This was our first year raising our own pork. You can meet Snitzel the pig here and read a little about the fun she added to our lives. This is also fair warning that if you are squeamish, to click away, as I'm sharing some photos of hog-to-pork-to-feed-our-family.
We are so amazed at how fast a hog grows! In just nine months Snitzel weighed about 320 pounds, fed mostly on vegetables and a little corn.
I was brave and watched the slaughter because I figure if I really want to do this, raising meat for my family, I need to accept and process the entire life cycle . Sean ended up dispatching the hog with a 9mm shot in the brain. He then cut her jugular vein so she bled out. And that is the very pretty-fied version of how things happened. You can thank me for leaving out those photos. :) However I could not resist sharing this one of Sean, who didn't realize he had carnage on his face. Love his baby blues.
Sean used the little tractor to lift the carcass out of the mud and onto the grass .
Our friend Mark, who came over to help, and Sean, stood by the hog to give an idea of just how large our hog was.
Sean hosed the hog down until she was nice and clean.
Next was the problem of hair. I never knew hogs were so hairy before raising one but you learn something new and wonderful every day, eh? The three main options for hair removal are scalding, skinning or burning. We (said loosely here as I stood with the camera) - well, we burned the hair off with an propane roofing torch 'cause we're classy like that.
Sean torched and Mark scrubbed off the burnt hair. If you are thinking this couldn't have smelled pretty, you are absolutely correct. I retreated indoors.
After the burning and cleaning, Sean gutted the hog, cut off the head and hung it (the hog, not head) in the woodshed, where it stayed for four days in the cold air. We have always found the aging of meat like this to greatly improve the flavor as it gives the muscles time to relax and the rigamortis to work its way out.
I always get asked a few questions whenever I share about raising our own meat, which I'll share, but if you have others, feel free to ask away.
1.) How do our kids handle this?
Our kids were very involved in the day to day care and loving of our pig. They have grown up with understanding the complete life cycle of animals, from birth to reproduction to death, no doubt the same as generations of children before them.
2.) How involved are the kiddos in the slaughter?
Because of the possible unknowns with shooting an animal, we keep the kids indoors while an animal is shot and bled out and then they are as involved as they'd like to be. Annaliese usually will take a cautious peek and the boys are as elbow deep as they can be, Ella too. Our friend Mark's two small kiddos were here too. Sean showed all the different organs to the kids and they watched the hog being gutted and hung. Anatomy at it's best.
3.) Why take the time/hassle to raise your own meat when there are grocery stores and prettily packaged portions of meat?
There are three short answers to this. First for cost effectiveness. From one hog we harvested almost two hundred pounds of meat for about $1.25 a pound, with that cost spread over nine months. We pretty much know everything she ate, which is our second reason for raising our own meat. I recommend the book Nourishing Traditions for more on this subject. I also wanted to learn how to raise my own meat, to learn skills that have faded away from popularity but are valuable. Might seem crazy, but such is me. I love knowing that our hog had a happy life, lots of belly rubs, that it was talked to, had lots of earth to plow and grubs to find and veggies to eat.