When it comes to preparedness MrsMac and I are always trying something different. Whether it be cutting wood for the wood stove, (Heating With Wood) growing our own vegetables, (Living Off The Land – Gardening) having our own egg laying chickens, (Renewable Resources-Eggs) attempting to master amateur radio, or growing other forms of protein. We do it now when the threat level is moderate so when the level elevates to manning an OP/LP and doing patrols around the AO our skill level is at a higher degree. Today, I would like to talk about raising pigs for the table.
Raising pigs like chickens is easy. While the chickens are free rang and the pigs need to be fenced in, the raising process is basically the same. Supply good shelter, plenty of water, and high-quality food the end product will be far superior than what you would buy in the store. Plus, the aforementioned benefit of learning while the treat level is low.
Pig raising is a venture that my neighbor and I share. We typically buy cut piglets (Castrated) in the early spring with the goal to butcher in the early winter typically late December early January. The piglet’s AKA, bacon-seed cost between $65 to $75 each depending on the availability of the bacon-seed in the spring. My neighbor buys three and I typically get one. He keeps one for his table and sells the other two to cover his total cost of the bacon-seed, food, and butchering. During the raising period he pre-sells the extra asking for 50% down. He does this not for some early cash but to weed out the folks who say they want a butchered pig and then back out in the end.
The space we dedicated to the pigs is 100-feet x 100-feet or about ¼ of an acre. We have at one corner of the pig’s corral a pen about 8’x 8′ and roofed over. To build the pen we used 8, 48”x 42” wood pallets for the sides and another four for the roof. On the roof pallets goes scrap metal roof sheets and plywood. The cost for this is just a few screws, muscle, and gas to go pick them up. We also have built small covered structures around the corral for additional shelters about the size of one pig. This provides shade in the summer and additional protection in the fall and as the winter approaches. The fence is an electric fence slung low enough for me to step over without being zapped. The electric fence is powered by a 12-volt deep cycle battery which is trickle charged via the barns electric. When the electric goes out on the mountain the fence remains electrified thanks to the battery. One day I want to hook up a small solar panel to the battery to keep it charged which is one item on the never-ending items on the project list.
Majority of the food for the pigs is made up of table scraps from the two families, local Elizabeth Warren supporters, dated produce from a local grocery store, and a variety of grains we buy from a local farmer who grows grain for sale. The grain does not contain any additives (poisons) to deter rodents from eating while in storage. It is amazing how many grocery stores in the area will give you spoiled or expired fruit and vegetables for free. You just come on specific days to pick it up. The store we primarily use is just across the border in New York. As per New York laws we must prove we are a bona fide farm going to use the produce for X critters. Ya’ just have to love those nanny state laws.
Around August we call up our local slaughterhouse to schedule the butchering date for our grown pigs. Typically, the earliest appointment we can get is the first week of January. This year we received a call a few weeks ago and was told that there was an opening in the beginning of November, “would you like it?” The butcher’s wife asked. We jumped on the opportunity to not have to feed the pigs for two more months and deal with frozen water lines.
We have tried several slaughterhouses in the area however we like the one we go to best. They are very accommodating and pleasant. With that written they require us to deliver the pigs to them dead and bled out. I asked them once why and they explained to me that pig’s nervous systems are not like cattle. Hence when they are put down, they thrash around so much it is a danger to the employees.
The process for putting the pigs down is simple enough. Herd all of the pigs into the 8′ x 8′ pen. Let two out and direct them to two piles of grain about 10-feet apart. My neighbor stands in front of one of the pigs and I the other with our rifles positioned just above the eyes in the center of the head and on the count of three we both shoot. Both pigs drop immediately but thrash around so violently that we quickly move away to not get a pig hoof swipe at our ankles. Once the kicking subsides enough to approach the pig I walk up and put a few 5.56×45 rounds in each pig’s neck to start the bloodletting process while the heart is still working.
Then we bring up the tractor to hoist the now still pigs by its rear legs and take down to the barn to properly slit their throat and to wash down the pigs. Put in the back of the F150 and back up we go to the remaining pigs if any to repeat the process. Then off to the slaughterhouse to fill out our cut sheets and processing.
The cut sheets are an important part of the whole processing of the pig. MrsMac and I like things slightly different than what our neighbor likes. Some examples are; we like thinly sliced smoked bacon he likes a thicker cut. We like our pork chops cut to 1-inch he likes thinner ones. We like a combination of sweet Italian and breakfast sausage while he wants all of his sausage hot – You get the picture. We always have the heads skinned to be combined with the offal for scrapple or Pannhaas – A LOT OF SCRAPPLE I might add. We have developed a pretty good recipe over the years.
We process the pigs when they are around 180 to 200-pounds hanging weight and the cost of the butchering is around $1.50 to $2.00 a pound depending on special requests such as vacuum sealing the cuts rather than butcher paper wrapped, smoking Vs. fresh, sausage making, et cetera.
Looking at the cost of the whole process from bacon-seed to freezer it is about $555. Let’s review; $75 for a piglet, if you feed the pigs primarily with produce from a local grocery store table scraps and minimal grain about, $100 per pig. The butchering process costs $380 depending on what you want the butcher to do with the meat. The finished expense per pig is $2.90 to $3.00 a pound. Now if that sounds steep, think of what you pay at your grocery store per pound for meat that you have no idea what was fed to the pig nor how humanly the pig was raised. The ability to roam over a quarter of an acre Vs. a cooped-up pen must add to the quality of life. And remember the knowledge you gain today in moderately good time is priceless.
Freedom Through Self-Reliance®
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