Opportunities for alternative swine production and marketing are emerging across the value chain. Given the developing nature of the differentiated pork industry, measurements of niche performance and success are not yet fully known. For this reason, the objectives of this study were to determine performance metrics across all major life phases for niche pork production and compare such metrics with national averages of conventional commodity pork production. Additionally, this study aimed to quantify producers’ reasoning and barriers to successfully raising niche swine. Niche meat producers in the USA self-identified for this study (n = 176); their swine production had alternative characteristics that included small- to mid-sized farms, farrow-to-finish operations, heritage breeds, housing with bedding and outdoor or pasture access, no use of antibiotics (sub-therapeutic for growth promotion or no antibiotics ever), vegetarian feed, diverse agricultural enterprises and alternative marketing avenues. This study focused on the metric categories regarding reproduction, mortality, culling and growth characteristics. The niche system produced approximately 15% fewer weaned piglets per bred sow per year than the conventional system due to fewer breeding cycles, smaller litters and higher piglet mortality in alternative production. Similarly, niche production finished 12% fewer hogs per bred sow per year than conventional production. Regarding age benchmarks of finishing and breeding, the niche system averaged 18 additional days to finish hogs at a standardized market weight of 124 kg. Likewise, niche production gilts were first bred at 283 days, whereas conventional production breeds gilts at 225 days. All directly comparable metrics were found to be statistically significant with 95% confidence for the one-sample test of means. Regarding farmer attitudes toward niche pork, survey participants shared personal reasons for raising swine and barriers to successful niche production. Choosing niche over commodity swine, participants’ reasons were grouped into three intra-related categories: (1) farm and producer viability, (2) animal and environmental welfare, and (3) consumer preference and taste. Despite these benefits, participants were faced with numerous challenges, which were organized into four intra-related categories: (1) alternative production requirements, restrictions and knowledge; (2) access and affordability of credit and inputs; (3) alternative supply chain for processing, marketing and customers; and (4) non-niche production competition and governmental policies. In sum, the success of these niche pork operations equates to high welfare for the pigs, economic viability for the operation, personal enjoyment for the farmer, customer satisfaction with meat flavor and quality, and responsible environmental practices, inclusive of many components of an alternative food system.