Tuesday, December 13

Hog Harvesting

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 .pig6
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.


Davene Grace said...

What a great post! My husband has butchered a sheep we raised, but we've talked about getting a hog to raise for meat so I'm all ears about the process. Thanks for sharing all this info (and even pictures!). :)

Carmine said...

I enjoy seeing a resurgence of raising your own meat. While some people may think it's cruel, they don't know the story behind the "pretty" packages that they buy at the store. Our beef (like your hog) is petted and named and fed cow cookies. We know what they eat and our kids understand that these "pets" are food for our table - to nourish our bodies properly.

I always laugh when people ask what butchering our chickens or cows have on our kiddos. And I respond that it not only is the perfect homeschool lesson (you're right - there is no better anatomy lesson!), but these questions weren't asked until recently. Kids used to help with the butchering all the time less than 100 years ago, and those kids turned out okay (if not MORE appreciative for the food on their table)!

God bless and keep up the excellent posts!

Jennifer said...

I think it is so awesome that your family was able to raise and butcher your own pig. Kids really do need to know where our food comes from, even the less pretty parts ; )

Thank you for sharing the process with us! I love living vicariously through your family, and maybe one day I'll be able to actually apply this information!

Maya said...

Good for you! I think raising your own meat is such an important thing in a world that seems to find quantity far more important than quality. It's a great experience for kids too! My kids love when we butcher chickens!

Alison said...

Awesome! I'm sure I would be sad to say goodbye to the pig since I do get attached to animals, but good for you! I would love to be able to raise my own animals for food. And your family all got to be a part of the process. How amazing and what great lessons of life, food, etc. that your kiddos are learning! I totally agree with buying/eating meat that was raised well and without hormones. We buy as much meat as we can from local farmers, but it is very expensive, so we can't do as much as we like. Thanks so much for sharing! And I had no idea that that was how you got rid of the pig's hair! I'm sure the fresh pork will be delicious!

Christa said...

thanks!..I think.. :) We are harvesting a massive sow and possibly to of her pigs in January (given we don't sell the pigs)..It will be our first time. We have one who always wants to take peaks if anything at the slaughtering of animals...she'd rather be inside helping me while most of the other kiddos want to be doing whatever they can to help their daddy!

Alison said...

That's not a Gloucester Old Spot is it?! I love the breed and am trying to get into breeding them.

I would love it if you could give me a little more detail on feeding. I've been thinking I would free feed(becuase I read that's how Polyface does it) with some sort of oat/corn/soybean blend and then allow as much pasture and woods for them to munch on as possible. Did you feed grain? Do you know how many pounds of corn she ate in 9 months?

Blondee said...

Thank you for sharing this. We are wanting to raise our own pig as well as meat birds this coming year and to have an honest post about the reality of it is very informative.

We are concerned about the children's interest and possible attachment to the animal, though.I do have a few questions. May I ask if you refrained from letting the kids refer to or treat the pig as a pet? Also...do any of them have a hard time actually eating the meat? Do you smoke your own bacon and hams?

Thanks so much!

Me said...

Davene, we have also done a lamb, which I loved raising and I'd love to do again.
Carmine, the treatment of grocery store meat sickens me so much, so yes, gifting our meat with a happy life is very satisfying.

Jennifer, I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you get to put to practical use someday too!

Maya, I must say, hog butchering and cow butchering are much less smelly than chicken butchering!

Alison, we have a moment of sadness saying goodbye and saying thank-you for the animal's life but knowing from the beginning their purpose makes it easier.

Christa, Sean found a lot of useful information on hog butchering from youtube videos.

Alison, she was a York and Hampshire cross. We found a local store that thre out their excess, getting-a-little old produce that we were able to take off their hands weekly. We don't have pasture or woods available here (major boo!). Sean thinks perhaps she ate about 8 lbs of feed a day so whatever we did not have in veggies we made up for in corn. She shared with the poultry, so I don't know exactly how much extra we had to buy for the hog.
Blondee, we didn't refer to the pig as a pet, and since we've raised our meat before, a lamb, chickens, ducks, and turkeys, the kids are used to animals being here as pets and animals being here for meat. We do encourage the kids to treat the meat animals nicely and give them a happy life because the Bible teaches that "a righteous man is kind to his animals", even the meat ones. :) Sean rigs up a smoker in our charcoal grill using a hot plate and apple branches, which he read about somewhere online. That was a long time ago and he doesn't recall where, so perhaps I can take some photos and show how it works. We smoked our bacon and hams this way. No one has had any trouble eating the meat. I think perhaps teaching our kids how factory meat is raised and treated makes them want to eat store meat less. :)
In His peace,

Blondee said...

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate it. ;)

Roxie700 said...

I admire what you are doing. I could not eat it myself. That is just me. Oh I KNOW all about grocery store meat etc. I just have nightmares about something I saw my grandfather do when I was just a girl. I am now almost 60 and it still stays with my mind like yesterday. My uncle Don raised rabbits for FFA. I was just a girl who loved the rabbits. I did not know that someday they were going to kill those rabbits. One day I was in the house and a phone call came for my grandfather. I went to get him for the call and just as I came around the corner of the rabbit house he cut the head off a rabbit and it ran all over. Scared me so much. Then that night at supper he tried to tell me it was fried chicken. I have not had a stomach for meat since.