Livestock

Butchering Pigs

If you are using a butcher, take the opportunity to discuss exactly what you want him to do. If, like us, you're selling meat on, ask your customers first. A family of two probably won't want large, 3-4lb joints of pork, and similarly a family of 6 won't want 1lb joints.

A side of a pig comprises:

Head

This can be used to make brawn. The brains are edible, if you fancy it. The cheeks are sometimes taken as a separate cut and are renowned for being tender and tasty if cooked correctly.

Spare Rib

This is the top part of the shoulder, which contains the blade bone. It can be boned out and rolled as a roasting joint OR shoulder steaks OR made into collar bacon OR cured to make shoulder ham OR used for sausages / pork mince OR cubed for casserole pork.

Hand

This is the bottom part of the shoulder and upper part of the front leg. On a large bacon pig, this is a substantial piece of meat that can be cured as ham. Otherwise, it can be used for sausages, pork mince or cubed for casserole pork.

Loin

This is the back of the pig, from behind the shoulder almost to the tail. On a large bacon pig, the loin is a considerable length. All or part of the loin can be cured for back bacon or cut into roasting joints or pork chops. The tail end of the loin gives pork chops with least bone.

Belly

This is from the underside of the pig and is almost as long as the loin. It can be boned and rolled for roasting OR skinned and boned and cured for streaky bacon. The thick end of the belly – the first third from the head end – is best for roasting; the remaining two thirds is best for streaky bacon.

Leg

The leg is the part of the pig traditionally cured for ham. If you don’t want to cure the pork, the leg can be cut in 2 or 3 leg (gigot in Scotland) joints, either boned or bone in.

Trotters

The four feet. Front trotters are normally longer than back ones. The upper part of the trotter is sometimes butchered separately as a hock or hough, also known as pork knuckle or shank.

Cuts of Pork

These cuts are shown on this diagram:

Cuts of pork

Blood and offal

You may or may not be able to get blood, for black pudding, and offal (liver, kidney, heart) back from the abattoir. If you want it, ask. We’ve never been able to, but we’ve got along just fine without.

Also discuss with your butcher whether the meat will be picked up fresh or frozen and what sort of packaging will be used. Some packaging disintegrates in the freezer, so the meat may suffer from freezer burn. Vacuum packing is probably the best method of packaging.

If you want your butcher to make sausages or cure bacon, he will charge you accordingly. Remember, not all butchers cure bacon.

Sausages are expensive to make; additional time is required for the mincing, mixing and filling the skins and the skins are an additional cost, so your butcher will charge extra for this service.

Ask him to pack the sausages in manageable packs, especially if you are picking the meat up already frozen - a 27lb pack of frozen sausages is awfully difficult to handle.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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