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.
- 1 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 1, by Animal House
- 2 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 2, by Animal House
- 4 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 4, by Animal House
- 5 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 5, by Animal House
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part one of a five part entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.