Monday, October 13, 2008

From Pigs to Pork a Love Story

On Mother's Day we bought two pigs. We named them Daisy and Tulip, I know, I know you should never name something you intend to eat, but we can't help ourselves, we name everything.

We have never raised pigs before and despite many folks warning us of the smell and the filth we proceeded to build a pen to house our pigs. Instead of getting just one pig we got two, because we read how social they are and how they like to play and romp around with each other or whatever they can get their snouts on. We also were considering keeping one and breeding her, but then we discovered how much it costs to feed a pig and we didn't feel we had adequate pens set up for a sow and her piglets to be comfortable through the winter.

What I wasn't prepared for was how much Clay and I would enjoy the pigs. Tulip and Daisy had very distinct personalities. Daisy was much needier, she was always running to us to be scratched and hoping for a treat. Tulip was the dominant pig never letting Daisy get too close to the feed trough until after she was satisfied, but like Daisy, Tulip loved to be scratched and would grunt at me if I didn't give her any attention. If I had to compare them to another animal that I'm familiar with I'd choose a dog, because they play with things, like the tarp that we had covered a portion of the pen with to provide shade and then there were the fly traps that I put around the outside of their pen that they couldn't resist trying to tear off. If they could get hold of something they would throw it in the air with their snout and tear it apart. They also loved our dog Preacher and would run over to slime his head if he stuck it through the pen to say hello to them. Both pigs would squeal in delight when they saw anybody that might come give them a scratch or a tasty treat.

We raised them for four months in a pen that is adequate for three or four pigs. Next year we would like to build a pen that gives them more room and attaches to the barn so they can have an indoor stall to come in out of the rain and wind. They really are very clean despite their love for mud. They always poop in the same spot and keep their bedding clean and dry. I let them out once and they ran around like demons tearing up the yard until I got them back in their pen. I decided not to try that again.

So, let's get to the photo diary.
We borrowed a trailer from the gentleman farmer whom we purchased Tulip and Daisy. We'd heard stories about how difficult it can be to get a pig loaded, so with a bit of apprehension we got to work. See that door Clay is holding? That is a hollow core interior door that he stained to replace a door in one of our houses four years ago. He never got it finished before we sold the house and that door has moved around with us and been used for so many different things that it's now a significant part of our DIY lifestyle. On this day, the door was being used for a make shift chute between the pig pen and the trailer ramp.

The second we opened the door the girls started tearing into the grass. Clay's holding a shovel because he had to scoop out all the dirt the girls had pushed in front of the door and having a tool in his hand makes him look tough.
Preacher was on hand to give advice and taste test the bucket of slop I had prepared to entice the girls up the ramp. How about those clogs and old capris I'm wearin'? Huh? I think it was the appropriate costume for the day.
We laid a big sheet of plywood over the metal gate of the trailer, but the pigs would get up a couple steps and then start to slide back down. Did you know pigs don't do inclines very well? So, we found some old fencing that had been framed for a I don't know what reason (we have lots of stuff in our barn from the previous owners that has been so beneficial to us). We laid the framed out fencing piece over the plywood so the pigs would have something to grip their hooves to. But, they still need help. Seth had to push their bottoms up while Clay held a board behind their feet to keep them from slipping. It really was a three person job.

Once we had them both on the trailer I gave them a lot of slop and they were as happy as pigs in a trailer full of slop. huh? Oh, right.

Clay crawled in with them to give them some goodbye scratchin'. Then we put some hay in with them in case they pooped or wanted to lay down, which they did neither and I cut up a bunch of apples for them to eat before we made the journey to the butcher.
We left our older two kids at home to finish their homework and packed up our two little boys to come along. Everybody was okay with the pigs leaving, except Preacher. He doesn't chase our vehicles when we leave. But, on this day he didn't want to be left behind and I don't think he was ready to say goodbye to the girls. We had to stop, put him in the truck, turn around
and take him back home. Clay carried him inside the house so he couldn't follow us again.
This is the company that processed the pigs for us. We had no trouble unloading the pigs when we got there. They had clean, indoor pens to house the pigs until they were ready to be butchered. The man gave them water and told us he would hose them down after he got our ticket ready. Our pigs were the only animals there that day. It took a week for our fresh meat to be ready for pick up. The cured meat is still being....uh, cured.

After we dropped Tulip and Daisy off I had one very sad little boy. He did not want to leave the pigs behind. This little guy loves his animals, but he also loves bacon.
I also had a big boy that wasn't very chipper. Because he also loved his pigs but, his favorite meal is pork chops.
I was sad that I wouldn't have the girls to go check everyday. They had become a big part of my daily routine.
And Levi, well let's just say he wasn't emotionally involved at the moment.
So, we stopped to get a soda and some chocolate. And then we returned the trailer. I'm so glad we took the littles with us because when we got to the gentleman farmer's home he had a new batch of baby pigs that we got to see. It was all we could do not to take a couple home with us. It was a nice way to end the journey we'd had that day.

A week later I picked up all the fresh meat. Goodness, what a haul. This doesn't include the bacon and hams. I wrote down all the quantities but I lost the piece of paper I'd scribbled in on in one of my cleaning furies. Here's what I remember;
32lb of sausage, 42 pork chops, ribs, 20 or more pork steaks, 12 roasts, 10lb of ground pork and I might be forgetting something. I had the hams sliced in half and one of them cut into small packages. My freezer is full.
It was a little over 200 pounds of meat. Our pigs were smaller because we didn't bulk them up with hormones or use any medicated feed. They weighed in at just under 200 pounds each, I think that was their hanging weight. So, our weight to meat ratio is a bit lower than if we would have fattened them up a bit more.
I figured our cost the best I could which included purchasing the pigs, feed, pen, processing all at roughly $1000.00

Which means these thick juicy pork chops cost 5.00/lb. I know where they've been and I know how they were cared for and they tasted delicious. We're looking forward to doing it all again next year and maybe this time we'll get three pigs and breed one.

HUGE CORRECTION- At first I had .50/lb, but after a couple of you math wizards caught my mistake I corrected my error. Geesh, sorry if I got your hopes up that raising a pig is super cheap!


Rhea said...

Dang, those big girls are serious about ripping up grass!! That video was neat.

It was kind of sad to hear the story and to see them butchered, but that's where meat comes from, and it's pretty cool you took care of them and know where your meat is coming from. :o)

Rhea said...

Now, you know that if the crazies came out of the woodwork to get Rechelle for killing that snake...they may totally roast you alive!!!

melissa said...

Enjoy your pork. I don't know what else to say. I don't think I could have done it. Of course I don't eat pork so it would be easier to want to keep them. Are they a pain to care for, my kids would like a couple of pigs.

Accidental housewife said...

I don't eat pork either. Not because of any beliefs or esoteric concerns but because it gives me migrains. Those chops sure look tastey. What a great lesson and experience for your kids.

Linda said...

I think it's great that you gave your pigs such a good life and raised and butchered them with respect. And you can say something that most people can't ... that you know where your food came from!

You have chickens, right? Are they just for eggs, or do you eat them too?

Will you try raising beef?

Maren said...

You are very brave. We ordered half a beef from a friend this year, and I could barely live with the guilt of having sentenced some poor cow to death. On the other hand, I love looking in the freezer and seeing all those white packages:)

Leah said...

I so love the fact that you know the meat was pure and safe, but I'm so sad. I wish they (the pigs) weren't so friendly. I wish they were rude and disrespectful and prone to biting.

Alicia said...

That is awesome! Your pigs led very full and happy lives while they were with you. And if anyone gives you a hard time, you can just say it's better than supporting the big meat-producing corporations that put their pigs in cramped little pens, in poor living conditions and pump them full of hormones. And the best part is, 50 CENTS A POUND!!!

Clayvessel said...

I think you mean $5 a pound. ($1000/200)
Correct me if I'm confused.

Housewife Superstar said...

I am SOOOOOOOOOO turning vegetarian

Lori R said...

Well, ok, this city girl is impressed. If you're going to eat meat (which I do, by the way) it's good to know where it came from and what did and did not get pumped into it. Good job on your post; I hope you don't get crap for it. You obviously put a lot of thought and care into it, as well as into your "girls." Well done.

Sharon said...

I'm not a fan of pork but I don't think I could name my meal. ;)

DVM's Wife said...

Bring on the bacon!
There is nothing wrong with butchering an animal you fed and raised, but many reading this will think you killed your pet, and they just don't get it.
I have no issues with eating our own beef cattle, none at all.

~*~ Jennifer ~*~ said...

$1000/400 (2pigs) = $2.50/pound. Right? But I'm a public school grad, so I could be wrong.

You are paying for the organic-ness of the meat. Freedom from chemicals and hormones.

Next year your meat will be less expensive... as you won't have to pay for the pen, just the pigs and the feed.

Enjoy your meat... we save 1 big smoked ham for Easter. YUM!

Anonymous said...

Good job! Enjoy the bounty of your harvest. - Mrs. C

Heather in MT said...

yep, I need to move further out into the country, get some pigs, goats and chickens. Those pork chops look yummy.

April said...

Oh, sorry guys. When I started seeing your glee at the cost of my pork I knew something was wrong.

The cost of grain this summer was very high, so it was pretty expensive to feed the pigs.

Jennifer, the weight of meat I got from both pigs was 200lbs.

Yes we have chickens just for eggs, but I want to raise some meat birds next year. And YES, I think about having a cow all the time. I'd like to get a Dexter to milk and raise the calves for beef.

Joy said...

Keep me in mind it's always more expensive the first year you try something. I bet next year your price goes down - pens are built, you start "slopping" them more.... just a guess but that's how it worked when he raised beef.

Great post!

Can you do a post on how many chickens you have and how many eggs you get from them... similar to what you did with the pigs?

1215656559s20768 said...

Cool. Those are some nice looking chops. I think it's definitely worth it to not have your meat full of hormones and steroids.

Clay looks like he is layin' his hands on them and prayin'.

Just take extra precautions that your freezer never goes off. I lost a good supply of meat and veggies during Katrina. We didn't have generator then, but we do now.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Great photo story! It's great to raise your own meat, great when it hits the frying pan too..much more flavor:)

Crunchy Chicken said...

As Joy said, your costs are actually lower per pound since some of the cost (pens, etc.) is a "sunk cost" in that it's a reusable investment. So, the initial outlay may be more expensive, but if you amortize those costs over the course of their lifespan you will find your cost per pound is lower than $5/lb.

But, then again, I have really no idea what I'm talking about.

Willow Witch said...

if this were an ad for a visa card the cost for the experience you have given to your family is "priceless" not to mention "tasty".

Bre in KY said...

You'll appreciate this post...
My husband's oldest sister and mother share a birthday. Not the same year, duh.. Anyway, they had a relative that had a farm and she named a cow after them: CindyJane. They petted the cow and visited her every so often. Then one day in June around their birthday, they came home to find a large box sitting on the porch filled with ice and white packages. All the packages said CindyJane on them. My mama in law said she could barely eat the meat since the cow was named after her. Happy Birthday. LOL...

Anonymous said...

What a great post.
I know I would so enjoy all that
pork meat. I think it was good that you brought you 2 young chrildren with you, I think it was a real life learning experence for them.
Well good luck next year

KM said...

I grew up on a (primarily) dairy farm, but we also had younger cattle up to two yrs of age. One of them was chosen for slaughter and the deal was that the kids picked it (otherwise it might not be eaten?). We always picked the meanest, no-good,son of a gun and ate it with relish..

Anonymous said...

I grew up on a cattle farm. We gave nice names to the girls because they were not used for food. If I named a steer (boy) I would name it something like Sir Loin or Wellington. That way it would always remind me not to get too attached to the ones that we would be eating.

Anonymous said...

Disgusting! You betrayed those poor animals! They loved you & you killed them!