Tuesday, November 6, 2012

how to butcher a pig, part 1

Yes, it had to happen. Hammy and Supper actually did become...well, ham. And supper.

Pigs love mud, and that's the truth.
I had many (many) people ask if I would write a blog post about the how-to of butchering the pigs (since we did it right here at the farm.) So here goes.

First, my disclaimer. It might be obvious to some...but butchering involves blood and body parts and other such messes. This blog post is full of pictures. Which means the pictures will include blood, body parts, and other such messes. You have been warned.

The first thing you've got to do when butchering a pig is kill them. Farm Man Extraordinaire used a .22 rifle. There is a specific place to aim for (between the eyes, but slightly above). One perfectly placed shot and they are down.

(This is the part when I tell you that in the process of dying, they will flop around in the mud and get filthy. And as you watch them get dirtier and dirtier, you will wonder why in the world, when you're in the middle of a drought, the sky decided to snow...and make mud...on the day you were butchering.)

Anyhow. Next, it's time to hang them. A skidloader comes in mighty handy at this point.


Slit their throat as soon as you have them hung. Stand back and make sure you have something to catch all that blood.

Next, it's time for the pigs to have a bath. Have a hose and a scrub brush ready.

One pig hanging from each fork of the skidloader.
After that, get a weight on those babies.

Hanging game scale
Results: Supper weighed 375 and Hammy weighed 400.

(Note: We didn't intend for them to get that big. We are obviously new at this and have no clue how long it takes a pig to get to a certain weight. Plus, we canceled butchering 3 weeks in a row because our MN weather was too hot. You want the daytime high to be in the 40s when you are butchering...we had to wait for Mother Nature to cooperate.)

After the pigs are scrubbed and weighed, it's time to skin them. We put them on a trailer with a board on either side to act like a cradle.


Kinda like this.



Then it was time to skin. A pig is much different than skinning a deer. I've been told a pig is more like skinning a bear (but I've never skun a bear, so I'm not sure). We were told by several people that skinning a hog is the worst part. We didn't think it was all that bad. A bit slower than a deer, for sure, simply because of how the skin is attached to the pig...but not a big deal to us.


It's a bit harder to tell where the skin is and where the fat is you want to leave on the pig...but you figure it out as you go.


Eventually, the skin is only attached to the pigs back, and is draped over the sides of the trailer. It works out pretty slick.


Our original plan was to hang the pig in the garage to finish skinning and gutting but we discovered we couldn't get a 400 pound hog to the rafters with our set up. So back to the skidloader we went.



The skinning was completed...


And then it was time to take out the insides.


Which to me, is really quite interesting. Talk about an anatomy lesson!


At this point, the head was taken off. I have no pictures though, because it took two people holding the pig steady and one person cutting the head off.

Lastly, we halved the hog. Farm Man Extraordinaire made a shallow line with his knife along the backbone, and then did the real cutting with a meat saw, careful to stay right on the backbone.


 Sawing through a backbone is hard work. Good job, dear.


The pig(s) were then hung in the garage for overnight. We were told if we tried to immediately take cuts of meat, it would be soft and hard to do. It was suggested to let the pork hang overnight to firm up.


And that is our first day of hog butchering. We started this process (with one pig after another) at 1 pm and were done before supper. Not bad for our first time doing hogs.

My suggestions for anyone attempting this:
a) make sure you have good strong rope. Ropes break. I'm just sayin'.
b) make sure you have dishsoap. Pig fat doesn't come off knives if you're suddenly out of dishsoap.
c) even with a skidloader, this first day of hog butchering is physical work. Eat your wheaties and get some rest.

Note: This post is part of a how-to series. Part two (cuts of meat) can be found here.

19 comments:

  1. Excellent! Thanks for sharing :)

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  2. It looks like you did a great job. I have done this many times. The last time I had my young daughters help me. It was cute seeing them in their wet suits and goggles. One using the sawzall, one skinning and the other, too young to use a knife was the gopher.
    This last time I cheated and said to heck with it and just took them to the butcher. For $150 bucks a pig to have it all cut up the way I want it and ground my way, it was worth it.
    Keep up the good work.

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    1. The visual you gave of your daughters was awesome! I can totally see that happening. I asked my husband why he was in his rain gear and he said "You'll see..." He sure planned for that right! Thanks for reading. I really enjoy YOUR blog!

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  3. Thanks for posting this. Very interesting.

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    1. Your welcome. I am thankful we were able to do it ourselves.

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  4. Interesting. So, did you have a book or was someone telling you what to do or is it kind of "instinctive"?
    I think the ONLY part about butchering that would bother me is the actual killing part. I kinda feel like a hypocrite as far as that goes. I'll eat meat, but not kill it. Sigh.

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    1. We had a book, a couple websites, a couple youtube videos...but we've done so many deer in our lifetime that most of the pig was just like doing a really big deer. People had me scared that the entire process was completely different but I would have to say it wasn't (at least the way we did it).

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  5. I understand Sue! I am kinda like that, but heck, I do love meat!

    Good job on the first part. Your swine names were too funny! :)

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    1. I think it was pretty successful too. Thanks for reading!

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  6. Very interesting and educational. And the pictures are worth a 1,000 words. (Who said that?) Thanks for taking the time to document this first part.

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    1. I was glad to be able to document it. I had so many people ask me to do it, I'd knew I'd be in big trouble if I wasn't out there with my camera!

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  7. Wow, it seems like just yesterday you got them, they sure do get up to weight fast! Great post, I'm surprised you did it yourselves, I'm in awe! Did Farm Man have prior experience with game/deer? And did the .22 do exactly what you wanted or would you opt differently next time? You, girlfriend, are a wealth of knowledge and experience for us all now, congrats on the mental hurdles overcome as well as the full freezer of well loved and raised meat!

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    1. We had them for seven months. Yes, we have experience with butchering, but these were our first pigs. The .22 was plenty for what we needed. I know a lot of people think "bigger animal, bigger gun" and pure logic would tell you that it takes something bigger to knock down a 400 pound pig, but if you place the shot correctly, they really do go right down. (We had one go down immediately, one took two shots. The trick is getting them to look up at you so you can place the shot.)

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  8. Good post and kudos to youse guys for doing it yourself! I would opt for taking them to the butcher! ;-)

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    1. It really was neat to do it ourselves. Not just because it saved money and we were able to use everything we wanted from the pig, but because there is a major sense of "Wow! We totally DID this!" that comes with it. :)

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  9. Our pigs go to freezer camp in February. We've been on the fence about taking them to the butcher or doing this ourselves~you may have tipped the scale towards a DIY weekend! I'm not sure whether to thank you or hold a grudge...;) Looking forward to Part 2!

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    1. Freezer camp. I like that. :) If you've done deer (which I'm pretty sure you have?) you can totally do a pig. :)

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  10. Is there a reason why you skinned the pigs before you cut them up into joints. It would have been so much easier to do it to the pieces after, but roast leg of pork with crackle is yummy.

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