Archive for the ‘Butchering Pork’ Category

Episode 56 – Pig Day


Pig Day. This was my 5th annual pig day – the one day a year we spend putting up all the pork we’ll eat for the entire year. If we run out, one waits until the next pig arrives. This site is long enough in the tooth to have documented the 1st annual Pig Day. I’m sure it will document many more.

This one was particularly memorable. Twitter made me aware of rock-star-in-hiding Elyse Chatterton, a Master Butcher from the UK with some serious meat cutting skills. A half bottle of wine made me brave enough to invite her. After that, a number of invitations went out to friends, and we all of a sudden had a crew of 12 and 10 sides of Tamworth for 2012′s Pig Day – including the farmers that raised the pigs. A full day of sharing, cutting beautiful pork, hard work, eating, drinking, with the air wafting with wood smoke and conversation. Not sure there’s more one can ask for.

The video features Elyse talking through how she’s accustomed to breaking down a pork, UK-style, and Shannon Ruzicka speaking to how the pigs are raised. And yes there was some roast tying race action. And yes, she won with ease.

Episode 50 – Pork Butchery Workshop V1.0


Jeff Senger of Sangudo Custom Meats

If only 2002 Kevin knew this was coming in 2012. 10 years ago I lived in a condo, fondling my tattered copy of ‘Charcuterie’, longing for an opportunity to get my hands on a whole hog to do even just a few of the myriad of possible delicious preparations pork offered – many of which you can do at home but money can’t otherwise buy. But I had no space to do it. I had nobody to show me the way. I’d never met a pork farmer who I could ask to hook me up. In the spring of 2008, I had moved into our current home, and the previous winters’ pent up porcine desires meant its garage was pre-destined to witness many a pig butchering. 4 years on, many sides and porkventures later, and after a few pints of beer with Jeff Senger tossing around the idea, here we are putting on a pig butchery workshop. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no master at breaking down a side – but mastery was not the objective here. Instead my hope was to give folks that were in a position I recall all too well a crack at breaking the ice. To give them a shot at seeing pig go from live on the hoof to wrapped and packed in the freezer, largely by their own hand. Pig Butchery 101, down and dirty.

Huge thanks to Jeff Senger and Allan Suddaby for putting their heart into it and sharing their expertise throughout the day. An equally huge thanks to those who came, who took the leap. I think it was a day all involved will remember for a long, long time. And yes, we’re talking about maybe doing more. Maybe even a beef butchery workshop. Maybe.

About This Much…


Interesting question came up this week on Twitter in response to my writing about the economics around butchering your own beef. The question was, how is somebody with limited space supposed to go about butchering and storing an animal?? Fantastic question. And I get it. I show pictures of quarters hanging in my cellar [convenient, but unnecessary], butchering in my garage [did elk and beef in my kitchen this fall], etc. What it boils down to is butchering an animal doesn’t have to take much space, and can be tackled by the downtown condo dweller with the gumption to do it. Here’s an example.

In this rubbermaid bin is a side of pork I cut last night. Started at 7pm, was done by 9ish [hey, that's not much time commitment, is it?]. It was all cut on a counter space the size of a dining room table. That entire side of pig, albeit not the hugest of pigs, resides in the bin you see right there. Doesn’t even fill it. Having lived in an apartment condo a few years ago, I’m rather kicking myself for not knowing this before, because I’m quite sure I could have dealt with a side of pig with a standard fridge freezer and some planning. For example: rather than freeze the fat, simply render it the next day and toss it in the fridge. Rather than do large bone-in cuts, de-bone it. Plan to make a batch of sausage the day after butchering, which would relieve the freezer of a 5 lb bag of trim. Partake in our new family tradition of doing a pig head roast the day of [most pigs come sans-head anyway if that grosses you out]. And if all that failed, I could have easily found a friend to split it with, in which case I’d have had loads of room for a 1/4 pig. Our next door neighbours had a small apartment sized deep freeze, solving their storage constraint.

Turns out this pig was raised by a friend of a friend of a friend, who happened to have too many pigs for their winter barn. Figured I’d grab a side to do some charcuterie experimenting with. This pig side cost me $80, and it wasn’t the first opportunity I’ve had at an extremely inexpensive pig. $80/roughly 60 lbs = about $1.33/lb. I challenge you to compare that to Walmart’s pricing. Not suggesting cheap is king, just that if cheap’s your barrier to local food – or space – there are solutions.

Meat Law


I am not a lawyer. Did I mention I’m not a lawyer? Sadly, I feel apprehensive to discuss law as it implies somebody will misinterpret this, act upon it [ie, do something stupid], and point to me as the source of their lack of awesomeness. Yeah, don’t do that please. I’m addressing this topic to try to share some of what I’ve learned in the past week about butchering at home, and to have an open discussion about it.

I first will refer you to the Acts, as I was: the Meat Inspection Act and Meat Inspection Regulation are the relevant pieces of legislation. These would presumably be the last word on the subject,  but as if often the case with law even after a few reads it was far from clear where the boundaries were for home butchering. I sought interpretations from the investigator at Alberta Ag that is probably sick of hearing from me by now.

The conclusion I reached based on what I was told, was that one can butcher inspected pork, beef, etc at home without permit or license, but that said meat cannot be given or sold, and is only to be used for one’s immediately family. I can’t find the legal verbage in the Act to support some of this [especially the 'give' part], but as aforementioned, I’m not a lawyer, and am relying on guidance from the Regulatory Services Division of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. One needs a Public Health Permit for the premises if one is processing for resale – makes sense. One cannot obtain uninspected meat direct from a local farm. [If I'm later told I'm misinformed about anything in this paragraph, I'll edit this immediately]

There is one clear exemption pertaining to uninspected meat – section 6.2(b) of the Meat Inspection Regulation clearly excludes wildlife as defined under the Wildlife Act. So I read the Wildlife Act. Section 62(1) says ‘a person shall not traffic in wildlife’, and although they go on to define ‘traffic’, it did not mention ‘give’. So I called a Fish and Wildlife officer to get an interpretation of ‘traffic’. First, he was clear that I could give away game meat. Note the difference – can’t give away inspected domestic meat, but can with game meat. I find that odd. Secondly, he was clear that any exchange for cash or other form of consideration could be deemed trafficking. I grew up knowing the sale of wild game meats was illegal – so this was not news to me. Reaching a conclusion on the wild game side was relatively easy – far easier than wading through the domestic meat side.

So at the end of the day, having burned a week of my time reading meat legislation and talking to those charged with enforcing those laws, I’m pleased with where my practices stand relative to the law. Which…I was before hand. Glad everyone’s happy. If you’re left unsure, contact Alberta Ag re: domestic animals and Fish and Wildlife re: wild game – they’ll be able to answer your questions better than I.

Investigated by AARD re: Butchering At Home


I just got an interesting phone call. It was a very nice guy from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Regulatory Services Division investigating my home butchering practices. Apparently my home butchering has gained enough public attention to draw some question as to the legalities of what I’ve been doing? Interesting. I thought I’d share the content and outcome of the conversation as it is relevant to my advocacy for home butchering.

The big question it seems was whether or not I’m buying meat, and then reselling it butchered, which most folks reading my blog would know is not the case. There clearly are regulations for meat processing facilities when the product is for resale, and I don’t think anybody [or at least I didn't think anybody] is under the impression that I’m running a butcher/meat shop in my garage and am charging for my services. The good news for home butchering is that so long as it’s for your consumption, you’re allowed to go ahead and do it. Apparently I’m on side. No problems there.

But that led me to a question: my friends and I buy 3 pigs from a local farm, and I write the cheque to the farmer when I pick them up – when my friends pay me for their share/pig, is that then deemed to be me selling processed meat? We’re cutting it together, and folks leave with their share. I was assured that there was no problem with this practice, some common sense would apply, and that it would still be clear that I am not in the business of selling value-added meats. There is no problem with me getting together with friends to butcher.  Good. I would hope not, but was interested if having the friends actually pay the farmer themselves for their animal would be a better practice.  I was assured there was no problem with my existing approach.

I was then asked whether or not I was getting animals via going to the farm, harvesting them there, and bringing them home. As I usually mention in the posts about the butchering, we pick our animals up from a local meat processor, who do the kill/chill, have it inspected, and we take the carcasses from there. Totally legit practice. Carcasses need to be inspected – totally get that. I’m all for that. No butchering of uninspected domestic meats, check.

So the conclusion was that what I’ve been doing was fine according to the law of the land. I have the contact name and number of the nice guy doing his job that called to investigate my practices. If you live in Alberta and have any question about your home butchering practices, I’ll be happy to pass his name on to you so that we can be doing the best we can to be on side with any regulations around it. I know I’m glad I have his number in case I have questions myself.

I have to admit, I’m left wondering who led the provincial regulatory body to believe that I might need to be investigated. I asked twice, but didn’t really get an answer. Interesting.


From Local Farms – Irvings Farm Fresh


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.

Alan and Nicola are wonderful, hard working folks tackling not only the animal husbandry business, but the meat processing  side as well – specializing in British sausages and cured products they grew up with. They’ve filled a void in the charcuterie game around here, no question, and it’s keeping them busy. So busy that a lot of the pork they process is from other local farms – something Nicola talked about on camera, but didn’t make the edit.

In this video, Nicola talks about Berkshires, feed, what got them started, and shares some frustration about a general lack of understanding on the consumer’s part about nitrites [which I share]. One piece that got me quite excited is their plan to start rotational pasturing their pigs on their 80 acres – when they do, I’ll be writing about it.

Cinder & Ella - our fall pigs

Pig Butchering, Round 3


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.

I am in the process of editing the footage from my visit to Irvings Farm Fresh, and was really glad to get the opportunity to visit the farm, ’cause man are they busy. I got to meet the pigs that we butchered too, which is an interesting consumer experience. To add to the fun, the pigs we got were Cinder and Ella – the resident pigs from Fort Edmonton Park, believe it or not. So those little piggies my girls [and many other folks] played with during the summer at the park will be feeding our family through the winter. No, we have not told our toddler girls just yet.

Below – part of our November ‘al fresco’ butchering day lunch I won’t soon forget.

Pig Butchering, Round 2: Peck N Berry Acres


Boo. Happy Halloween. Figured the scary head shot was appropriate today of all days.

Another day of butchering pig has come and gone, this time a Berkshire. Few self reminders: the sides weighed 45kg a piece, it took 4 hrs from start to finish with a crew of 4, and cutting a pig is tough when you spent that same morning butchering an antelope, and stayed up a tad too late the night before enjoying the company of some lovely folks. Wish I had more time to write about this…but I don’t.

So 2 pigs down, 1  antelope down, and if all goes to plan, I’ll be butchering a moose in a few days. I leave in the morning, but first, I’m off to Irvings Farm Fresh to check out their farm and shoot a ‘From Local Farms ‘ episode. Stay tuned.

Blood Sausage


Allan Suddaby called me. He had ordered blood to make some sausage, and rather than getting a bit of blood, he got, well…a lot of blood. A big pail of it. So I offered to help him make sausage. This was our adventure.
[ps. I'm going to hope Allan weighs in either in the comments or on his blog about his thoughts on the process.]

Blood Sausage Fest


I just spent the day with a bucket of blood and good company. Full video action coming soon.