Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pork is a Nice, Sweet Meat

Have you ever wondered what you would do in a situation where there were no modern day comforts such as supermarkets?  I have thought about my father's comments about how in Lebanon he would remember seeing livestock being butchered and they would be eating said livestock that evening.  Talk about fresh meat!  In keeping with my own personal belief in always learning something new I decided to learn how to do this myself.

I was fortunate enough to be able to do this through my brother in law's side of the family.  He had mentioned that he was buying half a pig and wondered if I would be interested in getting some.  I agreed to purchase a quarter of the pig.  He told me that they do all the butchering and processing themselves.  I asked if I could come and help.  The date was set and I made my way down from the Kansas City area to the Moundridge, Ks area for the weekend task.

I arrived on Friday evening with my brother-in-law and almost 3 year old nephew.  There were three sows at 300 lbs each.  The sun was just setting and the temperature was dropping fairly quickly.  It was about 20 degrees F.  I was told that this was ideal since it would act as our natural refrigeration as we butchered and processed the pigs.

Well, doomsday had arrived for these pigs and I will say that it was about what I expected.  The sows were in a horse trailer.  One at a time, each sow was maneuvered into position using a lanyard similar to what a dog catcher would use.  Once they were in position another person would pop a rimfire caliber rifle round into the head.  This did not immediately kill the sows.  To end it as quickly as possibly, the throat was also cut to allow the blood to flow out quickly.  The quicker the blood pressure would drop the less painful for the animal.  I was the "sticker" on the final pig.  I have to say that while it was definitely bloody, it was not like a horror show.  I actually expected a lot more gore.

Once the pig was dead, the head was then removed.  We then cut between the pig's "heels" and their Achilles tendon.  This allowed us to hook in the apparatus that allowed the carcasses to hang upside down.  Once hooked up to the apparatus and chains, a Bobcat was used to move the pig from the trailer to the garage shed where a tarp had been put down and a place to hang the pigs had been set up.  We also scrubbed the pigs' bodies down with a nylon scrubbing brush and water to clean off as much dirt, hay and blood as possible prior to moving them into the garage.

From this point, it was simply a matter of skinning, removing the organs and then splitting the carcasses in two.  It was similar to dressing a deer.  Starting at the anus, cuts were made to disconnect the tissue attaching the organs to the body cavity that they sit in.  We did not keep any of the organs for organ meat.  Once that was complete , the carcasses were then split down the middle using a saw.  That was it for the evening.  We let them hang in order for any excess blood to drain out (which there was not much).  Also, I was told that letting them hang overnight allowed for the meat to become a bit more firm.  This would make the processing in the morning easier when cutting up the carcass into the different cuts of meat.

Pig just hanging out.
The next morning we woke up and ate a quick breakfast.  We then made it out to the shed again and washed down the table we would be working on with disinfectant.  We sharpened our knives and started cutting.

One half of a pig.
We worked on a half a pig at a time.  It was interesting to see exactly where each cut came from.  In the picture above, the end closest (the butt) was where a ham would come from.  We were not going to be sending it off to be cured, so I decided to turn them into pork steaks instead.  The far end (the shoulder area) had roasts carved out.  Meat that was left on the shoulder was cut and trimmed from the bones and thrown into a container to make sausage later.  From one half a pig we were able to get one pork tenderloin, approximately 4 roasts, several steaks, several chops and several pounds of pork sausage.  Unfortunately, I was unable to stick around for the making the sausage and packaging up the meat.

So, how much did this run?  Well, I purchased a quarter of a pig.  That ran me about $50.  And I got a lot of meat for that.  Would I do it again?  You bet.  Not only was it a good learning experience, but it is a good, cheap way to fill your freezer with meat.

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  1. Very cool. I'd be down for doing that sometime... maybe once my freezer emptys out a bit. -Doug

    1. Probably will not be doing it again for a while. Next time I think I'll go for a half. It would set us up pretty good for a while.