From Piglets to Bacon- Part 3, by Animal House

I am a grandmother who decided to raise her own small livestock, including pigs, and then to butcher them. This is my story. In the first two parts of this article series, I have already written about selecting and growing the pigs as well as told my plan for butchering two female hogs.

Slaughtering and Butchering (continued)

I laid out my plan in the last part of this article series and included the specific tools and materials required. I expected to complete the whole process of killing, cleaning, butchering, and packaging within two and half days or a max of three days. Now, let’s find out what really happened.


In real life not everything goes according to plan. Since this was my first time harvesting a 400+ pound animal, I had no idea what the alternative was. I had to be flexible.

The Actual Killing and Moving Experience

First, my son shot the hog near the gate, but it died in the mud behind two pine trees. We could not get the tractor close enough to pick up the hog or chain it to the bucket. Plan B was to get my smaller farm utility vehicle with the winch and pull the hog out to a clearing where we could use the tractor to get it up to the barn. This worked well. I was so happy that I had the UTV. It saved the day.

Hanging in Barn and Bleeding

Once we got the hog up to the barn area, I cut between the rear leg tendons to insert the “S” hooks to hang the animal. We placed the S hooks in a chain, which we ran across the underside of the tractor bucket, thus spreading the hind legs. Therefore, we did not use a gambrel to keep them separated.

I used a 7” knife to severe the main arteries to bleed the animal. Some people like blood sausage. I do not; so that bucket went to the pit in the back 40. We had to clean Ms. Piggy, as she was full of mud. A good spraying with the hose and brushing required about 20 minutes. If you choose to scald and scrape the hair off the carcass, this is when you would do it. I did not scald nor scrape nor mess with the feet and toes, as those were going to be processed for doggie chews later.

Eviscerating the Carcass

Now comes the gory part-– eviscerating the carcass, or gutting the animal. Being short, I stood on a pallet and began getting the smelly guts out. It is very important to immediately hang the movable guts outside the carcass. By doing this, if anything tears the contents will fall outside of the carcass and not ruin the inside. At one point it seemed to me I was half way inside the hog carcass trying to get the remaining guts out. I think my son took a picture of my head and shoulders bent over inside the carcass while I stood on my toes. That’s really not my best look, however, so I’m not including it. Rather than list and show the gut parts, I will encourage those who will do the deed to read the book and memorize the pictures. I kept my book right next to where I was working so I could see the pictures. Now that I have seen the “real thing”, I know what I am looking at.

Hogs have layers of white fat that are easy to slice through. However, three or four inches of fat make it difficult to see what you are doing. Proceed very slowly and carefully with short shallow cuts from the butt to the sternum.

The Back End and Organs

At the back end of the hog, you will need to tie off the pee’er, bladder, and poop shoot, which are professionally called the pizzle and the bung, so that they hang outside the cavity. You absolutely don’t want them to drain inside the carcass. Finding these and getting through this was the hardest part of the entire process for me. My burly, tattooed, truck driving son was barfing in the woods at this point. So it was just this grandmother elbow deep in hog guts.

You do not want to puncture any of the guts; you want them to come out as intact as you can get them. There is a slight smell but nothing you can’t get through. If you are going to keep some of the offal (heart, lungs, liver, lungs, kidneys), this is when you do it. The “pluck” or heart and lungs, are closer to the front of the animal in a membrane attached with blood vessels close to the spine. If you want to keep the kidneys, you will need to “pop” them. They may have a lot of fat around them making them difficult to see, but you will need to cut them loose with a knife. I refer you back to book for the pictures.

Grandparents Used Every Part of Every Animal

My farming grandparents used every part of every animal, but these days “genteel” people are too manipulated by TV and social media to know what is good for them. Even my kids and grandkids run for the door when I tell them I’m cooking liver and onions. They would never eat brains in scrambled eggs. Instead of eating nutritious meals at home made from clean animals, they will go to some big city fancy restaurant and pay a fortune for an appetizer of “sautéed cerveaux.” Stupid is as stupid does. The folks in Venezuela would pay big money for the parts if they could get them.

Spitting the Carcass

Now, it is time to make a couple of decisions. Are you going to cut the entire head off, or are you going to cut and split the head? What tool are you going to use to split the carcass? Will you use a cleaver, meat saw, or reciprocating saw?

In my case, I was tired by the time we reached this point. So I just wanted to get ‘er done. We cut the entire head off with the reciprocating saw and then rinsed Ms. Piggy with the water hose. After she drained a bit, we braced the carcass on both sides. My son used the reciprocating saw, beginning at the butt and cutting along the spine all the way down.

We moved the tractor inside the barn and I sprayed the carcass with a vinegar and water mix. Since the temperature was dropping rapidly, I wasn’t worried about cooling. We closed up the barn. My son began the area clean up and took all the parts I didn’t want down to bury in the “pit” at the end of the property while I took all the tools up the house for cleaning. This was the close of day one.Then, after a shower, clean clothes, and a bowl of soup, everyone crashed.

Prepping to Butcher

The next morning, the temperature was 26°F and the carcass had cooled to 36°F. This was perfect! There were just two of us now. My son and I worked inside the barn, where we had electricity. We set up a tool table, buckets with plastic liners, two large coolers, a six-foot heavy duty work table, and the essential knife sharpener, rags, towels et cetera. I had my book close by so I could identify the various parts and see where to cut.

The hanging carcass, without the head, was over six foot. With a tarp on the ground and coolers in place, my son lowered the tractor bucket while I guided the carcass, one side at a time, to lay in each of the coolers. It was not a perfect fit, but it was close enough. We could then put one side on the work table to begin the butchering.


Any remnants of pig skin for dog chewies, poorly cut pieces which could be used for sausage making, or chunks of fat went to separate buckets. These were put in ziploc freezer bags and labeled for future use.

Basically, we cut the hind leg from the spine and separated the shoulder and front leg from the spine. What was left was the middle part of the carcass, which included the tenderloin, loin, ribs, and belly. There is a whole lot of work that goes into this. But to over-simplify, the legs are various types of hams. The shoulder is where the Boston butt and loin and shoulder roasts come from, while the center contains the tenderloin, chops, ribs, and belly (also known as bacon).

Tomorrow, I will continue telling about my butchering experience.

See Also:

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  1. When killing a hog I have found that using a handgun, holding the pig by the ears, and shooting at the spot determined by drawing a line from the eye to the opposite ear, (in other words where the lines cross) is the surest way for a humane, instant kill. Hogs are best processed at 230 pounds. Instead of skinning the hair can either be shaved off or burned off.

  2. You’re doing great. Last month I butchered a hog 1/2 of the size you just did. I like the smaller ones, much easier for me to handle, and there’s no fat so it’s healthier for you, almost as lean as venison. I was going to raise my own hogs but there are dozens of confinement farms with in a couple miles and if the farmers know you want a hog they’ll give you the runts for free when they empty the hog house…such a deal!
    I used to butcher all of my own big animals but now I have made friends with a local farmer who is a trained butcher with a little butcher shop on his farm. He butchers hogs, cattle and deer. The hogs and deer cost a case of beer and you have to help. It’s really nice to have a guy that knows what he’s doing on a professional level and has “real” butcher equipment. Even has a walk in cooler!

    1. Research rabbit starvation. It is not healthy to eat lean meat. The fat is essential to being able to digest the protein. This is why God called rabbit meat unclean.

      1. I had high triglycerides. Not eating grocery store pork got them back down to normal with out taking any voodoo drugs from the Doc. Now I can enjoy eating my own lean pork and still keep my triglycerides down.
        Sucks to get old….but it beats the alternative!

  3. Beef Liver and onions fried in BUTTER FLAVORED POPCORN OiL is great. Even the children like it. Removes the odors of cooking the liver: “are we having popcorn for supper?”

  4. Great article. Remember that after you get the guts out, and want to keep the heart and liver, you need to open up the heart by cutting into all 4 chambers and really clean out all of the clotted blood. I usually slice the heart up crosswise and wash each slice out in cold water before putting into the freezer bag. I keep a slice or two in the fridge for the next mornings breakfast with fried onions. On the liver is the gall bladder, and you need to be real careful when removing it. I have the newer hunters and butchers cut a lot of liver away so they insure they get it all off without busting it, and ruining the liver meat. If you have ever had one bust, you will understand why you don’t want to have it break. Once you get the hang of it, it is easy to get a sharp knife under the thin part, and ‘pull’ the gall off of the liver. Don’t leave it on the liver. I also gut the animal from the ‘bung’to the ‘tongue’, and split the pelvis with an axe or a saw. I gut the head down hanging animal in the first phase to the diaphram, and have the bowels hang outside while i ream the bung. Then cut the sternum with a saw, and cut up to the tip of the chin. Then i remove the chest organs, trachea and cut the tongue out along the teeth, and the toungue is removed with the trachea. This keeps the mouth end open, and allows me to insure that when i rinse out the chest cavity, everything can flow out of the mouth end freely. Then i keep the tongue to add to sausage, or for a great meal with garlic and onions.

    Great article, and a good idea to inform everyone about butchering an animal. You’d be surprized how many people can’t even butcher a rabbit or chicken.

    1. Murkan Mike, thanks for the lesson on the head. The next hogs we slaughter and butcher we will do the head like you said. I just didn’t have the energy or the knowledge that first time. But I did cut/pop the gallbladder off the kidneys.

  5. About 3 weeks ago, I butchered an older breeder boar. He was almost 600 pounds hanging weight at the butcher shop. All by my lonesome. I slaughter frequently for my family and friends. It’s interesting how many magically disappear on slaughter day!

    I used my .44 mag, 320gr , max charge (H110) right behind the ear. It worked perfectly! I also stuck and bled the critter at this point. I put the forks on the tractor instead of using a gambrel. Since I stuck and bled while he was on the ground, the draining process had to be finished once he was lifted. I did not scald and scrape either ( usually never do).

    Since I usually do this solo, I use a home made roller contraption that allows me to roll the victim side to side. It keeps the animal very steady right about waist height. I do not gut the critter until I have gotten the hide loose from the legs, chest and sides, down to the harder tallow fat on the back. I open the chest and neck, belly cavity, chop the aitch bone and tie everything off.

    When the animal is lifted again, I cut the tail loose and pull (hard) from the belly side. 95 percent of all the innards come right out with minimal effort. I then split the hide from tail to neck along the back; half a hide is much easier to maneuver that a whole one! All that needs to be done is to pull the hide off!

    Splitting was done with a saws all, and then the two halves were cleaned and trimmed for transport to the butcher. All unwanted parts went into a pile on the back 40 for the wild things.

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