Adult 4-H: The Hog Slaughter Appointment

WARNING! This might be considered by some to be gross, inappropriate, or tragic, but I think it is extremely important share the how’s, what’s and why’s of our food. If you have any questions about anything you see please ask – I love to share about the ranch.

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As I shared with you before, our hogs have been slaughtered. That was the whole reason we bought the hogs, to eat them. They were not pets. We never planned on keeping them. They would not have existed at all if they did not perform this function. I chose this particular breed of hog because it is a critically endangered heritage hog. I wanted to use this blog to hopefully encourage other producers and ranchers to investigate the red wattle, tamworth, or hereford hog, to raise! And since I know that happened, I feel really happy about this whole project!

I now see people use the term slaughter and harvest interchangeably. While I attended Chico State, our professor, Dr. Dave Daley, urged us to use the word harvest. And at the time that made sense to me. For me when I think of the word harvest, I think of harvesting a crop, and that usually brings up a very pretty picture in my head, like a beautiful field of golden wheat. But when I asked Dr. Grandin about what word she uses, she said slaughter. I see that point too – slaughtering an animal is not often pretty, there is blood and smells. It’s not an idyllic act. By using the term “harvest” I feel like we are disrespecting both the animal whose life we are taking and our consumer by trying to gloss over something that more people should be able to see and participate in, the raising and slaughtering of our own food.

Now that the slaughter is over I’ve had some time to reflect on my time with the hogs. I deeply enjoyed them, that is true. Did I love them like a pet? No. I enjoyed having a job on the Ranch that was completely mine. I liked cooking food for them and watching as my rations changed how they grew, it was almost like one giant science experiment for me, with bacon as a reward.

We had the hogs slaughtered on the Ranch. It’s called custom exempt slaughter. Animals that are slaughtered this way are not for the public’s consumption. This meat will be strictly for my friends and families enjoyment. I prefer this method of slaughter because the animals never have to leave their home. In the hog’s case, one second they were asleep in the sun, and the next they were gone.

Jake bring the dead hog to the truck to be processed.

Jake bringing the dead hog to the truck to be processed.

Our Butcher, Dave, uses a small caliber rifle to shoot the hog directly in the head. One shot and the hog is immediately dead. Dave then swiftly slits the hog’s throat to bleed it out. One thing I think a lot of people do not realize (because we are very disconnected from death) is when a healthy living being is shot and killed the muscles still have energy. This makes the body thrash and move, again this is something that the movies, TV and video games never show. For people that have never seen death, this often comes as a shock, but again, this is what really happens.

Being placed on the rack.

Being placed on the rack.

After the hog is bled out, he is brought over to the truck and lifted on to a stand. These hogs weighed close to 300 pounds when they were slaughtered, so Dave has a hydraulic lift that enables him to lift these hogs quickly and easily. The hogs will be washed off to help removed the mud, dirt and blood from their coats.

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Getting washed off.

Getting washed off.

After they are cleaned off the feet are removed and the skinning process can begin. They start on the belly of the hog. They work their way down the sides and around the legs, being very careful not to let the outside of the side touch the carcass. By not allowing the outside of the skin to touch the carcass, they are mitigating potential cross-contamination (aka poo on the meat).

The start of the skinning.

The start of the skinning.

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Almost halfway.

Almost halfway.

The gamble.

Attaching the gamble.

Once the skin is about halfway off, he put the hog’s back legs in a gamble.

Cutting the sternum.

Cutting the sternum.

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Removing the skin from around the legs.

Removing the skin from around the legs.

Then he cuts the sternum with a saw to remove the internal organs. As he raises the hog with the lift, the organs almost remove themselves, Dave then is careful to clean out the cavity.

Dave giving us a lesson about organs.

Dave giving us a lesson about organs.

The liver.

The liver.

The heart and ventricles .

The heart and ventricles .

One of the many, many reasons I adore Dave is he is a wonderful teacher. We had all three adult 4-H members and two of their husbands out to watch this and Dave took the time to explain everything and give us some lesson. He pointed out what organ was what, and how they all connected in the hog.

Dave slaughtered the hogs two at a time. The hogs were not upset by what was going on, they continued to sleep as this was going on mere yards away from them.

Dave slaughtered the hogs two at a time. The hogs were not upset by what was going on, they continued to sleep as this was going on mere yards away from them.

Dave made an excellent point about the difference between animals and humans when it comes to death. If a human saw his friend get slaughtered and skinned like the hogs, the human would freak out, run, you know, have the flight or flight reaction. Whereas when the hogs watched their companions getting slaughtered they went and took a nap. Many people anthropomorphize animals, and it’s no wonder. Often people’s only interaction with farm animals as children are talking pigs, bunnies, mice and roosters, with human emotions and actions. In real life animals are not like that, they are animals not people.

I thought this was genius, what a great way to make the work easier and faster!

I thought this was genius, what a great way to make the work easier and faster!

After the organs are removed, Dave continues skinning the hog. He uses his lift to quickly and easily remove the reminder of the hide.

This is the barrel for waste, the organs that we don’t eat, skin and the feet. It will be take to the rendering plant and recycled

This is the barrel for waste, the organs that we don’t eat, skin and the feet. It will be taken to the rendering plant and recycled

The hogs done. They will now be taken back to the Locker where they will be cut, wrapped and cured.

The hogs done. They will now be taken back to the Locker where they will be cut, wrapped and cured.

Dividing the organs. I was surprised how big pig livers are.

Dividing the organs. I was surprised how big pig livers are.

I was very proud of my Adult 4-H members for taking the tongue, livers and hearts home to eat. We really tried to waste nothing on these hogs.

Raising these hogs and teaching other women about hogs and the Ranch was a very fulfilling project. I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I know many people learned from my blog. I’m touched how many people followed along and supported me when the drama hit. I’m excited to know at least one other person is now going to start raising Red Wattle hogs, so my plan for exposing this breed came to fruition. Most of all, I’m over the moon about finally getting to try this caliber of pork! Also a big THANK YOU Amy Sipes for posting a picture of a red wattle chop all those years ago, without that picture my parents would have never allowed me to start raising hogs again. I owe you lady!

Again a huge, big, old thank you to Chico Locker and Sausage for allowing us to learn! And being so amazing transparent and proud of what you do! We love you so much! You are such a gem in our community!

21 Comments

Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, food, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

21 Responses to Adult 4-H: The Hog Slaughter Appointment

  1. Heather Kingdon

    Megan, as usual I am in total agreement with what you are doing. I have great admiration for your courage and honesty in approaching this subject in light of the atmosphere the extremists have created in their attack on our culture and lives in general. Up here we have been busy trying to ensure our ability to ranch and farm in relation to the new General Plan and the extreme regulation it will place on private property owners if adopted. So that is why I haven’t been responding to your posts….. Thank you so very much. Those standing outside our shoes have no idea the respect we have for the lives we care for… For the purpose that they provide and for what they give. These issues are going to be ramped up over the next four years for there is huge power grabbing going on… And much money to be made at the expense of the private property owner. Read Behind the Green Mask and you will understand how it all fits. Again thank you so very much!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. This post was wonderful as usual Megan! You’ve explained everything so clearly. I’ve shot, gutted, skinned and processed many, many deer in my life so much of this looked very familiar. I’ve never heard of custom exempt slaughter around here, but it’s something I’m going to look into the next time we have a beef slaughtered, it really is interesting to me and seems to have benefits both ways. Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Fantastic! This was amazingly well done and really interesting. Some things do pop to mind though.

    1: Yes, I think it’s very important that there be less of a disconnect between farmers/ranchers and consumers, but DO think it’s interesting that some people push the word “Harvest” over “Slaughter”. To me, that’s just the same as trying to “hide” certain aspects of your job or putting for the mindset of “Slaughter” is a negative word, so we’re not going to use it (which in turn is what actually makes it a negative word, it gives it that power). So I appreciate you using the word slaughter, it really does show that openness!

    2: Ok, so you got rid of the parts of the animal you weren’t going to eat. BUT… the parts you got rid off, could they have been used for something other than eating? I mean, I know the older generation Scottish and Irish would have no problem eating pigs feet (and it was on the menu in Poland last time I was there). But what about the skin? Useful for anything at all?

    3: If the meat is custom exempt, do you technically not have to freeze it to kill (some types of) trichinosis? (Yes it may be a good idea to, but are you exempt from doing so?).

    4: Custom Exempt, does that just mean you can’t sell it to the general public? Or does it mean it’s not supposed to be sold at all (it’s for personal use only, so you could give it to your friend, but you “couldn’t” sell it to them for cash)(or is that a question for Judge Judy?)

    5: In Ireland, eating beef heart, liver, kidney’s etc… it was common enough, but I can’t remember ever hearing of people doing the same with pigs organs. Is that a common enough thing here? Are they eaten straight up or are they more used for stews, sausage, that sort of thing?

    6: Last question, and it’s about “Pork”. Pork seems to have a bad rep in general, but is that more because people eat salty cured bacon and think “All pork must be salty and bad for you!”? I mean, I’ve seen posters stating claims why things like “Grass fed beef” is healthy for you, but don’t recall ever seeing any for pork. Are there health benefits or health downsides to eating pork?

    Thanks again for the fantastic blog, it was really really educational!

    • Ian

      2. All the things pictured in the barrel for “disposal” are going to the rendering plant! They will be ground, cooked, & rendered into fats and proteins. It’s an amazing place to visit! Smells a good awful smell when you are there if they are cooking. But it’s amazing that they are able to recycle those things that aren’t used! This is the local rendering service we use & Mike Rowe visited this actual plant on Dirty Jobs! http://www.northstaterendering.com/Home_Page.html

      3. Custom exempt has nothing to do with trichinosis. The worry about trichinosis only occurs when the pigs have eaten the raw meat of other animals. Since hogs and animals like bears are considered onmivores, it is possible that they can consume other animals as food. By either cooking that meat to that proper temp or as you say, freezing that meat, you can kill the bacteria. I’d say that since Megan was very responsible when it came to feeding her pigs, the risk of trichinosis is probably very low. But the majority of the meat, if not all of it, that goes out our doors is frozen. We have a large freezer and it’s much easier for us to completely freeze all the packages versus a home chest freezer.

      4. Under custom exempt, a facility is inspected by the state and the actual restrictions vary from state to state. But in all the states, custom exempt basically means that it all has to be labeled not for sale and it is firmly stated & regulated that the meat can only be used by the owner of the animal and his family. In order to provide customers with local meat, we CAN link them up with people like Megan where you pay her for the animal LIVE and then simply pay our processing fee. In order for us to be able to buy the animals from local farmers, slaughter them, and sell them in our case, we would need to be federally inspected and that would also mean we would have an USDA inspector on site at all times. We also wouldn’t be able to do mobile slaughter since an USDA inspector couldn’t go out to on farm slaughters. Under federal inspection, you are able to re-sell to anyone as well as sell wholesale.

      • LOL That should say GOD AWFUL SMELL about the rendering plant. NOTHING about it is a GOOD smell! 😉

      • Thanks Jenny! But ya know I’m just going to keep coming back with questions until yer brain explodes!

        2. Oh yup, more than familier with the smell (have a story I must share on the blog about that one). Ok, know those bits in the barrels are going to be rendered, but what I meant is, do people keep those parts at all? like the pig skin for instance? coat? Wall hanging? I mean, you see all those cow skin hides about, why not pig skin hide?

        Oh and yeah, saw that episode of Dirty Jobs, LOVED IT! Wish they hadn’t ended that series….

        3. The reason I ask about the custom exempt and trichnosis is that I know we can’t send any bacon out without it being frozen, having a record of the temps and having it signed off by the USDA. So if this meat isn’t for sale to the general public, can that whole step be bypassed?

        4. Thanks for the info about the USDA inspectors, because I was wondering how exactly that would work for a mobile slaughter business!

        ?:O)

  4. I totally would have kept the hide. They did a beautiful job of removing it.

  5. Great work on this whole project, Meg. Tell it like it is. If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything! And slaughter is a fine term by me. 🙂

  6. Meg – GREAT post!!! I had a meat science class in college and we butchered hogs at the University Farm. I grew up with hogs and cattle and kinda signed up for the class on a whim. But it was a great learning experience and gave me a whole new appreciation for agriculture and livestock production.

  7. Megan,
    I read your article, put on my “big girl pants” and looked at the photos. Yes, it is difficult as I don’t come from a ranching background….. I found your pig experiment most interesting and educational. From the start to the end, you treated them with respect. No pretense was made they were pets. They were fed gourmet meals, given a clean home and tons of attention. I’d say they had pretty terrific lives.

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  9. Great post. I have never seen these parts of processing. Thanks for show casing — completely — the custom exempt part of processing. This is what the Internet is truly for!

  10. Really good job. I raise Tamworths and do all my slaughtering and butchering at home, my Nubian goat bucklings and chickens too. Wish I had a hydraulic lift, we use a ball and tackle and 2 good sized men as counterweights, and a clean flatbed on the truck as a stand. All other procedures are exactly the same. I was lucky to have been mentored by a retired hog farmer, my husband has no stomach for the ugly and so I am sole slaughterer and butcher here. I have an FB page about my farm and irate animal rights activists regularly spout off on it. You cannot please these people. One minute they decry the factory farm, the next they call me a serial killer because I raise my animals with kindness and on pasture, so I must be “heartless” to kill them. Ironic since I also raise, sell, and eat a wider variety of organic vegetables than the average vegan probably even knows exists. Great blog, and good to know there are others like me out there!

  11. Excellent post. We raise pigs on pasture in Vermont and our building our own butcher shop to solve the slaughter end of the equation. It’s a process. Keep up the good work!

    -Walter Jeffries

  12. On the oddments, such as the feet, we use them in our home cooking and sell a fair number of them as well. They are great for making thickener for stews, soup and brawn.

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  14. Meg

    I appreciate that you take care of your pigs and are so thoughtful, but particularly appreciate this in how you kill them in such a humane manner. I wish all pigs could have such a quick end, if they are going to be slaughtered. The factory farming methods for most of the pigs in the USA and transport in truck en masse to slaughter plant put me off eating pork, which I haven’t eaten in years. – Meg

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