Raising Pigs for Food

James B. DeKorne provides a guide to raising and slaughtering pigs and instructions on how to cure the pig meat and smoke it using a homemade refrigerator smokehouse.

| May/June 1975

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    The skills and know–how which were accepted as an ordinary part of rural life a hundred years ago, therefore, must — for the most part — be relearned today through books or periodicals such as the one you're now reading.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Hardwood only is the rule for smoking. The pinyon pine we use for fuel around here would soon ruin any ham so we operated our smokehouse on oak. It's the only suitable wood that's common in these parts and it gives meat a delicious flavor and aroma.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

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  • 033-031-01_01

Most of us who have returned to the land within the past few years are products of the cities and suburbs. As such, we've had little or no previous experience with the everyday realities of homestead living.

The skills and know–how which were accepted as an ordinary part of rural life a hundred years ago, therefore, must — for the most part — be relearned today through books or periodicals such as the one you're now reading. Unfortunately, however, if one delves very deeply into just about any subject he is likely to come across some contradictions. There are, in other words, many more ways than one to skin a cat . . . and, if my experience is any indication, there must be at least a hundred ways to skin a hog.

Raising Pigs for Food

We bought an eight-week-old pig last April for $25.00 (the going local price) to raise the pig for food. At the time we were blissfully ignorant of the many different opinions about proper hog culture . . . which was probably to our advantage, since we managed to raise our Shirley Pearl to a happy, healthy 250 pounds without being confused with the "facts". It wasn't until I began researching this article that I became fully aware of the many schools of thought — most of which conflict with each other — on raising pigs. Maybe you're aware of these honest differences of opinion, maybe not. Still, if you think you can stand yet another point of view, I'd like to tell you of our experiences with homestead pork production.

In MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 18, on page 70, Sarah Funk tells us, "The fact is that a lone hog doesn't grow well at all (he likes to have company). " This opinion is echoed, in even stronger terms, by John Seymour in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 29; " I will personally have no part in suggesting to anybody that they should buy one [pig]. I have made the point that the husbandman is a benevolent ruler and not a tyrant, and a benevolent ruler does not keep anybody in solitary confinement. "  



Had we been informed of this before we purchased Shirley Pearl, we probably would have thought twice about the project . . . since our finances at that time would not support the expense of feeding two animals. As it was, we were able to get a limited amount of high quality garbage from a friend who runs a local restaurant. Even with this and lots of greens from our garden, however, Shirley's diet had to be supplemented with grain from the feedstore. (We kept a five gallon can of corn and barley on the stove because cooking increased the mixture's volume and palatability many times.) The cost of this ration — almost $10.00 per hundred pounds — made us painfully aware that one acre of land is not enough for self-sufficiency if you expect to raise feed for your livestock in addition to a regular garden. Two hogs would have broken our budget in two, and we'd have been hard pressed to preserve that much meat.

Anyhow, as it turned out, Shirley wasn't lonely (she lived next door to the goats, and spent many an hour conversing with them through the fence) . . . and she put on all the weight we could have hoped for.






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