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Hog Butchering 101

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Butchering hogs is an age-old practice that has been passed down through generations since the early days of America, allowing people to responsibly and sustainably utilize meat from these animals. While the process may seem daunting at first, with the right information and tools, anyone can learn to butcher a hog successfully. In this blog post, we will explore the step-by-step process of hog butchering, highlighting expert tips and techniques along the way.

Timing is key when it comes to butchering livestock, as waiting too long can lead to overwintering which can affect the quality of the meat. Ideally, hogs should be butchered in the fall before the temperatures drop too low, typically around 6-8 months of age. This timing allows for the hogs to reach a good size for butchering while also preventing the feed costs associated with keeping the pig throughout the cold weather months.

Are pigs and hogs the same thing? Yes, they sure are. Where you live likely dictates what you call these homesteading barnyard staples.

Hog Butchering Preparation

In the days leading up to butchering, it is important to cease feeding the hogs for at least 12 hours to ensure the digestive tract is empty. This helps to reduce the chances of contamination during the butchering process.

When selecting a hog for butchering, it is important to consider both age and weight. Hogs are typically butchered at around 250-300 pounds, which yields a good amount of meat for processing. The hog should also be of a healthy weight and free from any illness or disease.

When it comes to processing the hog, it is important to understand the difference between hanging weight and butchering weight. Hanging weight refers to the weight of the carcass after it has been gutted and skinned, while butchering weight is the weight of the meat that is actually processed and packaged for consumption.

“There are glands in the meat, just like in humans. Be sure to remove the glands as you come across them, you do not want to eat them. It is fine to make the cuts boneless but in my opinion the meat tastes better with the bone in. There isn’t really a way to hold the knife to butcher but if you pay attention to the meat you will see lines where one cut stops and another starts. This can help to decipher where your cuts come from.

Save that fat. Render it down for lard. There are so many uses for the lard!”

Rod Ridge Farm owner and homesteading instructor Sarah Rodriguez told Prepared Survivalist.

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Hog Meat Cuts

When the hog has been butchered, you can choose from a variety of meat cuts that can be obtained from a single hog. These cuts include pork chops, bacon, ham, pork loin, and ribs, among others. Each cut offers a different flavor profile and cooking method, making for a versatile range of options for meal planning.

Hog butchering videos courtesy of Sarah Rodriguez of Rod Ridge Farm. Note, the first video shows the hog be humanely put down using a rifle – hence the YouTube restrictions that require you to click on the Watch on YouTube tab to see this essential educational aspect of the first step in butchering a pig and the four following steps on breaking down the carcass. Steps 6 through 11 are featured in videos below.

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Freezer Space For A Whole Hog

In terms of storage, a whole hog’s worth of meat can take up a significant amount of freezer space. Generally speaking, around 8-10 cubic feet of freezer space is needed to store a whole hog’s worth of meat. It is important to properly package and label the meat to ensure it stays fresh and safe for consumption.

Hog Slaughtering

Euthanizing a hog is a necessary but difficult task for homesteaders. When it comes to choosing the most humane method for euthanasia, two common options are shooting the animal or cutting its throat with a knife. Both methods have their own advantages and challenges, so it is crucial to choose the one that best fits the situation and can be carried out effectively and with minimal pain to the animal.

Shooting a hog is a widely-used method of euthanasia that is considered humane when done properly. Before attempting this method, it is important to ensure that you have the necessary equipment, including a firearm that is appropriate for the size of the hog and ammunition that is capable of delivering a quick and painless death. It is recommended to use a firearm that is specifically designed for euthanizing animals, such as at least .22 caliber rifle or handgun but a larger caliber, such as a .40, .380, or .9mm is used to better ensure that one shot will quickly kill the hog as painlessly as possible.

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How To Shoot A Hog

1. Ensure that the hog is in a safe and secure location, away from other animals and bystanders.

2. Approach the hog calmly and confidently, taking care to avoid startling or agitating the animal.

3. Aim for the hog’s forehead, just above the eyes, and take a clear and precise shot.

4. Check for signs of immediate unconsciousness, such as loss of muscle tone or lack of response to stimuli.

5. If the hog is not immediately unconscious, administer a second shot to ensure a quick and painless death.

Cutting a hog’s throat with a knife is another method of euthanasia that can be humane when done correctly. Before attempting this method, it is again important to ensure that you have the necessary equipment, including a sharp knife with a long blade and a firm grip. It is recommended to use a knife that is specifically designed for slaughtering animals, with a pointed tip and a curved blade.

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To cut a hog’s throat with a knife, follow these steps:

1. Ensure that the hog is in a safe and secure location, with access to a sturdy restraining device if needed.

2. Approach the hog calmly and confidently, taking care to avoid causing unnecessary stress or fear.

3. Hold the hog firmly in place with one hand, while using the other hand to make a quick and decisive cut across the throat, just below the jawline.

4. Apply pressure to the cut to ensure a swift and complete severing of the major blood vessels.

5. Monitor the hog closely for any signs of distress or pain, and be prepared to administer a second cut if necessary.

By choosing a humane method of euthanasia, such as shooting or cutting the throat with a knife, and following proper procedures and guidelines, you can ensure that the process is carried out in a responsible and compassionate manner. 

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Hog Butchering Preparation and Tools:

Before you start hog butchering, it is essential to gather the necessary tools and equipment. Some of the essential items you will need include:

Sharp knives and cleavers

Bone saw

• Cutting boards

• Meat hooks

• Butcher paper and tape

• Gutting knives

Meat grinder (optional)

It is also important to ensure that you have a clean and organized workspace to make the butchering process more manageable and hygienic.

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Step 1: Slaughtering the Hog

The first step in hog butchering is slaughtering the animal humanely. This can be done at a local abattoir, or you can perform the slaughter yourself if you are confident and have the necessary skills. Make sure to bleed the hog out completely before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Skinning or Scalding

After the hog has been slaughtered and bled out, you can choose to either skin or scald the animal. Skin the hog by making an incision along the belly and peeling back the skin. Alternatively, scald the hog by dipping it in hot water (around 150°F) for a few minutes to loosen the hair, then scrape off the hair using a knife or scraper.

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Step 3: Evisceration

Once the hog has been skinned or scalded, it is time to eviscerate the animal. Make a vertical incision down the belly, being careful not to puncture the intestines. Remove the organs one by one, including the heart, liver, kidneys, and intestines. Be sure to save any organs that you plan to keep for consumption.

Step 4: Quartering

After eviscerating the hog, it is time to quarter the animal. Use a meat saw to cut the hog into manageable pieces, including the hams, shoulders, belly, and loin. You can also separate the head and trotters at this stage if desired.

Step 5: Butchering

After the hog has been quartered, it is time to proceed with butchering the different cuts of meat. Use a sharp knife and cleaver to trim off excess fat and bone, and portion the meat into desired cuts like chops, ribs, roasts, and ground meat. It is important to work methodically and carefully to ensure clean cuts and minimal waste.

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Step 6: Packaging

After butchering the hog, it is essential to package the meat properly to ensure freshness and longevity. Wrap the cuts in butcher paper and tape securely to prevent freezer burn. Label each package with the cut of meat and date of packaging for easy identification.

Expert Tips and Safety Measures:

• Always work with sharp knives to make clean cuts and reduce the risk of injury.

• Keep your workspace clean and organized to avoid cross-contamination.

• Wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and aprons, to protect yourself from cuts and bacteria.

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• Follow food safety guidelines and regulations to ensure the meat is safe for consumption.

• Consider taking a butchering class or learning from experienced butchers to improve your skills.

In conclusion, butchering a hog can be a rewarding and sustainable way to utilize meat from these animals. You can smoke, salt cure, honey cure, or dehydrate the meat from your hog to make it shelf-stable for many YEARS to come. When raising any type of livestock to stockpile meat on your survival homestead to ensure you are ready for a long-term disaster, making sure you can keep the meat even without the aid of modern refrigeration methods, it crucial. Remember to be patient and take your time to ensure a successful outcome. Happy butchering!

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