Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Slaughter info from email question

I got this question as a comment on this previous blog post.

Hi there, just about to process two pigs and was interested in viewing the video that the comments are about. The link however no longer has video on the website, is there somewhere else that it can be found?Darren NZ, newstart@xtra.co.nz

First, I want to thank Al Stevens and Sylvana Meats for letting me take pictures of them working, and for doing a great job for me when I need a farm kill. I can't say enough good things about Al. He's on time, he's quick, and he's dependable. I really like the service he provides.
If you'd like a farm kill done in the King/Snohomish county area, I'd really recommend him. You can reach him through Sylvana meats, at the number above. Al handles all animals -- beef, pigs, sheep and goats being the most common, but buffalo and others as well.

I took pictures when we were doing a farm kill of a pig of the middle part of the process.
What's happened before this sequence of pictures: The pig was shot with a .22 calibre rifle. The bullet was aimed at the center of an X formed by drawing a line from the ear to the opposite eye. You aim at where the two lines cross. I prefer to aim along the line of the body of the pig, so that the bullet ends up in the body cavity. After the shot, the pig is "stuck"; you can see the wound in the neck caused by this.

To "stick" a pig, I use a long knife, about 10" long. I turn the pig over on its back immediately after shooting. Using my hand I find the breastbone on the pig. Reach up and feel YOUR chest immediately below your chin -- feel that lowest part? that's what I find on a pig.

You insert the knife to the backbone, keeping it as straight as you can, with the edge of the knife towards the head of the pig. You then draw a line up the backbone until you get a substantial gush of blood. If you don't, check your angle, withdraw the knife about an inch, and repeat the motion.
So the pig has been shot and stuck, and then carried over to the truck. First step is to hose it off with some hot water to get any loose dirt off.
After the cleaning, the legs get cut off.

They use a big cleaver to cut off the back legs. Al, holding the legs, is a trusting individual. Notice that they've skinned the legs a little here. They've removed the hide down to the swell of the ham.

"Skinning the belly is where you have to be really careful with a pig", says Al. "You want to cut as close to the skin here as possible, so that the customer gets the full measure of bacon. "

One side done, he works down the other side. Notice that the penis sheath is under his wrist in this shot. He leaves it on at this stage, skinning away from it.
Using long strokes of the skinning knife, he's pulling the hide away as he works the skin off the belly.
With the skin off the belly, the focus shifts to the front legs and neck, carefully taking the skin off that area.

This is a shot of the front leg as the skin is removed. Lovely white fat on this pig. Perfect.

Moving to the other side, the skin is worked off the pig and laid out. What's important here is that the "meat" side of the skin stay clean. The hide continues to be worked off.

The hide is off all of the legs and most of the neck, and is only attached along the back and spine. Al uses a knife to cut the fat and muscle above the breastbone here.

Al uses his powersaw to cut through the breastbone after the fat and muscle has been cut by knife. This is after the powersaw cut.

The pig is hoisted by attaching a singletree to the hocks.

As the pig is hoisted they take care that none of the outside of the skin touch the meat. It's being slowly hoisted here.

With the pig in the air, the final skinning takes place. They skin the sides, leaving about a 12" section attached down the spine. They loosen the hide at the rear of the pig, about 18" down.
Now they take a big handful of the skin and PULL and PULL the skin off the back of the pig. In this picture the tail is still attached to the pig -- they cut it off below skin level.

A little more pulling and the hide comes off the back, and down to the back of the head and ears.
One last tug, and then some more skinning.

Here they're skinning the top of the head and jowls, cutting the ears off.

The last thing attached is the snout. Here it's being cut free.
At this point Al opens up the body cavity. You can see the guts just below his left elbow. He's reaching into the body cavity and carefully cutting around the anus and pulling it through and out.

With the carcass gutted, he brings out the power saw to cut the pig in half.

You want your halves to be as even as you can make it, so you follow the spine down, keeping your blade centered. I've cut carcasses like this with a hand meat saw. takes about 5 minutes to cut by hand, but this saw makes this cut in 30 seconds.

To lubricate the saw they spray more hot water on the carcass. This is a nice, fat pig. The meat shows good marbling as well. As a producer, I like to watch my animals go so that I can check their condition and quality. I can then compare it against what the animal looks like live.

They stop the saw when they get to the pigs head and use that big cleaver for the final split. Whack! Whack!

Probably 3" of back fat on this hog.
A US quarter is 1" in diameter. Yep, 3" of back fat. Nice fat young hog.

Loaded on the truck, it's off to be cut and wrapped for the customer.


Walter Jeffries said...

Excellent series of photos. I'm always interested in seeing how others do things. On the feet I use a small knife between the bones of the joint rather than the cleaver - one difference.

On the .22, I find that it enters the brain but does not pass further, e.g., doesn't go into the body cavity.

Some fat questions: Are you breeding and feeding for the 3" of back fat? Is that a goal? Do you render the fat to lard? Do you find much market for it? How do you compare the economics of producing that and selling it vs the lean?

Over on my blog post about Mint and Watermelons you asked how to tell if the melons are ripe.

These were ripe because I needed the place where they were growing in the south end shed for fall sow farrowing. This was one of those times when you go up to the watermelon and say, "You are ripe" and pick it. Besides, the frosts are here and watermelon is not fond of frost. We got touched.

Actually, I don't know. I just had to pick them. They do have that hollow thump sound that I normally associate with a ripe watermelon, even the little one. So now I need to open them and we'll see if they're ripe or not... They sort of got incidentally included in the mint photo.

Bruce King said...

Hungarians and Ukranians and Russians, Mexicans, Guatamalans and other ethnic groups all prefer a fat pig. They render and use the lard as their primary cooking/baking fat and they want the fat for use in salamis and other cured sausage products. Italians cure the back fat in big chunks and call it lardo. It's difficult for them to find a fat pig, so my having a few of them around at any given time allows me to meet that demand.
It's a bit more expensive to raise a pig that fat. The other area where I'm at an economic disadvantage is that the skin is removed, so the customer isn't paying for the skin weight, as they might at other producers.
I select and breed for a fatter pig; my herd at this point is 30-50% berkshire mix; a tastier pig to me than the duroc/hampshire cross that I'm transitioning from.
Hope your watermelon turns out better than mine. We haven't had frost yet, so I'm probably good leaving them on the vine for another 3 weeks.

reighngold said...

Hi Bruce,
How do you get crackling on a pig if you remove the skin? That's like the best part! Ok well all parts are great but that's one of the best. If a client wanted would you leave the skin on, or at leat part of it?

BTW thanks for showing the reality of what is gong on. As a consumer of meat in general I don't think we see enough of what our food is. It's a pig, and it was cute, not it's tasty. Good to see that highlighted here.

Bruce King said...

As a producer, I'd rather sell the pigs skin-on -- when they're skinned I lose valuable weight, and I lose a class of customer that wants the skins -- like you.

Certain cures and cuts also want the skins on. If you're curing a ham as proscuitto, for instance, or if you're smoking a country ham, they're traditionally done as skin-on.

I haven't been able to find someone that does a good scald and scrape in this area. The machines that do that are about $10k. The farm kill guys that offer scraping generally burn the hair off, which leaves black soot and variations in color. I've done it by hand for the pigs that I eat, because I like the skin, same as you, but it takes 3 man hours per hog, and people are generally unwilling to pay for it.