Glover, Vermont in the Fall

I don’t take murder lightly and don’t have a support system locally to give any support in this very emotional matter of taking the life of another creature. I have this sort of withdrawal feeling that follows murder. It’s the life of another but also a companion who I spent time daily for half a year and now the dead body is in my hand and I’m preparing it for a freezer bag and soon, a place on my stove / grill. Despite my emotions toward this upcoming chore, the raising of pigs has been a very educational project. There is a lot to learn about these animals that we eat so regularly. Thanks to Peta, here are some interesting statistics:

Only pigs in movies spend their lives running across sprawling pastures and relaxing in the sun. On any given day in the U.S., there are more than 65 million pigs on factory farms, and 112 million are killed for food each year.(4,5)

The two pigs I’m raising and slaughtering don’t even register on the percentages of pigs slaughtered. 112 million a year and I’m raising 2 of them. It’s nothing but wow. The amount of things you must know about these animals is remarkable. I’d like to review the schedule of slaughter followed by what I plan on doing with the meat. I won’t be eating much of this as I’m not a huge fan of pork but this is about learning and growing. Let’s review:

Preparing for Slaughter:

From now until the 3rd week in October, I have a few tasks to complete.

  • Construct hoist and acquire hoists. These will hold the pig up for the work needed after the kill (removal of visceral, saw in half and remove head
  • Acquire hay OR 50 gallon drum required for scalding the slaughtered hog to remove dirt, bacteria and hair
  • Acquire hooks, chains, crane and tarp and other miscellaneous parts. These make the processing and cleanup much easier. 
  • 72% of the hog is usable which means 25%+ of the hob will need to be disposed of. I will be saving the liver, heart and head but a lot of the visceral should be disposed of properly. This involves burying it deep below the ground
  • Switching hogs to “finishing food” which is a special mix of feed for pigs that are a few weeks from slaughter.
  • Having enough hands available to help me with holding down (for slaughter), dragging and hosting 250 pound pigs and then the moving of those carcasses to the house for processing. I’m estimating 3 additional strong guys would be overkill but would be nice to have that many hands available.

Another note is that for slaughter, it must be around 40 degrees during the day and 33-40 degrees at night. I’ll go into the why on this later so this is why I’m planning on doing this in a few weeks instead of now.

Slaughter Day: October 27th, Proposed

Day Off Preparation

  • Wake up early and prepare hay or gallon drums for burning
  • Clean buckets of water
  • Sharpen all knives, prepare hand saws
  • Lay out tarp, and get the hoist ready
  • Clean and load .22 Rifle
  • Extra buckets, mason jars, other storage receptacles for visceral and collection of usable organs and blood (for blood sausages)
  • Don’t feed pigs 24 hours before slaughter..provide a lot of extra clean water to flush out organs

Slaughter

  • Provide a bucket of food, distracting pigs and stun pig with a .22 to the point between / above the eyes. Hold stunned pig down and slice throat (avoiding the meat and spine)
  • Collect all blood possible in jars and stir the blood to avoid coagulation
  • Wait for death and drag the pig to the scalding area. Burning Hay or Hot water will scald skin, remove hair and dirt
  • Hook pig by tendons in the legs and hoist up at chest level
  • The rest is..well the hard part. This involves scraping off any hard to remove hair then removing head, cutting stomach and chest opening, removing genitalia and then internal organs ensuring you don’t puncture any of the organs and try to save all usable parts of the inside of pigs
  • Remove trotters, fully remove head and make sure you save as much as possible for later use.
  • Use saw to cut pigs in half vertically

Post-Slaughter – Both pigs have been slaughtered and cleaned

  • Prepare for transport to cabin. Load into back of truck with cleaned tarp
  • Move to house and affix clean tarp and 5 gallon buckets in the porch area. Most farmers hang their pigs outside and high enough so predators can’t get to the carcasses like 8+ Feet. Here, we have a lot of very agile predators and with the weather dropping, there’s too much of a risk of losing meat so we’re hanging them inside.
  • Hang each half pig over tarp / buckets to allow for overnight drainage of blood. The temperature being low enough combined with extended hanging will dry out the meat and make cutting the meat simpler given the hardening of muscles with cold weather. This temp also means less issues with bugs and bacteria. 
  • Wait 12-16 hours

Next Day: Each half pig at a time, it’s time to perform processing

There is no easy way to write down these steps but I have performed a lot of research on this and will simply follow guides. One lesson I learned though is it’s impossible to follow digital guides. I bought an ebook for processing chickens but, while the processing was going on, my hands were too bloody to flip the pages. So I have some printed guides to help with this.

If you are at all interested in side-butchery and how to butcher a pig, this video is excellent, well shot and there isn’t any blood. It’s a nice HD demonstration on how to http://vimeo.com/32367993. This video is what started my quest to raise and slaughter my own hogs.

Day after Slaughter + Next Five Days: Overall processing of parts and preparing the meat for eating and storage.

  • The head has been saved. This will be placed in a brine for a few days and then will be made into head cheese
  • The liver will be diced and processed with spices an fatback to make pate
  • The blood will be saved and processed with fat back and other spices to make blood sausage
  • The trotters will be saved for an upcoming stew
  • Fatback will be saved and used for general cooking for the next few months
  • The belly will be used in two ways. 1.5 pigs of it will be used for bacon, will be cured and then smoked at home. The other remainder will be rolled and be used to make pancetta (italian bacon)
  • The ham will be cured and smoked
  • I’ll be processing up individual cuts like the loins, chops, ribs and various roasts. 
  • I have acquired a shrink wrapping system to reduce all air and freeze all of the cuts for storage.

Expected resulting meat from these two pigs is about 300 pounds. 

So, that’s the full details of this project. It’s going to be a lot of work but something I’m VERY excited about and looking forward to performing to the best of my ability. I’ll have some help from friends and neighbors but it’s mostly on me to perform all of this. Thanks for reading!