How to Butcher a Homestead-Raised Hog

A guide on how to butcher a homestead-raised hog. Leading your hogs to slaughter isn't as difficult as you might think, especially when heeding the advice of how one enterprising pig farmer combines experience and know-how.


| September/October 1982



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Generally speaking, it's best to slaughter hogs at an outdoor site that's close to both the pig's pen and to the location where you plan to scald and gut the animal.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Leading your hogs to slaughter isn't as difficult as you might think. This article shows how to butcher a homestead-raised hog, read how one enterprising pork farmer combines experience and know-how in an old-fashioned hog slaughter. 

Raising and harvesting a hog is a practical way to put nourishing food on the family table while taking an important step toward self-sufficiency . . . and away from artificially inflated supermarket prices and hormone-gorged meat. Nor is butchering your own swine all that hard to do. In fact, with a little preparation and common sense, you can make sure that the animal doesn't suffer, that the slaughtering goes smoothly, and that the entire operation ( not including chilling and sectioning) takes only two or three hours.

It should be pretty obvious that rearing and slaughtering your own pigs can guarantee quality pork on your table. Furthermore, many do-it-yourself meat processors feel that killing and preparing an animal can serve to remind a consumer that some of the food he or she eats was once a flesh-and-blood creature and didn't come into this world as a tidy, prepackaged chop. And whether or not you think that factor is important, there's no doubt that learning how to butcher a homestead-raised hog is a good way to save money and add to your self-reliance skills.

PICKING YOUR PORK

Let's assume that you've raised a pig and that the porker is now about the right size (175 to 250 pounds) and age (8 to 10 months) for butchering. (Overly fat or old swine don't usually make for good eating.) Generally, a barrow (a male hog that's been castrated before reaching sexual maturity) or a gilt (a young female) is the best candidate for table fare. Boars (uncastrated males) and sows (adult females) in heat should be avoided at butchering time, since their flesh tends to have an unpleasant undertaste often described as "musky" or "rank". (If you do wish to harvest such an animal, be sure to geld the boar and allow the wound to heal first . . . or wait until the female goes out of heat.)

When you've selected your animal, it's time to lead the ham to slaughter. The remainder of this article has been arranged sequentially . . . in an effort to present a thorough, step-by-step guide for the novice hog processor.

HOG BUTCHERING EQUIPMENT

It's important to assemble your equipment before you begin the task. There are few experiences more likely to ruin your first slaughtering efforts than having to search frantically for a needed tool when you're halfway through the job. As an absolute minimum, you'll need a good knife that's suitable for sticking and gutting . . . a sharpening stone ... bell scrapers for removing the hair and scurf (these specialized and relatively inexpensive devices are well worth a trip to your farm supply store) . . . a hot water thermometer . . . a large tub or vat for scalding the pig . . . and a butcher's saw or a hacksaw.

heidi hunt_2
12/7/2007 12:02:26 PM

Elston, the illustrations are in the Image Gallery at the top right of the article.


elston
12/7/2007 11:59:09 AM

NEED PICTURES OF THIS NEVER DID BEFORE OR CAN YOU HELP WITH DIRGRAMS


ty_2
7/5/2007 4:48:23 PM

Thanks!! Though I've been a resteraunt chef for many years I have never cooked a whole hog. And as a chef all my meat came to me fully prepared by butchers so I did not have to go through the rigors of the entire slaughter myself. I found your article very informitive and helpful as I have a pig roast from slaughter to table this weekend.






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