Warning: this post contains graphic images and descriptions. If you’re going to get offended by knowing where meat comes from, don’t look!
We didn’t get as many pictures as we would have liked because we were so busy dealing with the pigs. Unexpectedly, in just 6.5 months, they had grown from about 3lbs to almost 200lbs.
We held back grain for about 12 hours before the morning of the slaughter. That morning, I put out their grain and Hannah stood ready. She shot Aggie twice with a .22 and I jumped in and slit her throat and stabbed the cartoid artery. Meanwhile, while Gertie was trying to figure out how to dodge her flailing sister and eat her grain at the same time, Hannah shot her too. They were gone fairly quickly, and for that we were grateful.
Next we had to drag the carcasses to the butchering station, cut off the heads, and hoist them up using our truck and a come-along.
It was a long, complicated process. Killing them and cutting the heads off was by far the easiest part of the job. For the first pig, the hoist mechanism didn’t get quite off the ground, which made skinning a bigger job. And skinning a hog is not like any other animal I’ve done–the closest thing I could imagine was that it was akin to skinning a whale.
We cut off the hams and shoulders, and then put the full rib cages, heads, and parts into fridges and freezers overnight.
For the second day of processing, we pulled everything out and began cutting it up. This involved a handy array of knives and manual saws. I will never do pigs again without an electric saw as it was very difficult to saw through bone by hand. We ended up not being able to get through the spine at all, so our chops were a little loose, but boy were they still gorgeous. We did chops, front ribs, spare ribs, baby back ribs, loin roasts, tenderloin roasts, shoulder roasts, shank roasts, sliced pork belly, whole pork belly waiting to be smoked, whole hams, leg roasts, picnic hams, and ground pork. We will try out some recipes before converting the ground pork to sausage.
We had two people for the killing, skinning, and piecing day and three people for general processing day. Yet we still had to take an extra evening to cut the shoulders and bag the hams. The biggest of the hams weighed over 18lbs! We don’t have a pig scale, but they’ve been estimated at about 175lbs live weight. We certainly had well over 100lbs of meat, which will be shared with friends and family in the form of Christmas presents.
Butchering your own pigs is definitely doable, but quite a bit of work. The reward is worth it: there will always be a couple of piglets in my yard from now on.