Butchering a Pig

I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but I have killed a lot of animals in my life. So I guess with that said it should come as no surprise that I have butchered a lot of animals as well. There is something about the butchering process no matter what it is that gives me a sense of fulfillment. Whether it is breaking down chickens that I bought or butchering a deer I just shot. Having that kind of control over your food is really a powerful feeling.

I'm a very lucky guy in that I kill most of my own meat and the meat I don't hunt has been coming from the store. I have been wanting to get rid of all store bought meats and I took another step closer to that. This year I wanted to include chickens and pork in the freezer. A friend of mine Travis Vail raises chickens and I started buying whole fryers from him. His chickens are beautiful and have a great flavor that I can only compare to squirrel. They were sweet and almost had that same nutty quality to them. Unlike chickens you buy at the grocery store they actually had flavor of there own. All of my red meat comes from Deer which just left me wanting to get some pork. in the past my wife has bought pork from Aldi or Costco. I really wanted to get away from that.

Fortunately for me I have another friend, Rick Edwards who raised some pigs this year. He set one aside for me and originally I was going to have it butchered at one of the local shops but decided instead to do it myself. I have had a lot of experience cutting up pigs but have never actually done the whole process on a pig. I usually get a half a hog or a quarter and then cut it up. Rick and I picked a morning and then recruited a buddy of ours Jeremy Vanlandinham to help. We separated my pig and got to work. I will save you the gory details of putting the pig down but lets just say it didn't go as smoothly as I was hoping it would. Something else didn't go the way I thought it would either. I have killed and butchered a number of ducks and chickens in the past and while I am always very grateful to be able to do it I have never really had an emotional response to killing them. This pig for whatever reason was different. Before I shot the pig my adrenaline kicked in and when the process didn't go as planned I felt sick to my stomach.

It was very strange, I had the same feeling that I had when I wounded a deer a few years back and it didn't die right away. I didn't expect that and it took a few minutes to get over. Once the pig went down and we were able to bleed it out everything was back on track. I had decided before I started that I wasn't going to try anything fancy with this pig I was just going to break it down into simple easily recognizable pieces that my wife would be able to use. One of her big complaints when I butcher an animal is that I always label the meat for what I want to do with it. This time I went with straight forward ground pork, pork chops, tenderloins, hams and butts. I will brine the hams myself and cure the bacon myself as well.

It was really amazing but when I decided to do it this way it was remarkably easier. Boneless chops came right off and the belly's were perfect. We started with about a 200 pound pig and I would say that we ended up with around a 100 pounds of meat. So far we have had some pork chops and last weekend I smoked a pork butt and shredded it for sandwiches. I don't know if it is the way Rick raised the pigs or the way we butchered them or maybe it was just our effort we put into it but this was easily the best tasting pig I have ever had. I know its not always possible for everyone to do this themselves but if you ever get the opportunity you should absolutely take it. It is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things you can do.