Pastured Pork

I would venture to say that our first attempt at raising pastured hogs was a success over-all. Like any of our new projects, there were some definite learning moments and we have plenty of ideas to implement in the coming season. Regardless, we picked up 4 piglets in April and brought 4 hogs to slaughter before the end of the year and the contents of the packages that came back from the butcher are delicious. So, yes, I’d call it a win!

We’ve had a lot of interest in pork, so we thought it would be informative and helpful to get information on the blog to give an idea of what you can expect when ordering pork from the farm.

Piglets on pasture. On their way to the woods to live for the summer.

Piglets on pasture. On their way to the woods to live for the summer.

First, a quick note on how our pork was raised. Like all the animals on the farm, our hogs are moved periodically to fresh ground. This summer, they moved about once every week and a half. The schedule is determined by the effect they have on a specific piece of ground and the weather. Pigs are omnivores, so in addition to rooting for treats at ground level, eating brush and grasses, they are also fed a prepared ration and grain, free choice. A multi-strand electric fence keeps the pigs safe from predators and allows us to coordinate their behavior to the benefit of the farm. The hogs helped to clear brush ahead of Dave, so that he could get into these areas to clean deadfall and debris left by previous owners of the property. This will allow us to open up the wooded area  to create a savannah-like environment with ample shade, but enough sun to get a good pasture established so that we can bring other animals through the area to graze.

We accidentally had the opportunity to try two different slaughterhouses in the area. While we were preparing for our first appointment in Langdon, two of the four pigs refused to load into the trailer. We ended up having to wait until the day before Thanksgiving to take the remaining hogs to slaughter in Aneta. This was actually a good experience as each establishment has their own way of doing things, including different recipes for curing cuts like ham, bacon and sausage. This also gave us some insight into pricing for processing and what you get for those prices.

Cuts going to the customer from 1/2 a 291 pound hog

Cuts going to the customer from 1/2 a 291 pound hog

These hogs were sold to the customer based on liveweight, either as a 1/2 hog or a whole hog at $2.10/pound. At slaughter, they ranged from 270 to 320 pounds, with the later slaughtered hogs coming in over the 300# mark. An average to plan for would be between 250 to 300 pounds.

When we bring the animals to the butcher, the customer owns the whole animal. You pay the butcher based on the hanging weight of your animal. This is the weight after slaughter, minus the blood and innards. You get the best value for your dollar by asking for and planning to use, every part of the animal available. Some of the cuts that most of us would not be used to using are the hocks, heart, liver, fat and bones. Other oddments may be available, but we didn’t think to ask. There are a multitude of ways to use these parts of the animal like making lard for cooking, stews and soups. Sugar Mountain Farm has some useful information on cuts of pork.

The customer calls into the butcher to let them know what they want from their portion and what kind of curing should be done with hams, bacon and sausage. There are many either-or choices and both of the shops we worked with gave a choice and can quote current prices on the curing. We did find that per-pound, Langdon was a bit cheaper for processing costs. It seemed that Aneta gave a few more choices on the either-or cuts like shoulder steaks vs. roasts. I did like the way Aneta packaged the cured items: hams and bacon were vacuum sealed and the sausage was unstuffed. All the cuts from Langdon were in butcher paper, save the sausage which was stuffed in casings then vaccum sealed. Aneta uses less salt when curing hams, which we prefer. We also enjoyed the seasoning in their sausage recipe, though we haven’t tried the sausage from Langdon yet. We did trade a customer for a pound of bacon from Langdon, but we haven’t done a side by side comparison on that yet.

Pork shoulder steak

Pork shoulder steak

Here are some examples of what you can expect to get from a pastured hog.  Note: this has been edited to reflect the prices paid by our customers to give a clearer picture of how it breaks down. The weights of cut and wrapped packages is approximate. The butcher facilities didn’t mark the packages, so we weighed them on our home scale which is not certified.

Half a 291# hog (101 # hanging weight)

7.25 # of bacon

14.8  # cured sausage

18.4# cured ham

14.1 # chops

3# spare ribs

15.8# roasts

Price paid to the farm: $274.05

Processing fee in Langdon: $98.15

Other half (103# hanging)

6.4# bacon

11.8# ground pork (no curing)

18.9 # cured ham

15.3# chops

3.7# spare ribs

17.7# roasts

3.63# smoked hocks

14 # fat

4.3# liver

Price to Square Peg: $337.05

Processing Langdon: $88.05

270# hog (196# hanging)

15# bacon

23.8# sausage

16.6# cured ham

16.7# fresh ham

26.7# chops

5.4# spare ribs

29.6# roasts

Square Peg Price: $567.00

Langdon processing: $172.45

310# hog  (260# hanging)

23# bacon

23.3# sausage

45.5# cured ham

31.1# chops

9# spare ribs

7# country style ribs

20.6# roasts

8.5# shoulder steaks

Square Peg price: $651.00

Aneta processing: $325.25

320# hog (250# hanging)

12.9# bacon

11.4# side pork (uncured pork belly)

17.8# ground pork

24.1# cured ham

27.3# chops

8.1# spare ribs

5# country style ribs

37.56# roasts (includes fresh hams)

9# shoulder steaks

7.5# smoked hocks

23.6# fat

8.6# liver

Farm price: $672.00

Aneta processing:$303.65

Please note that the last two pigs, over 300 #, are larger than we intended, due to our inexperience in loading such large, smart and stubborn animals. We don’t expect to have such large animals at slaughter in the future.

Using two separate shops was unintentional this year, we have not decided yet if we will give an option of slaughterhouses or choose just one. It may depend on the number of hogs we have orders for. Feel free to contact us with questions if you’d like more detail on the breakdown of prices, though they may change from year to year.

We will be sending out order forms to plan for how many hogs and other livestock we’ll have on the farm this summer. Please contact us if you’d like to be on the mailing list.

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