The ideal market hog size is 270 pounds. This means that your pig will ideally weigh around 270 pounds when you butcher him/her. (If it's a him, make sure that you castrated him at a young age.) Research has shown that after 270 pounds, pigs tend to put on more fat than muscle tissue, so unless you want a ton of lard, feed them out to 270 pounds and don't spend any more money feeding them.
Up to 270 pounds, they put on both muscle and tissue. So, your pig weighs 270 pounds and you take it to the slaughterhouse. You can expect to get about 57% of your pig back in edible cuts. When you do the math, that's about 154 pounds of meat.
Some people choose to take their pigs earlier at around 250 pounds because the meat may be slightly more tender than it would at 270 pounds. In that case, you could expect to get about 144 pounds of meat back from your pig.
Keep in mind that all pigs are slightly different and are going to vary slightly as to the pounds of meat that you'll get back but these numbers should give you a good idea.
How much of each cut can I expect to get from one pig?
For the sake of this portion, let's assume that you take a 250 pound pig to the slaughterhouse and you'll get somewhere around 154 pounds of meat back. So how can you get that meat? Let's break the pig down into cuts-
• 2 hams per pig- You can get these processed into fresh hams, cured hams, smoked hams, ham steaks or even ham hocks. Expect about 28 pounds of meat.
• 2 pork loins per pig- Get these processed into country style ribs, pork chops, center cut chops, boneless pork loins, tenderloins, butterfly pork chops and baby back ribs. Expect about 23 pounds of meat.
• Fresh side bacon- Process the sides of the pig into bacon, salt pork or fresh sides. Expect 23 pounds.
• Spareribs- These aren't really processed further. Expect 6 pounds of spareribs.
• Boston butt- These cuts actually come from the pig's shoulder, not butt. Process this into pork steaks, Boston butt hams or roasts, or smoked shoulders. Expect about 9 pounds of meat.
• Fresh Picnic- These cuts also come from the shoulder. Process the shoulder into a fresh picnic, pork shoulder, smoked picnic and get smoked hocks. Expect about 12 pounds of meat.
• Feet- The feet usually come cleaned and fresh. All four feet will give you about 3 pounds of meat.
• Head- This is often optional, but can be cooked and eaten. It can also be trimmed up and added to sausage. The head lends about 5 pounds of meat.
• Backfat- This is the fat that lays on top of the loin along the back. This fat is trimmed off and can be kept as lard or added to sausage. Expect about 23 pounds of fat.
• Jowl- The underside of the neck, or jowl, can be smoked or cured similar to bacon. Expect about 3 pounds of meat from the jowl.
• Trim- After the pig is processed and all of the cuts are taken off of the carcass, there will usually be about 10 pounds of meat that can be trimmed away from the bones. Trim is used to make sausage.
You will be given the option to process your pig any way that you want. Keep in mind that many cuts are from the same area on the pig, so you may have to pick and choose which cuts you want. For example, if you want two smoked hams, then you won't be able to get ham steaks. If some of these cuts don't sound appetizing, then you can always choose to turn that cut into sausage. Your butcher should be able to walk you through the various cuts and how to best utilize your pig for your family.
My beginner's guide to raising pastured pigs will get you started over at Farminence.
Shelby DeVore is an agricultural enthusiast that enjoys writing about gardening, raising livestock and simple living. You can read her most recent posts on Farminence.com or follow Farminence on Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of Shelby’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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