Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Big Pig Day is Set

Our second big moment of truth as farmers is coming next week - we will harvest the pigs. Our first moment of truth was harvesting the chickens. But it is not nearly as easy to know and become fond of 200 roosters as individuals as it is two sweet sows. Of course this is all part of the cycle of farm life, and we did get these pigs knowing that they would be food, and we certainly can't afford to keep them as pets - but still, it will be hard.

My bedtime reading the past week has been "The Compassionate Carnivore," by Catherine Friend (a sheep farmer from nearby Zumbrota) and it has been the perfect preparation for this aspect of farming. The book is fascinating, compelling and not preachy. Friend's four steps to being a more compassionate carnivore are:
1. Pay attention! Know where your meat comes from.
2. Waste less meat (Friend estimates that the amount of meat Americans throw away every day = 7500 cattle, 18,000 hogs and 1 million chickens. How can anyone, even a carnivore, think it is ok for this many animals to be slaughtered, then wasted?)
3.Replace factory meat with meat from animals raised humanely.
4. Choose meatless meals over meat from animals raised in factories.

This issue is much broader than just providing animals with a good life. Eating as a compassionate carnivore supports local farmers and strengthens farmer-community relationships. Raising animals on small-scale, sustainable farms is also much easier on the environment than concentrating them in huge feedlots on factory farms.
There is no question that Sara's pigs have led a most pleasant life -- exploring a quarter acre of woods; wallowing in a huge mud puddle of their own construction; feasting on 3 meals a day of antibiotic-free grain, garden produce, and fresh milk from the neighbor's dairy; hobnobbing with a flock of friendly chickens who chose to reside with them, and enjoying daily conversations and belly-rubs from Sara.

Our much-more experienced farmer-hunter-neighbor will assist us with the slaughter, right here on the farm. The pigs won't be herded onto a truck, scared and stressed. Their lives will be idyllic up to the very last minute. We will thank them for the great enjoyment they have given us as farmers and for the sustenance they are about to provide (and I know I will cry anyway.)

These pigs have been Sara's project from the very beginning,and she is being very professional and matter-of-fact about everything. She is now taking orders. If you are interested, here are the details she sent out:

I will be harvesting my two pigs at the end of the month, and am offering half and whole hogs for sale for $2/lb hanging weight. This is an economical way to stock your freezer: I expect each pig to have a hanging weight somewhere around 215 lbs, and to yield around 170 lbs. of meat, so a half hog (around 85 lbs. of meat) will cost around $215, and the per-pound price for the meat would work out to around $2.50-2.60, not including the cost of processing.

The pigs will be processed at Burt's Meats in Eyota. Burt's charges $0.37/lb hanging weight for custom butchering, plus $0.25/lb for any meat you want ground, and $0.85 for any meat you want smoked. They have a huge variety of sausage seasonings and curing options. You would pay Burt's directly for the processing, and they'll do it to your specifications. (As an example, if you buy a 108 lb. half-hog, the butchering will cost you $40. If you want to smoke 30 lbs. of ham and bacon, add $25.50, and if you want to grind 10 lbs. for sausage, add $2.50, for a total processing fee of $68).

Just to give you an idea of the kinds and proportion of cuts that a hog yields, my pig book says a pig with a hanging weight of 180 lbs will yield about 44 lbs of ham, 36 lbs of loin chops, 12 lbs of picnic roasts, 13 lbs Boston butt roasts, 28 lbs bacon, and 7lbs spare ribs. (My pigs are a bit bigger than this).

The pigs have been raised on grain, milk, vegetable scraps, and forage, and have spent their lives in a large wooded enclosure with their own shed and swimming pool (although they usually preferred to dump it out and wallow in the mud). For pictures, check out the blog:

If you have any questions or would like to place an order, give a call.


Marie said...

isn't it amazing how much we as a society waste every day -- we've been on a campaign to buy less -- waste less -- so far it's working -- and we really don't notice a difference
mr renter gives me a small pig every year and the finished product is a lot....we share with the neighbors and we still end up with a lot of pork!
keep up the good work!

Becky said...

I know it'll be hard but what an amazing example you're setting. Those pigs have had a better life then any pig could hope for. You know exactly what you're getting when you raise your own. I hope to be able to do that one day when I have enough land.

Liz said...

Hooray for local small-scale meat! i am so impressed at you and your daughter's endeavor! Wish i was close enough to order some of your compassionate pork ;)

Susan Tomlinson said...

There's a ranch up in our panhandle that sells free-range, sustainably grown beef, pork, and chicken. They take orders and then come down here once a month and hand them out in a local hardware store parking lot. I keep thinking I should place an order, but I don't actually eat/cook a lot of meat (husband is a vegetarian) and I worry that my order will either be too small or take up too much room in the freezer.

Your post is motivating me to go ahead and try it, though. At the very least, I want to support the rancher's efforts. Let you know how it all turns out.

Meantime, kudos to you and your daughter for doing this.