Hog Slaughtering Day At The Farm
WARNING: Following are graphic depictions of hog slaughter day at the farm. Do not proceed if you are squeamish or just don’t want to see pictures of the slaughtering process.
This Saturday was slaughtering day at the farm. I showed up around 10:30am to help out. It was misty, cool, low 60s, perfect for the day’s work. By the time I got there the first two or three pigs (out of ten) had already been processed. Some of the farm’s customers had come to help, and a few had brought their kids.
We used a mobile slaughtering unit run by a guy named Ed, of Ed’s Custom Mobile Slaughtering, out of The Dalles, OR. He showed up with his truck pulling a trailer that was the slaughtering facility all in one neat little package, winches, chains, hooks, the works.
The hogs were in their fenced off pasture, lying around, sloth-like, in drowsy contentment at the mild heat and cool rain. As they were shot in twos or threes the other pigs didn’t seem to notice. Neighboring farmers often discharge firearms so the sound was not an unusual one, and the crack of a .22 rifle isn’t all that loud. The single shot straight to the brain (and this guy was a crack shot) killed them instantly. No ear-splitting squealing or agony, although they do kick a bit. Upon seeing one of the pigs shot, and then kicking as if running (lying on its side), one of the kids busted up laughing and said “That’s funny!” All the adults were laughing after that, but at her, not at the pig.
Once killed, they have to be bled out so the meat won’t spoil, so Ed cut their throats. We did not save the blood to make blood sausage. Some of the pigs wandered over to nose the blood a little, but mostly they just concentrated on the more important task of sleeping.
To be processed, each pig was dragged, hook in mouth, by a long steel cable on a winch attached to the trailer. Elevated by the cable, Ed positioned each pig on a parallel-bar-type frame, long-wise on its back, so he could begin skinning it.
In Paraguay, where I have seen pigs slaughtered, the skin is scraped free of hair and retained, to eat. We didn’t save it. Once Ed had skinned the belly side, he hoisted the pig up by its ankle joints and (tactfully positioned away from us) took out the guts. We saved the heart, the kidneys, the head, and the ears. The ears were going for dog chew-toys, the heads for headcheese for a few ambitious people, and the organs for eating. As the organs were processed they were placed in buckets and taken to the house for cleaning and bagging.
Once the guts were out, Ed sprayed the pigs down with water. It was fascinating to me that — on basically level ground — the blood seemed to run in one direction and the fat in another. Ed then used a chainsaw to cut the suspended carcass bilaterally, creating two pig halves. These halves got stored in the trailer.
Ed had arrived at our farm with the halves of two pigs from a different farm already in his trailer, ready to be taken to wherever the owners had designated for butchering. Ed said these pigs had been corn-fed. Our pigs were pasture raised, and never got corn or soy. There were undoubtedly other differences between our pigs and these two pigs, possibly including breed, but the obvious differences were physical: those other pigs hung there with no muscle tone, very little fat, and were a different color. Our pigs, as they were added to the trailer one by one, hung there with legs sticking out and a gorgeous 1.5-in. padding of fat.
It was satisfying to be there, to help in small ways, and to see the fruits of our months-long labor of fattening up the pigs. They are now food for the people who bought shares of their meat. It was also interesting to learn what options there are for a small farmer to get their meat animals from the pasture to the table.