Got a phone call from a lady in Utah. She'd been reading my blog and came up with my number from somewhere, and had some basic pig questions that I talked about with her:
"When is the right time to slaughter a pig". She wanted to know what weight was appropriate, and had two problems: It takes some time to be able to judge pigs weight by eye, and this particular pig wouldn't stand still for her to use a pig tape on, so she really had no idea of how much it weight. So here's the long version of the short answer I gave her:
This is a pretty simple question. Anytime. My personal preference is for a pig that is 300-320lbs. This means that it'll probably have 1" or so of back fat, which is part of what I want from the pig. I use lard as my primary baking and cooking oil, and lard from pastured animals is particularly good tasting.
Here's weights of pigs and the primary uses my customers put them to:
5-10lbs Young suckling pig. This is a piglet that has had nothing but mothers milk. It's a traditional wedding meal for the bride and groom in some cultures, and is popular among pacific islanders in my experience. Spanish (as in: People from spain) and cubans also like pigs this small.
10-40lbs This is the favorite of pacific islanders and people who want a tradtional apple-in-the-mouth suckling pig. At the high end of this (30-40lbs) the piglet is weaned and eating solid food.
40-120lbs This is the bbq pig weight range, particularly for spit-roasted whole pigs. This size pig allows you to cook it through without having the outside be burned or overcooked. Bigger than this and you're talking about....
120-200lbs luau pig size: This size pig has been preferred by folks who are going to cut the pig into big chunks and slow cook it in a pit, as in a hawaiin luau.
Over 200lbs and you're getting into butcher pig sizes, which are usually cut into the retail cuts you're used to seeing at the supermarket. You can cut and wrap a smaller pig, (and I did that earlier this year for a customer who requested a 170lb live weight pig) but the pork chops were very small, as were the hams.
275lbs is a common live weight for intensively raised hogs. Most of the pork in the supermarket is sold at this weight. They'll commonly be very lean at this weight, having 1/2" or less back fat. I think that this lean isn't as tasty as....
300-350lbs. This was traditionally called a baconer, and is my favorite size. Good amounts of lard, good marbleing in the rossts and chops, and a good supply of lard for cooking purposes.
What was my answer to her question? "Tired of feeding it, and your freezer is empty? Now's a good time!"
18 hours ago