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Hog Slaughtering Day At The Farm

2011 July 19
by Aurora

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.

 pig winched up

pig winched up

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.

bleeding the pig out

bleeding the pig out

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.

half skinned on the rails

half-skinned on the rails

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.

unused guts

unused guts

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.

our pigs, their pigs

the first two pigs on the left in the trailer were not ours

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.

Thoughts? Comments?

6 Responses Post a comment
  1. July 20, 2011

    Fascinating! I wonder why they don’t use the skin at your farm. No market for it? Too much hassle?

    Also, who does the breaking down of the sides? Is it also Ed? Or do the families who get the meat get their pig halves whole?

    • July 20, 2011

      @Alice: re the skin, I don’t think the ‘rolled-up and baked/fried? skin’ dish is as popular here as it is in other countries. No one expressed interest in retaining the skin, to my knowledge. So yeah, market.

      re the actual butchering, our customers requested we send the meat to a particular butcher in the Portland area. Customers then go to this guy to pick up their shares as little packages of cuts of meat. Our previous slaughterer wouldn’t take the meat to our butcher, saying he had to do it himself, so we stopped using him.

  2. Irene permalink
    July 20, 2011

    Interesting to see the process from farm to table as you’ve written.

    Do they make Cretons with the pork leftovers? It’s Quebec thing over here and it looks more like a paté than any of the head cheese pictures I saw online. We use to spread the stuff on toast for breakfast and add a touch of mustard..yummy. Well, I liked it…lol

    • July 20, 2011

      Wow, no, I’ve never even heard of cretons before, but after looking it up it sure sounds delicious!

  3. Max permalink
    July 28, 2011

    How large are the shares that people buy?

    Also, that is a really huge bucket of guts!

    • Aurora permalink
      July 28, 2011

      I’m actually not sure what the typical share is. Some people buy a half a pig. That’s expensive, though, and so it just depends on what people can afford/store. And, yes, that’s a lot of guts. I wish I’d got pictures of the other buckets of heart, kidney, and ears.

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