The industrial, corporate, factory-farm pork producers catch phrase for years, predicating every piece of pork advertising from print to television. And for once the advertising bared the truth. The industry’s pork taste exactly like the original white meat — chicken. Well, at least the factory-farmed chicken. How did that happen? The factory farms have produced widget-like pigs of the same size and weight, bred for a short, fat life inside a metal barn, with little or no chance at being a regular old pig, rolling in the mud, grazing on grass and flowers and digging up grubs and roots. The factory pigs taste more and more like the processed feed they are forced to eat. I challenge anyone to grill store-bought chicken breasts and pork chops — choose the big name brands, serve it up side-by-side to the kiddos and the spouse, then see who guesses what’s what. You’ll be lucky if they can tell it from the mashed ‘taters! Fortunately, you don’t have to eat that garbage, not when there are millions of pigs running wild all over America. Wild hogs, fat, healthy and grass-fed, should be on everyone’s menu. Don’t be scared! They are only ugly on the outside, unlike their factory bred cousins.
It’s a travesty what corporate, factory farming has done to our beloved bacon, pork chops and baby back ribs. Water injections, antibiotic regimens, sodium-added, raised in cages, no fresh air, no fresh grass... oh, Hell I can’t even talk about it without spitting. Baby. Back. Ribs! Eating animals raised in those conditions cannot be good for you and your family, and it is definitely not good for the animal. How does eating something so sick make any sense? How does feeding those widgets to your family make more sense than feeding them something raised wild, grazing on grass, acorns, roots and grubs, and an occasional corn feeder’s burst? It’s time for a closer look at eating wild game versus factory-farmed meats. The big grocers carry the giant brands of corporate, factory-farmed pork, period. No choices. Well, don’t eat it. Ask for something else or shop around for a local hog farm. Or do what a lot of people in rural areas do. Hunt and trap wild hogs for food.
If you live in the United States, chances are there’s a wild, grass-fed porker lurking about in the woods on the edge of town. Actually, there are more and more sightings of wild hogs within city limits, near jogging trails, on golf courses, and digging up uncounted-for back yards. There’s even a TV show about hunting wild hogs, so if Hollywood knows about it, it’s high time everyone was in on the trick. You may own property, or have been granted access somewhere outside town, and if so, your odds of catching a few wild hogs is actually better than you think. I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut there’s a pack of wild hogs within five miles of where you’re sitting. Now, you just need to lure them into your trap.
About that trap. Here in Texas wild hogs are so numerous everyone traps and hunts them, so you can buy a small steel trap for $400-$500 just about anywhere. Most are made from thick gauge wire hog panels, bent and tied together with wire or other fasteners. Wire-style traps (approximately 4-feet-by-4-feet-by-8-feet) will usually catch the big hogs, several yearlings, or a few sows and all their piglets. These traps are small enough for one person to move around empty, and load in the back of pickups or on trailers. The trap has a spring-loaded door on one end, set off by hogs bumping a string inside the trap connected to a latch on the door. Other trap doors are made to fall in place like guillotines, or swing down into place. Large round traps (30-foot diameter) with remote operation are available if you have a big property with a bad wild hog infestation. The traps are expensive ($3,500-$6000) but you can watch them live on your smartphone and spring the trapdoor when the hogs go inside. Seriously, it exists.
Catching a 350 pound wild hog sounds easy, right? To most sane people, it sounds crazy, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t already trapped over 500 in the past seven years with two small traps. With a well-made trap, some extra-stinky bait and the right conditions, you can catch wild hogs just about anywhere in the USA... in the world for that matter. Corn or wheat left to sour in its own juices or mixed with diesel is the best bait for wild hogs. Diesel keeps deer, raccoons and other critters from stealing all the bait. Hogs love it. If you’d rather not use diesel, beer or even water will help sour the mash. Leave it closed up in a 5-gallon bucket for a couple of weeks if possible. Bait the trap liberally and sprinkle a small amount around its perimeter and between it any nearby game trails. Usually, the smaller hogs will get caught first, then the medium size lone boars, then others as food supplies dwindle during winter months.
Make sure you take all the precautions before you set foot in the woods. Don’t go in unarmed, alone, in sloppy weather conditions, or high on crack. Okay, don’t do crack for any reason, but be fully aware when you out go into the woods hunting hogs. They will get on you before you know it. Speed kills.
Now that you’ve trapped a wild hog, dispatch it to the butcher shop and turn it into all-natural, free-range pork. Sows weighing between 50 and 150 pounds will produce the best tasting pork, and smaller piglets, male or female, weighing 20 to 50 pounds make for an awesome whole hog roast. The boars, often masked in a musky, wild smell which sometimes permeates the meat, can usually be sold to a local buyer, who in turn buys for a big scale packer, with the end product destined for Asia, Europe and parts unknown. You don’t have to eat the big boars, but don’t turn them loose! Estimated US feral hog population is 4-6 million. Bel-Tex Processing are the people who sign my checks and they are happy to have the big hogs. Matter of fact, the price per pound goes up with the size of the hog, ranging from $0.20 per pound up to $0.60 per pound, with some buyers paying a head bonus of $10 to $25 each. Sell the boars. Take the cannoli.
Gutting a wild hog is quite an experience. Who am I kidding, it is a nasty task unrelated to anything civilized, clean or aromatic. The ends justify the means, once again, so take your time, keep the meat free of hair, blood, urine and excrement. If you live where the temperatures stay below 45 degrees, or have a walk-in cooler available, let the hog hang for a few days to bleed out and cure. Three days hanging in a tree takes the gamey taste out of the meat.
If you plan to cook a whole hog, it is best to leave the skin on. This requires removing the hair which can be troublesome, but there are several ways to give a hog a haircut. Burning off the hair with a blow-torch will work but it discolors the skin and leaves an ashy residue. A Brillo pad will help remove the ash and hair particles left behind. Also, three hours on the barbecue pit will pretty much assure a clean, crispy carcass. A large tub of boiling water can be used to dip the hog in for a few minutes, then the hair is removed with knives or hand-held scrapers. This process isn’t easy to master. The water temperature has to be held constantly at near boiling, the hot water will cook the meat somewhat, especially if you have gutted the hog. You can remove the hair first, but then gutting the hog afterward can get the meat and skin dirty. The hair doesn’t exactly fall off the hide either, so be prepared to spend some time at it. Once you get this task mastered, cooking the whole hog on pit or smoker will make it worth your while.
Breakfast sausage, German sausage, Mexican sausage (chorizo), Asian sausage, sausage gumbo, sausage dressing, sausage on a stick... Soooo-Weeeeeeee there’s about two million recipes for making hog sausage. All of them good if you use the right ingredients and make it yourself. Grind up at least one of the hams and try your hand at making some sausage, and use the ground pork for other recipes such as meatballs, egg rolls, dumplings, terrines and more.
Trapping wild hogs is dangerous. They can be man-eaters. Don’t underestimate their wild, untamed, animal instincts. Make sure you lock them in the trap, trailer, pen or cage if you plan to transport them to a buyer or elsewhere. Once trapped, if there are boars separate them into the trailer or cage, and those destined for the table should be put down immediately, hung up, gutted, and left alone overnight, at least. Don’t trap hogs in warm weather. Make sure you’ve had at least one freeze before you butcher them. Do not handle the babies under 2-3 weeks old. I’ve been told by the old timers they have a lot of “cooties.” Don’t mess with them.
If you’ll trap a young sow, weighing 75-100 pounds, for your first adventure into wild hog dining, you will enjoy a great tasting piece of pork, and you will never miss that store-bought Franken-chicken-pig on your table. If I can answer any questions, get in touch. Happy Hunting!
RD Copeland: firstname.lastname@example.org
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