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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Once the skin is about halfway off, he put the hog’s back legs in a gamble.
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.
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 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.
After the organs are removed, Dave continues skinning the hog. He uses his lift to quickly and easily remove the reminder of the hide.
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!