Butchering A Pig – A How-To Video


Let’s be clear about a couple things. First, I’m no pro butcher. Nor am I suggesting this is ‘the’ way to cut a pig – I feel that boils down to how and what you cook. What it boils down to is this: I grew up butchering game meats, and one cold and stormy winter night, Charcuterie got it in my head that butchering a pig sounded AWESOME. Turns out, it continued to sound pretty awesome, but I didn’t have a venue to do it. Then I moved, about 2 years ago, and the pig cutting began.

First, I did a side. It took a long time, and resulted in some sore backs. So I built a work bench at 38″ [tables are often 30"], bought a few cheap knives. That side didn’t last long. Pork is versatile, tasty, and appeals to many. That next spring, I did 2 whole pigs, with a friend. That fall, we did 3 pigs, with another friend. I’ve got it figured now: a pig doesn’t last us a year. So prior to this coming order of 2 more Berkshires from Irvings Farm Fresh [that'll be side #14 from them in 2 years], I figured I’d do another side to get us through the fall and into the winter. So I made arrangements for a side from Nature’s Green Acres [check out how they raise their pigs here], and in an effort to dodge some inconvenience on their end, and help some folks out, I did the whole pig, and sold half to some friends at my cost: $2.30/lb or so, about 40% of retail.

Long have I wanted to post some video on this to de-mystify cutting your own meat. It’s not rocket science, and I feel that it is a practical way to get ethically raised, local meats into peoples’ homes for roughly the cost of what one would pay at a box-store – you just have to be willing to get your hands dirty. We now cut most of our meats into large ‘roasts’, as if we want steaks/chops/stew/whatever, they can all be cut from the appropriate roast. Saves time, keeps it flexible in the kitchen. We also leave our pig skin-on, fat-on. Both are very useful products, and are too often wasted. This is simply how we currently tackle it – enjoy.

15 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Awesome Kevin. Thanks for the look. Sarah and I are siting here watching, and chatting about the costs. It’s amazing. I think we may just be down if you ever put another order in..or for that matter, just want some help! I’d love to get my hands dirty.

  2. I am not surprised to see Chris so enamoured. He is a head to tail guy. I loved the video, Kevin. Loved the shot through the window, too. The bench is great. You make it look so easy. But, experience is a wonderful thing. I think we are somewhat alike in that I am self taught, too. I remember watching a video about how to cut a chicken and then I did it. It made perfect sense to me. That is small scale, but I was 18 or 19 and after that never paid for the cut up bird. I have never butchered a pig, but would love to assist. Vanja has agreed to do his pig this year – well, we will do 1/2 and cure and smoke about 1/2 of that. I will make sausages and we will smoke them. At least, that is the plan.

  3. Tim says:

    Loved the video Kevin.

    It was neat to see a pig broke down like that. I have seen many a beef slaughtered and cut, but the pig was new for me.

    I loved the shot of the pig in the car. Priceless!!

  4. bruce king says:

    I’m interested in the mechanics of how the pig gets to you. Who kills it, and where is the kill done? Particularly, how do they remove the hair, and what method do they use? For a typical pig, how many steps are there in the purchase process?

    Here in the USA the legalities dictate this path:

    I sell the customer a whole, live pig. (or a half) ($2.25/lb usd on the rail)
    the customer contracts with a licensed farm-kill company, who comes to the farm and kills the animal on their behalf ($50 usd), sticking and gutting the animal, and delivering the animal to a….
    licensed custom meat cutter, who cuts and wraps it. ($0.57/lb based on rail weight) and cures/smokes the relevant portions (an additional $0.57/lb).

    Having the pig scraped instead of skinned costs an additonal $60-80 usd, and as a producer I lose the weight of the skin as finished product (=20lbs more to sell on the rail than if the skin is off. )

    I’m curious about the process in canada.

  5. Chris – volunteers welcome!
    Valerie – can’t wait to hear how it goes!!!!
    Tim – glad you liked it ;)
    Bruce – I buy from farmer based on hook weight. Farmer books kill date at a local meat processor who does the kill. They kill it, chill it, scrape it, have it inspected, and I go pick it up – costs me $45-55 CDN. These outfits normally would also do the cut/wrap/process part too, it’s unusual to request what I get done, I’m think. That’s the end of it. If they were to process it, it would indeed cost more to cut/wrap/cure/smoke/whatever – one of the reasons I’m a fan of doing it myself – it adds up quick.

  6. Mel says:

    You make it look so easy in the video! This is something I’m definitely interested in doing as well, but I think I’d also like to volunteer at a future butchering first before I jump in solo.

  7. Mel – Trust me, it’s the editing. I took a couple hours of footage and crammed it into less than 4 minutes. It’s not ‘harder’ than it looks, but it certainly takes vastly longer than it looks. At least for me. I’ll add you to the volunteer list. ;)

  8. [...] was easily some of the most beautiful pork fat I have worked with – if not the best. The day we cut this pig, I marveled at it repeatedly. With more pig butchering dates on the horizon, a moose hunt coming [...]

  9. [...] He butchers his own animals and renders his own fat. I decided to render my own fat after eating the amazing pork belly I had at his house: pork belly confit. That led to a discussion about leaf lard and rendering one’s own fat for pastry. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I could have some of his rendered leaf lard, if I made him some pastry and pies. It went further than that, though: I rendered my own leaf lard and made 1 and 3/4 pounds of each lard into pastry: his, mine, and Tenderflake’s so that we could have a pastry tasting sometime later in the fall. [...]

  10. [...] First pig of the year was from Nature’s Green Acres. Second from Peck N  Berry Acres. This third round was from Irvings Farm Fresh – this time 2 pigs. This is decidedly my last pig butchering of the year because quite frankly, I’m tired of butchering pigs. Thankfully, it went extremely quickly – nearly twice as quickly as expected thanks to Allan‘s help. For those wondering why on earth we eat so many pigs, only one of these was our ‘annual pig’. The other, a friend’s. Last pig cutting was somebody else’s pig. And the first, we took about a side – last year’s lack of calf moose resulting in increased pork consumption. I’m thinking one pig a year should do us. [...]

  11. [...] Pork, then antelope, then pork, then moose, then pork, now beef. I’m at the point now that when finished cleaning down after butchering I lightly dread the next. Until I’m into the next one, that is – at which point it’s fun again. This one was particularly exciting as I’d long wanted to pick up a front quarter of top quality beef to appease my love for braised beef and big red wine – and Nature’s Green Acresnouveau beef, as they call it, is this year’s calf, harvested at the beginning of November – precisely how I prefer my game: largely milk fed, young, mild, and tender throughout. were the first to be happy to hook me up at a price I was good with. Their [...]

  12. [...] put this batch up last weekend – about a 5lb batch of pork saucisson sec, and a similar sized batch of calf moose saucisson sec. I’m also dry curing a [...]

  13. [...] It’s hard to believe it was only 2008 when I butchered my first side of Berkshire pig from the Irvings’ farm. It was the beginning of an adventure in charcuterie, and as I sit here about to make another batch of saucisson sec, I can’t help but feel grateful. Since that first side, we’ve done 18 – most from their farm, all done in my garage, generally done like this. [...]

  14. [...] and if I need it it’s cheap. In the world of value-ads I believe strongly in [gardening, butchering, charcuterie, etc], vinegar making has failed [...]

  15. LOVE LOVE LOVE! I want to do this someday!

    Kevin – is there any way you would be able to provide me with some details with which farmer and meat processor you use? Feel free to email me if you prefer. I’m from Calgary but would gladly make a day of picking up a pig to butcher. Now I just need to make sure we have room in our freezer!

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