it. The recognition of protected designation of origin is reserved exclusively for the meat of pigs born, reared and slaughtered in Tuscany. Animals cannot be slaughtered before the twelfth month of life.

Full text and references are available here: Cinta Senese pig.

Carolina Pugliese, Riccardo Bozzi, Maurizio Gallo, Claudia Geraci, Luca Fontanesi and Nina Batorek-Lukač (February 6th 2019). Cinta Senese Pig, European Local Pig Breeds - Diversity and Performance. A study of project TREASURE, Marjeta Candek-Potokar and Rosa M. Nieto Linan, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.83762. Available from:

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