Monday, June 27, 2005

This little piggie went to market, part two: The booty Posted by Hello

When you tell people that you’re buying a pig, and you’ve gotten over the whole issue of it being a butchered pig, not a pet, then I’ve found they want to know about the logistics. How do you buy meat directly from the farmer, how do you order, how do you split the meat up and so forth. It can be intimidating to go through the buying process for the first time, so I figured I would write up the lowdown for the pig-buying process, in the hopes that I will encourage my imaginary readers to try out buying from farmers for themselves, to serve to their imaginary families.

I contacted the farm about two months ago to inquire about the price and availability of a whole hog and to discuss farming practices. I had talked to quite a few farms about pork. Unlike organic, pastured beef and chicken, organic, pastured pork is hard to come by. But I finally found the Mamashoe organic farm, which has exemplary farming practices (see This little piggie went to market, part one). They also had a few pigs they had overwintered. Usually, pigs are slaughtered in the late fall, so I wasn’t expecting to be able to get pork until then, but I wanted to get my order in early. These small farmers tend to have devoted followings, and many will sell out each year’s pigs, cows or chickens months in advance. Anyway, I lucked into a June pig.

I sent a small deposit, and then we had another call to discuss cuts. I love that part. Basically, you have a few options for each part of the pig – for example, the loin can be left as a single long roast or cut into chops. I told the farmer what I wanted from each part of the pig and then set a date to pick up the meat.

Here’s what we got:

4 Boston butt roasts
2 extremely large fresh hams
2 shoulder roasts
26 packages of chops (2 chops per package)
5 packages of ground pork
2 packages of spare ribs
8 packages of fresh bacon
2 packages of ham hocks
1 package, two kidneys
1 heart
3 packages of liver

We paid $5.50/pound for the above. He also threw in for free:

2 packages, 2 each “trotters” (yeah, that’s the feet)
6 packages of fatback

There were four people splitting the booty. Overall, it was easier to split up than the cow we bought in January, which had more odd pieces of wildly varying quality (a little tenderloin, a little shank, a flank steak, a chuck roast – it’s hard to work out a balanced split). Everyone got a butt roast; the people with bigger families got the hams, the others got the shoulder. The spare ribs were a little problematic, but I made a supreme sacrifice, took the extra ground and an extra chop, and insisted on an invitation to dinner on spare rib night. I kept all the fat to render the lard, which will then be distributed back to all parties who want good pie crusts. The woman with the Italian husband and Fergus Henderson’d book on offal wanted all the odd bits, so she’ll be getting the kidneys, heart, liver and feet. They’ll also be smoking the bacon, an event which will get its own blog entry.

The only really troublesome part was divvying the chops. I had asked for the loin to be gut into chops because I thought it would be easier to split up. It would have, if the loin chops had been labeled as such, but all the chops, the rib chops and loin chops and whatnot, were just labeled “chops.” We did our best to give each person chops that looked like they came from different spots on the hog, but really, we had no idea.

This works out very well if the people you are splitting your pig with are easygoing generous sorts who care more about making sure all is fair than about getting the best for themselves. I can imagine there would be some people who would be very unpleasant to include in an endeavor like this. Fortunately, I don’t know them.

1 comment:

Walter Jeffries said...

This is a great article pair. I would love to see an article that discusses what were all the hurtles for you as the buyer of a whole hog. How do you see things from your point of view. I ask because I raise pigs on pasture. We sell them as piglets, roasters and market pigs by the whole, half, quarter and subscription. So I am always looking to know what would make things easier and better for our customers.