First time butchering a hog

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tddeangelo

Smoke Blower
Original poster
Dec 15, 2015
90
61
Southeast Pennsylvania
I'm going on a "hunt" in a week for a meat hog. One of those deals where they put some meat hogs in with the exotics at a ranch. Several hundred fenced acres with critters in it, you pay for what you shoot.

I want pork, so I'm after a meat hog....essentially a domestic swine that's got a bunch of room to run around in and I pick the one I want.

I've butchered more deer than I can count, but deer aren't pigs.

So, for those who are more familiar with pigs....can I pick your brains?

Animal selection- my understanding is I want a sow in the 150-200lb range. Bigger won't be better, from what I've been told. Boars are not going to be good, either.

The ranch will be quartering the hog on site for me.

I'll have whole front shoulders to work with.

The pelvis will be split leaving me two separate hinds, and the chest will be split down the spine, leaving two halves with ribs, loins, and belly.

I usually just bone off rib meat on deer, but pork is another animal, literally. Any advice on how to cut the ribs for...well...ribs?

Belly....this is bacon to my knowledge. Anything I need to do/know with the meat while cutting it?

Loins I can handle.

Hinds.... with deer, I usually pull apart the cuts/muscle groups, and to make some roasts I'll likely do the same with one hind. Ham is on my mind, though. My family doesn't tend to like actual ham (my wife gets that chopped ham steak stuff), so I don't have use for making the entire ham into a cured ham. I'm assuming I could pull all the hind cuts apart and just cure one "roast" into a mini-ham?

Any words of wisdom as I enter into this adventure?

If this goes well, this will likely be an annual thing for me. I need some pork to cut ground venison with for sausage and bologna and the like, plus I wanted some pork to supplement the freezer. This seems like a more fun way of getting it than going and just buying a hog.

I'm set up with equipment to take deer apart and I would imagine the tools aren't going to differ much. I use a Cabela's fish cleaning table (workbench height, table-sized cutting board)....an assortment of knives of my preference, and I have an ancient (and well made) bone/meat saw my dad had before he had me (I'm 46) and he gave to me when he stopped butchering his own deer. I use a Cabela's 1/2hp grinder and I have a vacuum sealer.

And of course...a smoker.

Any tips or suggestions are more than welcome, and thanks in advance!
 
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A Sawzall with a good blade will make short work of the ribs, section the hams out into the different muscle groups and vac seal for smoking or slice/ground later, whole muscles will last longer than ground imo.
 
My opinion...take some time and learn all the cuts...hogs are easy. If you have processed your own deer youll be fine.
Only concern I have is you say the ranch will "quarter" the hog for you.
Once you learn the cuts you'll understand what I mean...
Depending how they are quartering it might screw up what cuts of meat you want.
I would suggest asking them to only split it for you.

Here is a link from the University of Kentucky.
That should get you a much better idea of what you may want and how to get those cuts.
Take the time to watch it.

Keep in mind this hog has been scalded and scraped... The ranch will most likely be skinning. No big deal... All will still apply


 
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I am far from being great at butchering but i dealt with quite a few pig sides (1-2/year) so here is my 2 cents.

I suggest having a good breaking knife, a fillet knife, a cleaver and a meat saw. As another fellow suggested watching a few butchering videos will help a lot.

Not sure if the pig is scalded and scraped. If not, you will need to singe the hair. Old school: with the bail of hay :-) Weed burner works too.

Shoulder/butt:
Do you plan to do pulled pork? If you do, separate the butt and shoulder and leave the bone in, unless you want the bone for soup in which case you'll need to spend a bit of time deboning. I use all the bones for soup so I harvest boneless butt/shoulder. Keep an eye open for nodules, you will need to remove them.
If you want roasts out the butt and shoulder there will be more trimming as they are fatty. Use the trimmings for ground pork and sausage.

Loin/ribs:
I separate the back fat and ribs from the loin; it is a labour intensive process, but it gives you clean loin for back bacon or smoked roasts/chops. I cure/smoked the back fat in a something similar to lardo. Or you can render lard from it and end up with delicious fried fat chips. The other option is to cut individual chops bone-in, fat on. Belly is for bacon, you will need to separate it from the spare ribs, then trim/cut it in as many pieces as is comfortable to handle. I have a small slicer, so I end up with 4 pieces. Remove rib end cartilage (from the belly). Trim the ribs in a nice shape. You will smoke these.

Hind leg:
For a prosciutto adventure bleed and trim the leg. For bone-in ham is best if you use a band saw to split in 4 pieces. I don't have one so I debone and make roasts and boneless hams.

Hocks-simple separate at the joint. Good for smoking for beans, soups or fresh for Schweinshaxe.

Tenderloin:
Not much work here, just trim into a decent shape.

Trim - ground meat in small 1lb packets or sausage. I make simple smoked sausage: garlic, salt, pepper, paprika; both for frying and air dried.

Odd bits:
Head - I harvest the ears and jowls. Jowls are great for pancetta, bacon or poached with paprika and garlic. Watch for nodules. Ears - see further down. Singe the hair off (there is always some left) the head and cook whole for headcheese - you need a big stock pot. When is done pick the meat, skin and as much fat as you are comfortable with and press with some cooking liquid and lots of garlic into a mold or a clean pig bladder. Cool and serve. I also fry the brain after cooking the head. I apologize if that makes some folks queasy.
Feet - separate at the joint. I used them for pork jelly (aspic). Same with the ears and tail. From one pig you can make two pots: 2 feet+2 ears in each, one gets the tail. Water to just cover them in a pressure cooker (not more, not less), salt, whole black pepper, one spoon of vinegar, one bay leaf. Cook for 2 hours. Pick meat skin and divide in deep plates, or ovenware. Infuse the meat with lots of garlic and strain over the meat. Let it cool then in the fridge to solidify. Serve with paprika, horseradish or lemon.
Leaf fat - You can render clean white lard for pastry.
Organs, tongue - I used them for organ sausage. Cook in water, grind along with sauted onion and some fried fat chips, add a little liquid lard, all spice, thyme, salt, pepper and stuff into hog middles. Poach to cook the casing and let them cool.
The lard you get after rendering fat can be used for cooking, spread on a slice of bread when no one is watching or to cook and preserve potted meat.

I have forum posts for pretty much everything I mentioned here; look them up or DM me if you need clarifications.
Nose to tail, everything but the squeal.
Happy hunting.
 
I think atomicsmoke atomicsmoke pretty well covered everything! But I agree of some videos to give you different ideas of how or what you want out of your different cuts. Be easy for you being skinned and quartered for you already.

Ryan
 
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Thanks, guys. Catching up on all the info here, but I appreciate it.

The hog will get skinned, so I don't foresee hair as much of an issue (other than what gets on the meat, which is what I deal with constantly with deer, too).

What I'm told is that the ranch staff will, to an extent, do the quartering how I prefer. I could request the hog simply be halved, but then I have to consider transport and storage. Temps will likely be highs in the 50's-60's, so it's not like I can let it hang outside or in my shed. I have a fridge I use to hang deer quarters to let them drain/age, and I can do likewise with a hog, but the space isn't there to simply hang halves of a hog carcass.

My understanding is that the ranch typically removes the hide, then removes the front legs, splits the carcass in half lengthwise, and removes the ribs/belly/loins all together (the body cavity, basically) from the hind quarters. That would likely be pretty easy to transport for me, and would store well as I work on the parts to process them into freezer-friendly packaging.

Not having a band saw for this purpose (or at all, really), anything bone-in is pretty well off the table. I could use my hand saw...it's long and sturdy and would do it. It'll just be super tedious. I more envision separating the muscle groups off the hinds as I do with deer, as this stores well and the size is about right for most stuff I'd want to do. Then I can decide what each piece will become in time.

Belly = bacon

Ribs.... how do you all like to cut them for packaging so they're ready for cooking? Pretty much just lop them into the size/shape you get when you buy racks of ribs?

While I admire those who use "everything but the squeal" (I like that saying!), I'm not really adventurous enough for ears, tail, feet, etc. I hadn't thought about keeping the fat, but that makes a LOT of sense for mixing into venison for burger and other ground meat products where venison by itself is too lean.

Rendering is something I know zilch about...but maybe should learn. My wife likes to bake and I've heard before of rendering lard for pie crust.

So much to learn!
 
I'm about half way through the video. Good stuff!

I'm also thinking of some things with deer I may do differently now based on how he's handling that hog. Interesting...
 
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Thanks, guys. Catching up on all the info here, but I appreciate it.

The hog will get skinned, so I don't foresee hair as much of an issue (other than what gets on the meat, which is what I deal with constantly with deer, too).

What I'm told is that the ranch staff will, to an extent, do the quartering how I prefer. I could request the hog simply be halved, but then I have to consider transport and storage. Temps will likely be highs in the 50's-60's, so it's not like I can let it hang outside or in my shed. I have a fridge I use to hang deer quarters to let them drain/age, and I can do likewise with a hog, but the space isn't there to simply hang halves of a hog carcass.

My understanding is that the ranch typically removes the hide, then removes the front legs, splits the carcass in half lengthwise, and removes the ribs/belly/loins all together (the body cavity, basically) from the hind quarters. That would likely be pretty easy to transport for me, and would store well as I work on the parts to process them into freezer-friendly packaging.

Not having a band saw for this purpose (or at all, really), anything bone-in is pretty well off the table. I could use my hand saw...it's long and sturdy and would do it. It'll just be super tedious. I more envision separating the muscle groups off the hinds as I do with deer, as this stores well and the size is about right for most stuff I'd want to do. Then I can decide what each piece will become in time.

Belly = bacon

Ribs.... how do you all like to cut them for packaging so they're ready for cooking? Pretty much just lop them into the size/shape you get when you buy racks of ribs?

While I admire those who use "everything but the squeal" (I like that saying!), I'm not really adventurous enough for ears, tail, feet, etc. I hadn't thought about keeping the fat, but that makes a LOT of sense for mixing into venison for burger and other ground meat products where venison by itself is too lean.

Rendering is something I know zilch about...but maybe should learn. My wife likes to bake and I've heard before of rendering lard for pie crust.

So much to learn!

I think you have been given some great info and I'll add my 2 cents.

Here is a post I did that has the most excellent and professional game animal butchering/processing you will find. I follow about 90% of what he does and says and I deviate when it comes to what he suggests you grind or turn into jerky.

I hunt and used to take 5-7 animals a year (deer and feral hogs) until the pandemic hit and plan to start back up this year. I intimately know everything you are talking about so I feel I can provide some good input.

1. The guys at the ranch don't know how to butcher, they simply cut it up for you. This means skinned and head and organs tossed.

I highly suggest that as they are doing this you do the following:
  • Have backstraps and tenderloins (inside body cavity) removed while it is hanging and throw them in the ice cooler/fridge/whatever. This keeps the rest of the body hanging and easy to deal with while NOT ruining those cuts.
  • They remove front legs with knife, this is easy as you likely know
  • Have them sawzaw the ribs in about half long ways along the length of the carcass, so you can toss those in your cooler AND the belly meat is still attached to it for you to cutaway yourself at home
  • Have them then sawzaw the ribs along the spine. THIS is why you remove the backstraps first. Now you have 2 cuts of ribs from each side of the hog and you didn't have to saw a single bone yourself. This will leave you with the spine and back legs intact.
  • The back legs at this point is where they will do you a disservice should they just cut the pelvis in half with the sawzaw. My strong suggestion is to simply take a good knife with a small blade and cut the bag legs off yourself. The butchering video on my post that deals with back legs covers this!!! In short you use a knife to keep the meat that runs against the spine and you follow the pelvis bone until you hit the ball joint part of it. You use the knife to disconnect the leg and pelvis at the ball joint and like magic the back leg comes off without having to cut through any bone. Without losing that amazing tri-tip meat they will cut through with a saw. Without having to fool with any bones at all!!!!
  • Final note... DO NOT TOSS THE SHANKS!!!! They may want to cut off and toss the shanks. This is an amazing part of the the front and back legs. You can make the most amazing braised pork dishes or soups/stews from the shanks. Shanks may have become my favorite part of both deer and feral pigs hahaha. Some ranches just toss them without thinking OR they cut right through them to toss the lowest part of the leg. it's a shame.

At this point you have saved yourself a TON of time and got the ribs sawed for you while it was hanging. You have not lost any great cuts of meat due to hacking and sawing. You also have not introduced any complex butchering to ranch hands that likely know nothing about it and they just cut things up as they were shown and to get the job done quickly in the hotter temps.

Now when you take this meat home you can process it anyway you like.

Front legs - Even on a 200lb feral hog I think you will find that the front legs are not big enough to do a whole lot with when compared to a farm raised pig. You can remove the shank and basically smoke the rest of the front leg whole. I usually debone all the front leg bone meat and use for sausage grind.

Back legs - You are correct that the best way to go with back legs is to remove from the bone and cut into the separate roasts.

Bellies.... you will likely find that there isn't much meat there or much belly to work with. Chances are that may just toss it but you can also cure and attempt backon with any of the significant portions. Just don't get your hopes up too high here :)

Ribs - they will not look anywhere as meaty as a farm raised big BUT they will taste awesome grilled or smoked. Feral pork is way more flavorful than farm raised pork and even skimpy ribs are completely worth it! Plus they are al ready for you to cook since u got the guys to sawzaw them from the get go :)

Shanks - they will be small but man soooo good. You can either heavy handily cut the meat away from the bone (do this for front legs for sure) or you can try and keep the meat on the bones. Make braised dishes or soups/stews with these and prepare to be amazed!!!

Backstraps and tenderloins - this is tricky. If you have a risk of micro parasites and you cannot freeze cold enough for long enough, etc. etc. Then you have to cook these to 165F when you eat them.... this means you basically ruin those 2 cuts because they will be dry :(
You can grind which is fast, easy, and produces amazing grind!
You can cut for whole muscle cured jerky (finish with 165 temp at the end).
You can cure the backstraps for back bacon/canadian bacon and I would grind the tenderloins.
I have so many animals to process I just grind them and take comfort in the fact that my sausage is going to be out of this world good! Grind is amazing with such good cuts.

Fat - IF there is any fat on the outside of the meat (interior muscle fat is usually fine) then check and see if it is smelly in a skillet and if not then it is good to keep on and will taste fine. If it is smelly then remove it all from the outside of the muscles.

Finally, lets talk hunting shot placement.
I highly suggest you put the bullet behind the ear or just below eye level anywhere from eye to ear of the pig.
Aiming between the eye and ear is often a good spot because they often move constantly and you will be sure to land a good hit should they move.
Same goes for if you place at the ear hole on or behind it. This will give you good neck to head placement should they move quickly as you are pulling the trigger.

Why these spots??? The pig will drop. No chasing, no tracking, and best of all no walking through brush to find a hog that may be pissed off and not dead yet. Head shot is fastest and safest way to get them down. Their heads and brainstem/neck areas are big targets which is very different to deer and other animals.
Additionally you don't ruin any shoulder meat this way AND if you have a lead bullet that breaks up, you dont really get much lead vaporization or disbursement into the body meat. You really never save the head of the feral hog anyhow since they arent de-haired. So put the bullet there for all the best reasons :)

I'm excited for you man!!! Let me know if this flood of info helps or you have any questions :)
 
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Thanks all!

I finished the vid and I think there's a lot to take from that. And I think I have something resembling a plan now, too.

First, these aren't feral swine. They're literally domestic swine put into the 400-ish acre enclosure with things like elk, bison, etc and we go pick our pig, so to speak.

I could elect to shoot a Russian boar instead, although I'm not sure why I would. I want pork as the end result, and to my understanding, the Russians are not going to produce the kind of end product I'm after.

I do plan to be working for ear/head shot placement, and I will be using my one of my flintlocks...either my 62-caliber flintlock rifle or my 16-ga flintlock fowler. The rifle shoots a 60-caliber ball and the fowler (smoothbore) shoots a 648-caliber ball when I use it with a patched ball.

From what I've been told by others who have gone on this type of thing at this place before, meat pigs aren't gonna come up to you looking for food, but they aren't going to be super challenging to get within 50 yards of. Then I just bide my time for a good shot at a pig I want where I can drive a ball into it's ear from a broadside shot angle and we should be good. I'll take one of my 10mm Glocks....just in case.

Ok, now processing...

I'm told they will, within reason, do as I request with the carcass.

My thought would be to remove the backstraps/loins and tenderloins first. I do this with deer for the same reason...that then the spine can be split without risk of boogering up either of those cuts.

I'm wondering if they can then cut the spine forward of the sirloin and THEN go down the spine to split it in half.

I've removed hind quarters on deer before without splitting the pelvis (using a knife), so I'm familiar with how to do that. I could do that, and keep the pelvis and each hind, and transport it all back like that to finish myself.

I may also ask the fronts to be removed similar to that video (when they cut them initially from the carcass).

That would preserve most of the desired cuts while giving me something I can transport in coolers.

I'm NOT a fan of liver, and my family would be aghast if I put heart in anything they eat. I might keep it for grind and use it for me though...

Thank you a million times to all...rest assured I'll be digging into recipes and dishes once I get this all broken apart.
 
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I am really enjoying this post. Thanks to Sowsage Sowsage for the Youtube link. I have watched a few videos on butchering but that one is absolute Masterclass! I enjoyed how he explained how each cut is used.

When he butterflied the lesser desirable part of the loin I was seriously impressed. I never thought of that.

tddeangelo tddeangelo good luck on your hunt!

And to tallbm tallbm I really liked your advice about shot placement.

Also reminded me I need to sharpen my knives haha.

In for the win.
 
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I am really enjoying this post. Thanks to Sowsage Sowsage for the Youtube link. I have watched a few videos on butchering but that one is absolute Masterclass! I enjoyed how he explained how each cut is used.

When he butterflied the lesser desirable part of the loin I was seriously impressed. I never thought of that.

tddeangelo tddeangelo good luck on your hunt!

And to tallbm tallbm I really liked your advice about shot placement.

Also reminded me I need to sharpen my knives haha.

In for the win.
I do that end of the loin the same way... Keep in mind that part is very lean and should be cooked as if it is loin or a chop... Some call them boneless country style ribs.... But .... Some are cut from the butt.... Completely different animal when it comes to cooking them.
 
Thanks all!

I finished the vid and I think there's a lot to take from that. And I think I have something resembling a plan now, too.

First, these aren't feral swine. They're literally domestic swine put into the 400-ish acre enclosure with things like elk, bison, etc and we go pick our pig, so to speak.

I could elect to shoot a Russian boar instead, although I'm not sure why I would. I want pork as the end result, and to my understanding, the Russians are not going to produce the kind of end product I'm after.

I do plan to be working for ear/head shot placement, and I will be using my one of my flintlocks...either my 62-caliber flintlock rifle or my 16-ga flintlock fowler. The rifle shoots a 60-caliber ball and the fowler (smoothbore) shoots a 648-caliber ball when I use it with a patched ball.

From what I've been told by others who have gone on this type of thing at this place before, meat pigs aren't gonna come up to you looking for food, but they aren't going to be super challenging to get within 50 yards of. Then I just bide my time for a good shot at a pig I want where I can drive a ball into it's ear from a broadside shot angle and we should be good. I'll take one of my 10mm Glocks....just in case.

Ok, now processing...

I'm told they will, within reason, do as I request with the carcass.

My thought would be to remove the backstraps/loins and tenderloins first. I do this with deer for the same reason...that then the spine can be split without risk of boogering up either of those cuts.

I'm wondering if they can then cut the spine forward of the sirloin and THEN go down the spine to split it in half.

I've removed hind quarters on deer before without splitting the pelvis (using a knife), so I'm familiar with how to do that. I could do that, and keep the pelvis and each hind, and transport it all back like that to finish myself.

I may also ask the fronts to be removed similar to that video (when they cut them initially from the carcass).

That would preserve most of the desired cuts while giving me something I can transport in coolers.

I'm NOT a fan of liver, and my family would be aghast if I put heart in anything they eat. I might keep it for grind and use it for me though...

Thank you a million times to all...rest assured I'll be digging into recipes and dishes once I get this all broken apart.

Sounds like you are well on your way my friend. I can't wait to see the pictures! :D
 
Well, you may get them, but it'll be a while.

Had to put off the trip for work stuff that came up. Not sure when another trip will get scheduled. I was going to go with some guys from a hunting forum I'm on, so I will likely wait for the next time they can go. I'll get there eventually..
 
Thanks to all for the education.

This may be obvious to all the meat experts out there, but I found stainless steel butchers blades for my sawzall on Amazon. A plastic bag over the sawzall protects both the sawzall & the meat from contamination...
 
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If you are going for meat, I'd shoot a modern accurate rifle....just my opinion....

I get it....these pigs are a guaranteed thing for bow hunters at this ranch, so that means getting inside 50 yards for sure, and likely to 30 or less.

I've taken a whitetail at over 100 yards with the flintlock rifle, and at 50 with the smoothbore. I'd have likely taken the rifle....shooting one in the noggin at 20-30 yards wouldn't be hard to accomplish with that.

And moving a 60-cal ball at 1700fps+ produces a pretty significant whack when it gets there.

Work may be clearing up...fingers crossed if there's a spot untaken yet tomorrow I may still get to go on Friday.
 
Do it the way we did when we were younger, catch dogs and a knife that's all ya need
 
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