Jan 26 2009

Git Yer Pork Here

Photo from Flickr.com

Photo from Flickr.com

We just brought home a half of a hog a couple weeks ago, so we’re feasting happily on family-raised bacon, sausage, ham, and pork chops again.  My dad told me this weekend that he’ll have a few extra hogs ready to go by the first week of March, if I knew anyone who wanted some.  I thought I’d write up some information about it for people who might be interested but don’t know what’s involved.

The Beasts

These hogs don’t claim to be organic, because they do eat conventional grain.  (The “organic” label has been nearly ruined by bureaucratic government at this point, so only large corporations can afford all the paperwork involved in meeting the requirements.)  However, they are not given growth hormones and they are not raised in stuffy concrete buildings.  They live outside in the sun and shade, sleep on straw in sheds, drink from a spring-fed creek, root in the dirt, and eat a few weeds or tree leaves now and then.  It’s a much more humane and contented existence than confinement-raised hogs get, and the meat seems to reflect that.

The Process

Here’s how it works:  You pay my folks for your hog (or a half, or two hogs, or however many you want), and my dad delivers them to Kabricks’ in Plainville, along with your name and phone number.  Kabricks’ calls you and determines how you want your cuts done (more on that below).  A few days later, they call to let you know when it’s done, and you pick it up when you can and pay them for the processing.  It’s all frozen and ready to go in your freezer.  They’ll also deliver into Quincy, but I haven’t used that service, so I don’t know exactly how that works.

Price and Savings

The hog itself currently costs 60 cents/pound.  (Yes, that’s considerably more than the market is paying right now, but these are considerably better hogs.)  Butcher weight varies somewhat, but it’s generally around 250 pounds, so you’d be looking at about $150 for a whole hog or $75 for a half.  The processing part of it typically costs $100-150 for a whole hog, depending on what you have done.  Things like curing or making sausage links cost more than simply cutting it into roasts and grinding up some bulk sausage.

A 250-pound hog will give you about 150 pounds of meat, so by the time you pay $150 for the live hog and $100-150 for the processing, your total cost will be $250-300, or between $1.60 and $2 per pound.  The meat we brought home this time cost us $1.66/pound.

For a skinflint like me, you can’t beat that price!  Look at the price of bacon, pork chops, cutlets, and roasts in the store sometime.  If you can find bacon that cheap at all, it’ll be that nasty Corn King stuff that fries away to nothing in the pan.  Good bacon in the store is nearly $4/pound, and it’s still not as good as this.  No sausage in the store compares to this sausage, at any price.

Volume and Storage

I’d estimate that our half-hog took up 4-5 cubic feet in the freezer.  It’s more than you could fit in most refrigerator freezers, but some big ones might hold it.  If you don’t have a standalone freezer, they aren’t very expensive, and chest freezers are especially energy-efficient.  For what little they cost to run, they pay for themselves in a hurry when they’re filled with $1.66 bacon and chops.

Variety of Cuts

Parts of the HogFiguring out how you want everything cut up might seem a little daunting at first, but it’s not really.  Mrs. Kabrick makes it very easy over the phone, walking you through the different choices and asking your preferences about a few things.  How thick do you want your pork chops; how many pounds per roast; and so on.  You can also have things packaged in whatever numbers are convenient for you: 3 chops to a package, 6 sausage patties in a package, etc.

The shoulder sections can be pork steaks (great for barbecuing), cutlets, or roasts.  The loin can be chops, roasts, or cutlets.  The leg is typically ham.  The belly, or what they’re calling “side” in that picture is about where the bacon comes from.  The “spare rib” is where you get spare ribs.

Any cuts you simply don’t want will go into the sausage, so don’t worry that you’ll be stuck with a bunch of cuts you won’t eat.  The sausage can be made into links or bratwurst, pressed into patties, or left as loose sausage.   We haven’t been getting the hocks, for example, so the meat from them gets ground up with the other bits that don’t fit into any of the cuts.  (Their mild sausage seasoning is excellent, by the way.  I also like their Cajun brat seasoning.)  Again, she’ll walk you through all that and make it easy.

They don’t make lard anymore, but if you want to render it yourself, they’ll save the fat for you and chop it into cubes if you ask.

Results

To give you a better idea what to expect, here’s what we got out of our last half-hog, in 75 pounds of meat:

  • 24 ¾-inch pork chops
  • 12 ½-inch pork steaks
  • one 15-pound ham
  • 6  tenderized cutlets
  • 2 pounds of spare ribs
  • 6 pounds of bacon
  • one 3-pound loin roast
  • 22 pounds of sausage, half in patties and half loose in 1-pound packages

That’s a heck of a lot of meat for about $125.  But wait, there’s more: you also get this set of quality steak knives!  (Just kidding, there will be no steak knives.)

If you’d like to get in on this fabulous opportunity, just contact me (aaron@baugher.biz) and we’ll put your name on the list and contact you when the hogs are ready to go to the butchershop.  If you don’t think you can handle 75 pounds of meat, contact me anyway, and maybe we can put you together with someone else in the same situation, so you can split a half into smaller amounts.

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