Whether you raise pigs on a patch of land or hunt for wild boars during designated hunting seasons, both end up leaving you with a pig that needs butchered. You can send the animal to a professional butcher and pay him to process it for you, but not without a cost. As of 2011, a reputable butcher will charge 50 cents per pound, or more. Butchering the animal yourself will save you considerable cost, teach you a valuable skill and let you see first-hand the effort required to put food on your table.
Prepare your workstation. Decide on the room or location where you will butcher the pig. Set up a table where you'll process individual cuts of meat. Lay your knives on the table. Pour ice and cold water into a large cooler or ice chest to preserve the cuts of meat while you're working. Set up the gambrel and pulley system. Pull a water hose with a pressure nozzle nearby if possible, or have a few buckets of water ready.
Prepare yourself. Put on old clothing you can bleach when finished. Put on rubber boots if your shoes aren't washable. Secure your hair in a hair band; you won't be able to brush it out of your face once your hands are bloody. Put on a surgical face mask with camphor cream on the inside if you're sensitive to unusual or mixed odors.
Study pig anatomy before starting. Familiarize yourself with the location of the jugular and aorta, as well as the names and locations of various types of cuts. Anatomy charts are available from some farm stores and online.
Shoot the pig with a .22-caliber rifle between and slightly above the eyes; a single well-placed bullet will kill the pig instantly. Stand back immediately after shooting the pig. Although it is dead, nerve impulses will cause it to shake and kick violently, and you could be injured if you stand too close. Slit the pig's throat once the body falls still, cutting about 6 inches deep so that you severe the jugular. Allow it to bleed out for a few minutes.
Transport the pig to the butchering station. You can drag a smaller pig, but you may need a tractor if the animal weighs more than 200 pounds.
Spray the pig with a pressurized water hose or douse it with buckets of water to loosen the mud and debris on the animal's skin. Scrub it with a wire brush and rinse again, repeating until the animal is free of mud and dirt.
Slice a small slit in the skin and muscle near the knee joints, being careful not to severe to the tendons. Insert the gambrel hooks into each slit and hoist the pig up to a comfortable height for you to work. You can tie a rope around its legs if you don't own a gambrel-and-pulley system, though you may need two or more people to help hoist and tie the rope. Allow the pig to bleed out until no more blood comes from the throat.
Remove the head by slicing the meat around the spine with a sharp knife, then sawing through the spine with a bone saw. Set the head aside.
Remove the skin. Pinch an area of skin and slice it with a shallow cut. Work your way under the skin with a finger and cut downward. Continue to pull the skin away from the flesh while cutting with the knife. Discard the skin, or soak it in ice water if you're going to tan it later.
Remove the internal organs. Cut round the anus, being extra careful not to sever the intestines. Cut down the stomach from the anus to open the abdominal cavity. Place a wheelbarrow near the abdomen and pull the organs downward into it, severing any ligaments holding the organs in place as you go. Remove the organs you want to keep such as the liver and heart and place them in ice water. Wheel the wheelbarrow out of the way.
Saw off the front legs at the knee joint and discard them. Saw the pig in half down the spine using a bone saw. Cut off the meat flaps under the ribs and place them in ice water; this is the bacon. Remove the shoulders with a sharp knife and place them in ice water; these are shoulder roasts, also known as pork shoulder. Saw the ribs from the spine and place in ice water. Slice the back straps (meat around the spine) free from the bone and place ice water; these are boneless pork chops. You should now have two individual legs attached to the gambrel. Lower the gambrel so they're easier to reach, then either remove the meat from the bone, or saw them free from the pelvis and spine segments. These are the hams.
Wrap each segment of meat in butcher paper and label it with the cut and type of meat, then place it in a freezer.
Bury the pig remains in a deep hole or discard them deep in a woods or a forest for scavenger animals and insects to clean. Check with your local regulations on proper disposal laws. Clean your knives, gambrel and table and put them away. Spray the floor with a water hose or douse it with buckets of water, then mop it clean with bleach. Clean your rubber boots and soak your clothes in hot water with detergent or bleach.
Items you will need
- .22-caliber rifle
- Pig anatomy chart
- Bone saw
- Wire brush
- Butchering knife set
- Food-grade buckets
- Cooler with ice
- Latex gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleaning rags
- Face mask
- Camphor cream
- Attend an in-person butchering class at a local farm or butcher shop for detailed, hands-on instructions.
- Have a second person help you if the animal is very large.
- While processing outside offers you more room, it will also draw a lot of flies and other pests. Processing in a garage, barn or large shed will afford you privacy from curious eyes and shield you from unexpected storms.
- A gambrel is a large hook upon which the carcass is hung during the butchering process.
- Although butchering a pig isn't particularly "smelly," it does have a peculiar warm metallic odor that some individuals may find unpleasant. Camphor cream, often found in vaporizer fluid and chest-cold rubs, has a strong medicinal odor that will overpower and desensitize your nostrils after a few minutes.
- Check with your zoning laws and local health regulations to ensure you can legally process livestock on your land.
- Be sure to dispose of the carcass properly according to local regulations.
- Failure to clean your butchering station properly could cause illness or rat and insect infestation.
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