Of Pigs & Life

This post is not for most vegetarians or vegans, or anyone easily shaken by reality. Graphic images and musings on the cycle of life will be presented with impunity.

This post is for those who:
~Love bacon;
~May ponder the ethics of eating meat, perhaps even to the point of reading such books as The Omnivore’s Dilemma;
~Think we’re crazy for doing such monumental tasks ourselves, instead of going to the grocer or butcher like normal folk.

Before getting into the boring stuff, let me start with a virtual standing ovation and huge ego-stroke to MY MAN!

That’s one giant hog for one middle-aged mere mortal!

And, just a bit of backstory for nostalgia’s sake. Mama Chop and Papa Chop were our first pigs. They are Red Wattles, a heritage breed that we bought from friends as a breeding pair about 7 years ago. We would’ve kept Mama Chop as a breeder indefinitely, except for one major problem—as sweet as she was, she kept squishing her piglets, no matter what we did to try to prevent it. And, try Hubby did, repeatedly, for several years, to no avail.

Something else peculiar about Mama Chop, which I have not noticed with any of our other pigs: She smelled fantastic. I’m talking about her natural aroma, not her cooked flesh full of seasonings, which is also proving to be delicious. I mean her living self—just being in the vicinity near her—she smelled like maple syrup. That may sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true.

Fortuitously, Mother Earth News has a feature story about this breed in their current issue. “Grandma and Grandpa’s Red Wattle Hogs” by Amanda Sorell.
“Red Wattle hogs are immense, reddish pigs with fleshy appendages that dangle from each side of their necks. Their up-turned noses and upright ears with drooping tips give them a friendly demeanor that matches reports of the breed’s charm.”

“According to The Livestock Conservancy (TLC), this pig’s gentility lends itself well to small-scale, independent producers, and its foraging skills make it suitable for pasture production. Further, this hardy breed is adaptable to a wide range of climates, and it grows rapidly—usually reaching maturity between 600-800 pounds, but individual hogs can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds.”

Red Wattle Hog Stewardship – Mother Earth News

That’s a whole lotta pork!

Thank you for our blessings, Mama Chop!

We don’t know how much she weighed in at slaughter time, but here’s Hubby’s approximation of her results:
150 – 200 pounds of meat for our consumption, that is approximately:
25 # chops
40 # sausage
36 # ham
20# bacon
15 # hocks
20# stew meat
10# in pressure canned
2 gallons bone broth
3 gallons rendered lard
Plus dogs get ~40#s of scraps…..skin, lungs, ears, liver.

Wow, right?!

But, it’s SO MUCH WORK! He is one man in one small kitchen with one unskilled helper. That’s me. I’m the equivalent of his Girl-Friday (aka Galley Slave) — on call, doing what I can in wrapping and cleaning and cooking. The bulk of the work falls on him and he does it like a true stoic.

But what about the bang for the buck? Most folks who raise their own pigs don’t do their own slaughtering, for myriad reasons. It is a highly-skilled process that requires significant strength and time and at least some basic equipment.

It’s now 10 days since she was slaughtered, that makes: 2 days to hang, initial butchering one day, hams and bacon curing for 5 days, a day for making and packaging sausages, a day for smoking, a day for roasting bones, making broth, canning meat and broth.

However, it’s not only costly to go to a professional processor, it’s also a lot more stress on the pigs, as you’ve got to load them into a trailer and drive them quite a distance, sometimes as far as 2 hours away, plus reserve your slot months in advance (whether or not your pigs are ready), all which can affect the final flavor of the meat. We’ve heard many complaints from friends about this process.

Another significant drawback to this expensive convenience is typically, depending on the processor, you will forfeit many valuable parts, including the organ meats, the leaf and regular lard, the bones, including all the trimmings that go to the dogs, not to mention to the vultures, coyotes, and the bugs and soil as the entire animal never leaves our land.

Such is the cycle of life and this makes so much more sense than concentrating carcasses and waste in one place. We, and our neighbors and friends and pets and land are the direct beneficiaries of our labor, and that degree of skill and self-reliance makes me super proud. And when I’m proud, Hubby’s pleased, and so it goes the bitter-sweet circle of life!

Author: KenshoHomestead

Creatively working toward self-sufficiency on the land.

19 thoughts on “Of Pigs & Life”

  1. If people realized how much work it takes get to the bacon, pork chops, ribs, etc. maybe they’d stop complaining about the price of meat in the store & just eat less & be more grateful. Most of us don’t have the skills or the strength to do this. I know I don’t. The smiles on the hunters faces aren’t glee at killing something it’s knowing that they just made it possible to feed their family meat through the coming winter months.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping in and sharing, Granny! While I totally agree about the true cost of meat, I’m a bit ambivalent about the hunting. On the one hand it’s an amazing skill that we shouldn’t lose, so I agree it needs to be a tradition that’s passed down. On the other hand, a lot of hunted meat goes wasted and not all hunters are gleeful at the simple prospect of feeding their families. Trophy hunting is a rich man’s game and they kill just for the ‘sport’ of it. I volunteered a few weekends when we lived in Louisiana at a hunter’s donation center. On the one hand it was great all the hunted meat that was donated to the food bank, but on the other hand it was astounding how much meat was unloaded in one day, in one county.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I Have to agree with you kensho. the hunters around here kill to kill they love to spill blood they get off on it. they don’t kill deer, turkeys to eat. they kill them to make themselves feel like a ‘man’. i have acreage and find 2-3 deer every year with their legs blown off and the animal dead. hunter didn’t bother looking for the one they wounded. how many do they shoot before they get one to fall down? i have nothing but contempt for them. they spend tens of thousands of dollars to kill a deer that yields 100 pounds of meat. they could buy a beef steer and get 350-400 pounds for a lot less money. it isn’t about hunting. it is about killing. slaughter. they love it.

        we have road hunters with dogs that chase a coyote the road so the fat butt in his truck can step out and shoot it on the road. mean while their dog freaks out our livestock, chases the deer and turkey in the area. harassing everything for a dead coyote they won’t eat. and don’t do anything with. what a waste of life.

        i have never had a problem with coyotes i have lots of problems with dog hunters trespassing and claiming their dog can’t see the signs of no trespassing. the hunter can though…he does so deliberately and i harass them all i can. it is a cruel sport. the hunting dogs get tore up by the coyote sometimes and hit when crossing highways chasing one. the hunter cares nothing for the dog. plus all the wildlife that is worried because of loose dogs running the creek. it terrifies everything in their path. a sport that should be banned!

        on your pig that is awesome. we haven’t cut up a cow yet. too big and no bucket to lift them with. we do however use almost everything we can. the hide we turn into leather as the processors will give you the hide back. happily. he doesn’t have to dispose of it. we use all the bones and fat that i can get back. my dogs get the bones and i get to render the fat into beef tallow.

        i would love to process our own and one day soon we may be forced to. the way things are looking we won’t be able to afford to have anyone else do it. we are building up our equipment with that in mind.

        we have a hard time killing our animals but we do it. suck it up. grow up and do what needs done. had to put a horse down ourselves no vet would come and help. that was hard. we buried her. that we do have equipment for.

        it might seem odd but we thank our animals and the creator each and every time we kill one for supper. a chicken or a turkey or a goose. even our cows we thank for their meat. we see them on loan by the creator. they don’t belong to us. treat them good so when they go home they can say we didn’t harm them anymore then necessary.

        as for people burials. we have a right to bury our own on our own property and will do. creating our own cemetery. buried in cloth or a blanket. no casket. returned to the earth. some places don’t allow that but ours does. that is our goal when and if needed.

        love seeing how you managed that pig. do you have to boil them to remove the hair? like plucking a chicken only different. ?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective, HH. That sounds terrible with the hunters there. We don’t have many deer out here, unless folks are feeding them, then they get attracted to that area around the feeders.

          With the pigs It’s a scalding, so it’s similar. He uses a kind of scraper and it’s a lot of work, so some skin them, but then you of course lose a lot.

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          1. that is what i thought. i would scald them. take the extra work it is worth it in the long run. just the tanning process for hides. you could process the pig skin. turn it into leather. or footballs. haha.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Good point, I don’t think so. But, something must! I use them in the garden, they get ‘absorbed’ I guess, and help balance the soil Ph and add micronutrients in the form of minerals. But now you’ve got me thinking, need to look that up and learn more!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I had these skills and land enough to put them to use.
    Every time I think of slaughtering pigs I think of the scene in Jude the Obscure. I’m not sure I would have the stomach for doing this type of thing myself to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My maternal grandmother ran a chicken farm long before I came along. My mom & her brothers had to feed chickens every morning before school. My grandmother described to me lining up the chickens on a line and cutting their throats. The big chicken houses were still around when I came along but, the business was gone.

    My grandmother could “dress” anything…local fish from ponds, a fat squirrel (yes, they taste like chicken), a duck… When she got chicken from the store, she always complained that processed chickens were all hacked up. Her brothers grew & sold tobacco, as did her parents and her brothers also slaughtered pigs. She & my grandfather eventually just stayed with vegetable/fruit gardening and canning as they aged.

    So much she knew but, didn’t pass the knowledge.

    Everything goes back to nature. If I have a plant that dies on me, I don’t throw it away, I place it outside, to return to the Earth. There is a cycle of life to everything. Put scraps in a compost pile and add some worms. Worms will even consume coffee grounds and human hair. THAT is real recycling.

    Regarding animals, the Chris Thomas material I post…he could see auras, chakras and inside bodies like an MRI. He stated that animals had souls like humans but, they were part of a group soul, instead of individual souls like we are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true—that is real recycling. Our ‘green washing’ pretends to address such issues, but they only create more problems. We’ve lost so much essential knowledge and skills in our culture! I think our parent’s (and in some cases grandparent’s) generation was really seduced by the glamour and easy life sold by Hollywood. Who wants to be a chicken farmer when you can sell vacuum cleaners out of your Oldsmobile?

      That’s fascinating about the auras. I’ve always wondered if those who can see them describe them how the Aurora Borealis looks? Kind of ethereal and shimmering yet vivid, and with lots of shades of pink? Does he ever talk about that? And very interesting about the ‘group soul’. I wonder if that’s also the case with infants who die, I’ve heard something similar from some Native American lore, I think, or somewhere, that the soul is not coming in immediately at birth, but actually at some moment a few months after being born.

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  4. I’d love to be able to do that… although it took some time for me to get used to “dispatching” my own chickens.
    Back when when I was raising pigs for meat… I bought a book on processing different forms of livestock. We weren’t ready for that type of work so I carried our pigs off for processing.

    Looks like you all did a great job. Happy Happy Eating!

    Liked by 1 person

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