Saturday, January 22, 2011

ruminations on slaughter

One of the blogs that I follow, farm folly, just slaughtered their first two pigs.  I wrote this in the comments section of their posting.  You can find their posting and all of the comments here

"...Regarding shooting and sticking; with a proper shot the animal will just fold at the knees and fall over. you’ve got about 10 seconds to make the stick before the thrashing starts; much safer to stick the animal quickly and then step back. 5, 10, 15, 30 seconds — not much difference as long as the heart is beating when the arteries are cut. The shot doesn’t kill the pig; it just renders it insensible.

With respect to location, as the producer you can control that. Next time have the pigs penned in the area you’d like them to be killed when the guy shows up. I like to shoot/stick on a bed of coarse wood chips, but clean grass is good. The key issue is to have the last day be the same as every other day, so you can do that by choosing your kill area and having that be an occasional treat feeding area. Like a corner of your pen with a hog panel across it. Every week or two open the panel, toss an apple or carrot or whatever in there, and let them get used to that routine. Last day, when the farm kill guy comes, toss an apple in, close the panel behind, and you’re all set.

For hanging weight, if you’d like to save some money, have them remove the kidneys and the caul fat and leaf lard before transport to the meat shop. Consider taking the head off as well. most of the meat on the head is in the jowls, which make really tasty bacon, and those can be trimmed off pretty easily, so you’ll get most of the value of the head without having to pay cut-and-wrap fees for the skull and brain weight.

Leaf lard is very special stuff. Don’t discard it. Spectacular for making pie crusts and pastries and for baking in general.

Most folks that I’ve taught slaughter to are hesistant about the initial kill (“what if I miss?”) but not so much about the field dressing (skin, gut, split). What you will have a difficult time learning by yourself is how to inspect the organs and carcass for signs of disease, parasites or infection. Stuff like abcesses are obvious, but liver flukes are not. Butchering your own animal gives you invaluable feedback about their condition, too. How much back fat? How much intermuscular? How big are the loins? You can use that information to make decisions about your husbandry.

Finally, and generally, if you are considering hogs as part of your live-off-the-land exercise, consider feeding the hogs to a higher weight than you would normally. 100 years ago the primary value of a hog was the fat, and it is still prized worldwide. Properly done, a nice fat hog will provide all of the fat your household needs for an entire year. Lard, soap, lubricant, fat for frying, all sorts of uses. "


Across The Creek Farm said...

real good advice Bruce

Ron said...

After using a .22 revolver that just wasn't enough (I think mainly due to short barrel), I switched to using a 20-gauge slug. WAY overkill, but better to overdo than under do, I think.

It doesn't seem matter if the hog has a 1" hole in its head. The heart pumps just fine, and the carcasses have no blood in them. My guess is that it has to do with the nature of a heart, still beating even if the brain quits working.

I've considered using a .22 rifle we have, but we only do or plan to do two per year, so I might just stick with what works.


Erica Gomez said...

If the bullet enters the brain cavity, is the brain still usable as offal?

Bruce King said...

I'd say no; might be traces of lead in it. most folks don't eat it; both a combination of cultural and concern about nervous system tissue issues.

The alternative to a bullet is either a captive bolt, carbon dioxide or electric shock. Those are the only legal slaughter methods in wa. State. A .22 rifle is about $100 and doesn't require any supporting services. A captive bolt is either compressed air or electric, and electric stun requires service.

So if you're going to legally (and humanely) slaughter your own meat a bullet is my first choice.

Kevin Kossowan said...

Interesting point to remove some items - esp the weighty head - prior to sending to a butcher where you'll be paying by hook weight for cut/wrap costs. Smart. My suggestion on the head is to throw it in the oven [split] and pull all the meat, which is quite a few lbs. Roast head has become our butcher-day tradition...not because of cost but because it's a pain to store.