• How We Slaughtered a Pig

    by  • April 19, 2010 • Meat, Recipes & Meals • 53 Comments

    duroc cross pig Meet Red.  She’s the pig we slaughtered last Saturday with the able assistance of another meat lover, JR, and Red’s owner, Denise of 2Silos farm.  Earlier I published why we wanted to slaughter a pig.

    What follows is a factual account of how we humanely harvested this meat animal.  It was hard manual labor that we attended to with reverence for the life we took.

    I have included pictures to illustrate exactly what happened.  Some readers may find this subject and the photographs graphic.  If that’s the case for you, you might want to wait to read a reflective and less intense post I will publish next week.  Intrepid readers, keep on.

    We arrived at 2Silos farm early Saturday morning.  We met Denise’s pigs and plethora of chickens, sheep, and geese housed in and around her gorgeous two siloed barn.

    Red was allowed out of her pen and into the chicken yard.  She was wiley and escaped for a quick jaunt around the farmyard before we corralled her back into the pen.  The plan was to shoot her centrally between the ears and eyes to instantly stop brain function.  Alex, who won a marksmanship award while in Army Basic Training, manned the 22 long rifle.  He took his time to corner and aim because a miss would cause the animal to suffer unnecessarily.

    shooting a pig for the initial killThe kill shot was perfect.  Red fell with not so much as a peep.  She convulsed involuntarily for about a minute as all large animals do.

    We loaded her 250 pounds into a wheeled cart and pushed it up the hill into the barn.  After several attempts, we finally strung her up by her ankles over a roof beam.

    meat pig strung up for processingDenise felt for the juglar and cut a slit in the throat to drain the blood.  The blood was drained into a sterile bucket so that it could be used in making blood sausage.

    It took nearly a quarter hour to capture the blood.  When the stream finally slowed to a drop a minute, we moved on to gutting.

    pig stomach slit for guttingDenise ran a sharp knife carefully through the center line.  She was aiming for just through the skin but accidentally made a small cut into the small intestine.  Small intestine contents smell and are a source of bacteria so we worked quickly to clean up the mess and remove the guts.

    pig intestinesWe discarded the intestines.  Though they can be used for sausage casing, we had neither the skill nor time to process the intestines as carefully as is required for use.  Other organs (liver, kidneys, pancreas, heart) were reserved for offal recipes.

    Alex cut around the anus so that the colon, uterus, bladder, and connective tissue could be removed.

    skinning a pigThen skinning began from the legs down.  We took turns running sharp knives halfway between the skin and meat so as to retain as much fat as possible.  It took almost 45 minutes to completely skin the pig.

    removing pig skin with a sharp knife

    Another option is to place the carcass in boiling water, scrape off the hair, and retain the hide for leather making.  Denise did not have the facilities for this process and we did not have an interest in curing the skin, so we discarded it in the way described above.

    sawing off the head of a pig after skinning

    When the pig was finally skinned, Alex sawed off the head.  JR kept the head for head cheese making, giving Alex a jowl for guanciale (a cured dried bacon, similar to pancetta).

    Denise and Alex then sawed through the backbone to split the pig into two halves.

    two halves of hand slaughtered pig

    The halves were rinsed with fresh water.  From there, JR and Alex cut the pieces into appropriate primal cuts and packed them in ice filled coolers.

    cutting off the ham We carted the coolers home for further processing.  Alex butchered while I ran the Foodsaver, resulting in a freezer full of honestly raised honorably killed pork.  The belly, jowl, and ham were kept fresh for curing and smoking.  If y’all make a fuss in the comments we can write more about the exact cuts we made and how we plan to use the parts of the animal.

    pigs head and slaughtered body

    There you have it, the story of Red’s end.  The experience was profound and fascinating.  Please return next week for our reflection on how it felt to slaughter a pig and the implications of doing so.

    Due to overwhelming response, I’m linking this to April 23rd’s Food Renegade Fight Back Friday.

    About

    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. I often wear purple and never refuse a drink.

    http://www.harmonioushomestead.com

    53 Responses to How We Slaughtered a Pig

    1. Amber
      April 19, 2010 at 6:55 am

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

      • cat
        June 3, 2013 at 11:03 am

        This is soooo sad :'(

    2. Elizabeth
      April 19, 2010 at 7:30 am

      Thank you for the step by step. Id love to know the cuts you are choosing. How did you choose the cuts and why?

      Honestly the “killing” was not that bad. I’m not a big eater of pork but this calmed my fears of eating humanely killed animals.

    3. April 19, 2010 at 7:34 am

      I raised animals (pigs) in HS for 4H but we always sent them somewhere to be processed. I wonder if more people were this connected to their food if we would look at our foods the same. I’m currently reading The Omnivores Dilemma so it’s made me think a lot about where my food is coming from and how I am participating in mass food (meat etc) growing and processing, even things I thought were okay such as organic foods which I’m starting to really question.
      .-= Eliza´s last blog ..I love my dogs! =-.

    4. Tiffani
      April 19, 2010 at 7:36 am

      I raise hogs and think you did a fine job with your explanations and pictures. We love our hogs and try to produce good quality meat for others to enjoy as well. The slaughter was humanely done and I congratulate your efforts. Enjoy your meat!

    5. Tom from Raleigh
      April 19, 2010 at 7:42 am

      Thanks for posting this. Looks like this pig lived well and was slaughtered with respect.

      • Amber
        April 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

        No humane way to kill an animal

    6. April 19, 2010 at 8:09 am

      I intend to do this sometime later this year–this was a good intro into what one must do, and how to do it. Thanks for the insightful telling if this tale.

    7. April 19, 2010 at 8:37 am

      Wow, we are practically neighbors. I too live in Ohio (near Columbus). This is a great post. We also raise hogs about once a year as well as all of our other meats we eat. It is nice to see an urban person take an interest and not just be grossed out by it. Thanks for sharing!!
      .-= Marci´s last blog ..The Blessings of Lots of Milk!! =-.

    8. April 19, 2010 at 8:40 am

      Thank you for this post – it is very interesting and beneficial. It is difficult to explain to people why it is a good thing to experience the life and death of the food animals we put on our tables and to connect with those animals in this way. One question I have is why you did not singe/scrape off the hair so you could use the skin? Thanks.

    9. April 19, 2010 at 8:40 am

      Thanks for this post. As difficult it is to see the entire process, I have hopes in doing this at the end of this summer when my Berkshire Hog is to full weight. I can’t believe this city girl is coming this far!! Great post, will for sure share on my facebook fan page!!

      Diana
      .-= Diana@Spain in Iowa´s last blog ..Repollo Con Garbanzos – Cabbage and Chick Peas =-.

    10. April 19, 2010 at 8:48 am

      Thanks for sharing with us this process. To echo comments from others, I can tell that this pig lived a humane life and was treated with respect at death.

    11. April 19, 2010 at 9:09 am

      Amazing post! I’ve been wanting to witness a pig get butchered – it gives you a deeper appreciation of where your food comes from. Thanks for sharing your experience!
      .-= Jun Belen´s last blog ..Vanilla Yogurt Topped with Honey, Almonds, and Strawberries =-.

    12. April 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

      Thanks for this post! After years as a vegetarian, I became a hunter. Butchering my first deer was quite an experience.
      .-= Tovar Cerulli´s last blog ..Meditation with meat and knife =-.

    13. April 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

      great post…. well done – look foward to reading about what your pig ends up as on the plate…did you manage to make boudin noir?

      I had the same question as previously mentioned… could you not have removed the hair and kept the skin?

      mmm…. pork rind :)

    14. Deanna J
      April 19, 2010 at 11:13 am

      Nice post Rachel. I would like to know more about the cuts of meat you ended up with.

    15. April 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      The respect that you showed the animal in your post and during processing almost made my cry. This is what is missing from our country today and I appreciate your post very much.
      thanks you!

    16. April 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      Excellent post, and job well done. Thanks for showing the respect the animal deserved.
      I’m a city boy and know nothing about killing an animal, but it seemed like you were sort of far away from the pig with the gun. I worry about ricochets, and missing. I’ve seen this done in a similar way, but with a handgun, and you can walk up, talking soothingly and almost press the muzzle up to the animal’s forehead.
      Anyway, thanks for the post. Look forward to follow-ups with the cooking!

    17. amy
      April 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      I think is is great. Thanks for the post!

    18. April 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      Great to see! Well done!!

    19. April 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      All that wasted chitterling! Hunanese stle fried intestine is some of the finest eating from pig offals, much more so than kidney and liver.

      That’s 1 helluva visceral pictorial though…
      .-= SinoSoul´s last blog ..Revamped Happy Hour & Beer Garden at Chaya Downtown =-.

    20. April 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      Merridith,

      We considered keeping the skin, but did not have the facilities to either singe or scald the skin to remove hair. On the next go round I think we will try to preserve it for some use. This time the skin and discarded offal went into Denise’s compost pile.

      Dave,

      Te distance of the shot was only about fifteen feet. With a rifle this is not far and presented no problem. Also, while some pigs are calm and can be approached, this one was somewhat aggressive and very wary. This was the closest I could get to it without it bolting. Wit tat said, one of my lessons learned will definitely be to use a handgun next time. Not really any danger of ricochet, and if you will notice, I made sure there was noting behind the pig tat could be hurt/damaged (people, buildings, etc…).

      As to cuts,

      We ended up with a ham for curing, fresh belly for bacon, a jowl for bacon, two racks of ribs, a tenderloin, a couple of loin roasts, 6 nice thick pork chops, 2 bags of pork shoulder chunks for sausage making and a couple of pork shoulder roasts. I also made some great stock from the scraps and bones left over after chopping up the pig. Oh, and there are a couple of bags of offal to be turned into something at some point.

    21. April 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      And apparently my ‘H’ key is all messed up….
      .-= Alex Baillieul´s last blog ..How We Slaughtered a Pig =-.

    22. Natalia
      April 19, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      That was Awesome. (I feel like that little neighbor boy in The Incredibles!) One of my most memorable family stories is when my grandpa bought a pig and asked around at work if anyone knew how to slaughter it properly but the person who volunteered did Not, and unfortunately for everyone involved (and most of all the pig) the men came in from the yard looking like they had committed a massacre. Never mind about bleeding it properly.

      Well done and I look forward to exploring the rest of your blog. I admire doing things right and true.

    23. Jack
      April 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

      When are you going to do a cow?

    24. JR Prospl
      April 20, 2010 at 10:43 am

      Hey guys, awesome post! I also saw that Ruhlman tweeted about this and was picked up by Chef Colicchio. I ended up making Spanish-style morcilla sausage with the blood, rice and extra backfat. I have 5# worth, let me know if you want some :)

      • April 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

        Maybe we could do a sausage exchange, JR. We haven’t made any yet but plans are in the works.

    25. April 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm

      Rachel,

      This post was great. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been working on a project where I must make or kill all animals or animal by-products before I can eat those products, so I’ve made yogurt, killed a chicken, went boar hunting, etc. (www.theamericanmeatproject.com) Next on my to-do list is a domestic raised pig, although I’m having trouble setting it up given the need for space in which to properly process the animal, especially since I’d like to process the hide as well. It’s great that you were able to connect with Denise to set this up. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading you reflective post next week. Best of luck in all your adventures!

    26. April 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm

      Wow! I’ve killed and cleaned nothing but small animals. Quite a few when I was younger. Big looks hard. I have a lot of respect for anyone who chooses to avoid the Styrofoam tray when it come to meat eating. The world would be a better place if everybody did this.

      Deer hunting has always appealed to me as a food source. Grass fed mammal with mostly no additives.

      See ‘ya,

      Uncle Mike
      .-= uncle mike´s last blog ..Making Phonics Dice =-.

      • April 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm

        Hey Mike! I’m sure you and Alex could have lots of fun hunting. Not sure how many animals would be caught, but we could place bets on liters of alcohol consumed. ;)

    27. April 21, 2010 at 7:30 am

      Rachel and Alex, I can’t even begin to tell you how much this post affected me. I’m trying to put all my thoughts together and will be doing a post about this topic hopefully soon. Your post will be linked for sure. :D You guys did an amazing job putting this together, it was very well done.

      You could have given the offal to your doggies. :D
      .-= Andrea (Off Her Cork)´s last blog ..Tuesday Tip: Adding Quinoa to Oatmeal =-.

    28. PlantingOaks
      April 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm

      I’m very interested in hearing what specific cuts you have. We recently bought our first half-cow from a local farmer rather than shrink-wrapped grocery packages, and the most confusing part to me is what cuts there are…What is a ‘shoulder blade roast’ and why don’t we have any flank steaks…it’s intimidating.

      Pork is even more foreign, since I think most of that gets smoked or made into sausage instead of made into ‘cuts’. Or maybe I’m wrong. In any case, hearing what you plan to do with specific parts would be a great help, and possibly be the step that lets us eschew grocery pork chops as well.

    29. April 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      Denise is an awesome farmer – raises her animals with great respect and dispatches them in the exact same way. We (myself, Paul and my mother) were fortunate enough to take part in one of her “Meet Your Meat” workshops, where we picked a chicken, slaughtered it, and then prepared it for cooking. You guys are exactly right, there is a ton of disconnect with the process of eating animals and associating them with where the cuts actually come from, and it was an extremely humbling experience. Paul and my mother were involved with slaughtering of a lamb quarter we had purchased while I was working with the chickens, and they felt the same way.

      I’m extremely pleased that you’ve undertaken this project. Great post!
      .-= Becke´s last blog ..Quick Meatball Stroganoff =-.

    30. April 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      Wonderful post, Rachel! Thanks so much for sharing the story.
      .-= Nick´s last blog ..Breakfast news! =-.

    31. Matt
      April 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      I’m kind of surprised all the comments are so positive. I figured there would be a little bit of vegetarian/vegan outrage on here. :-) I’ve been eating about 97% vegetarian for the past four months, but have been craving pork lately. I think the pictures cured me of that, so thanks. This is not a judgment on you. There is validity in humanely raising an animal and then killing it swiftly. I know Red will taste delicious, but in my case, I just can’t do it anymore.

      • April 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm

        You know, Matt, I was expecting more negative comments too! I’m actually a vegetarian, though I will taste some of Red knowing how well she was raised and killed.

    32. April 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm

      I admit I was a little leery of looking at the pictures – I have never seen an animal killed/processed (haven’t watched the must see films about the horrors of conventional way – I just believe that it is awful)I am squeemish and a city girl. But I was fascinated. I am glad you posted the pictures. I think that I would be able to watch one in real life – maybe not help the first time but it took the complete scariness away.
      .-= Christy´s last blog ..Lentil Soup or "Shorabat Addas" =-.

    33. April 26, 2010 at 7:17 am

      Hi Rachel:

      Thanks for sharing this.

      There’s no getting away from the fact that eating meat involves taking life. I don’t ever want to forget that. If I want to eat meat, I’m obligated to assure that the animal I eat had a good life and a good death.

      I understand that pigs are affectionate, sociable animals–some people call them dog-like. Because of pigs’ natures and the heinous way in which they’re factory farmed, I stopped eating pork several years ago.

      (I buy other meats from a farmer I know who pastures her animals and processes at a small, local slaughterhouse.)

      If I knew the pig I ate had as full a life and as swift and painless a death as Red, I might enjoy a little bacon and sausage on festive occasions.

      With admiration,

      Lorraine
      .-= Lorraine´s last blog ..WritersKitchen: @yumopress With 6 kids, Saturday minivan chauffeuring must kill. I know you don’t want to hear it, but enjoy: They grow up waaay too fast. =-.

    34. Pingback: Meal Plan July 18, 2010 | Hounds In The Kitchen

    35. Christy
      January 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      Hi. I am a curious perhaps beginning small pig farming prospect and I was wondering….If I butchered the meat myself what are the options for getting rid of the guts, blood, and head if I wasn’t into all that crazy food stuff. PLease leave me your tips or suggestions. The only thing I came up with is to burn them but I don’t know if this would work. What do you think?

    36. Pingback: Red's Canadian Bacon Or Why I Had To Kill a Pig To Eat Meat | Hounds In The Kitchen

    37. Will K.
      August 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      Great post. I think more people would benefit from knowing where their food comes from and especially how it’s raised. I’ve butchered many, many deer plus a boatload of assorted other game. I haven’t done a hog, but it looks like you did a great job. Just one point- if you decide to tan the hide, don’t scald the hair off. This is primarily done to remove hair from cuts that are going to be cured or a whole hog that’s going to be barbequed. The skin is protective, preventing the meat from drying out too much and it also helps protect against insect infestation. The skin is also delicious in its own right, such as when crisped up on a nice roast picnic shoulder. Scalding the hair off, while good for culinary purposes, would make the skin useless for leather (for pigskin leather, the hair is usually slipped with a soak in some kind of caustic solution, usually sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide). Anyway, don’t mean to go on- great job!

      Will

    38. October 5, 2011 at 7:33 am

      Hi, Neat post. There is an issue with your site in internet explorer, may test this? IE still is the marketplace leader and a big section of folks will omit your great writing because of this problem.

    39. Dortha Bailey
      January 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      We are butchering hogs on Saturday. Can you tell us how to cut pork chops?

    40. joe
      May 16, 2012 at 1:58 am

      We do it a little different here in new Mexico but still humane but the back fat is cooked in to chechrones and no skinning just a good shave after a dip and its good thanks

    41. Prudencio Torres jr
      June 16, 2012 at 12:47 am

      Tnx…..for sharing this to us

    42. melussa
      June 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      I recently bought and am raising my first pig. The intention from the beginning was to use as food. I have become very close to it, and have been debating on how I could allow for Ito be sent to the butcher. After seeing your post I feel a little, better about the process and know that this experience will be a special, interesting, and educational one for my family. Thank you for the share.

      • June 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

        Hi Melissa – I totally understand how you can be attached to a creature that you also plan to eventually eat. Hopefully when the time comes you will be able to make that final move to transition the pig from pet to food. It is an important lesson for meat eaters, I believe.

    43. September 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Hello. I’m from the Philippines and I was impressed that you did everything to make sure that the pig did not suffer further pain. In addition, you did not flinch in cutting the animal up for food. In my part of the woods, killing is indiscriminate. no thought of the welfare of the animal before slaughter. There should be an exchange of information of humanely killing farm animals and reduce undue stress to both animal and human.

    44. Medford Lekaks
      September 16, 2013 at 12:14 am

      I’m going to shoot and harvest two hogs on Thursday (for the first time). Thanks for the insight. I’m going to use a 9mm pistol for the kill. Your post was really very helpfull.

    45. October 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks for the pictures! I think this kind of experience should be required education…we should all have a little more respect of where our meat comes from!

    46. kay
      May 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      you named your pig then killed it???

    47. nima
      September 24, 2014 at 1:20 am

      Excellent job. I’m happy to see pigs treated humanely as they are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

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