|Pigs love mud, and that's the truth.|
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.
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.|
|Hanging game scale|
(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.