Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pig Butchering 101

Ok, so time for me to catch up on this blog of ours. Before I get to all of the current amazing stuff to blog about here in PR I need to drop this one first. While spending a month back home with my family before we moved, we stayed about half of the time with my dad. My dad lives in Freeland, Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. It's a small (one traffic light) town tucked in the middle of miles of forest. Most of the folks there live off the land eating its farm animals, game meat, fish and produce from home gardens...

When I told my dad of the restaurant concept we have for PR that would be based on making our own artesian sausage he was excited to tell me that he had just purchased a 200+ pound pig at a friend's farm. The timing was right and we were able to be there for the big day of butchering.

To all my veggie friends, a warning: this post might not sit well with you. But keep in mind that this pig was completely pastured and killed in the most humane way possible...

We showed up around 9am. Upon approaching the designated "butcher box", we were a bit taken back by the fresh, red blood running from it and into the white snow.  See photo below. There was already a crew there working on the first pig that another family had purchased. The entire operation took place in a modified trailer container. It had everything - refrigerated box, ban saw, tables, grinders, you name it. They had the tools for the job.
Juni and I stayed on the sidelines and just observed as they made quick work of the first pig.

Next was our turn! To keep track of the pigs, each was given a name. We named ours "Hammy". They hooked Hammy up on the track and ran it out of the cool box. The giant carcass came cruising down the trailer right at me. I grabbed it and gave Juni a chance to live out her best Rocky Balboa impersonation. The girl has a wicked right hook!

Time to get to work. With the instruction of one of the guys at the farm, Juni and I single handedly butchered the entire pig in about an hour!

Pork belly to be made into bacon!

When it was all said and done, we ended up with 8 shoulder roasts (or pork butt), 2 tenderloins, over 20 chops, 2 hind quarters for ham, and over 25 lbs of ground pork for sausage. Plenty of meat to help sustain a family through the harsh winter months.

I was actually not the first chef to visit this farm. Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods did an entire episode about Scrapple here. For those who do not know about scrapple refer to Juni's earlier post, here.
Personally, I'm not a fan of it. Never have been. So we gave the head and other organs used for scrapple away to one of my dad's friends who makes it herself.

Andrew Zimmer autographed the ban saw.

A couple days later we had a chance to finally cook some of this delicious meat. I picked through my dad's wood pile and found some nice white oak and cherry. I did a simple dry rub on the chops and prepped some pineapple for grilling while Juni made some amazing sauteed chard and kale.
The meat was very mild and subtle. A big part of that is due to the lack of stress on the pig. The more stress on an animal (especially at slaughter) releases adrenaline which in turn taints the flavor of the meat. Based on the taste of this meat, this pig lived a very healthy and stress free life. The flavor was cleaner than anything you would get in a grocery store. There is nothing quite like knowing exactly where your food comes from...Thanks Hammy.


  1. I'm curious--how much did the whole pig and butchering cost? It DOES sound like it would last a family of 4 quite a while!

  2. If I remember correctly, I believe it was $2/lb---and the pig was over 200lbs once dressed. Keep in mind this is organic, pastured pork and you'll know it was a steal. We didn't pay for the butchering, as we did it ourselves. Not sure what Rhodes Farm charges, if anything.