Not too long ago, nearly everyone around here raised up at least one or two butcher hogs each year for their own table. There used to be plenty of local hog farmers around as well, so inexpensive young feeder pigs were easy to come by.
Hogs grow fairly quickly, don't require a lot of acreage, and provide plenty of meat. They'll also eat all sorts of kitchen and garden scraps. The locally raised butcher hog we had custom processed last December weighed 260 pounds and dressed out at 185 pounds. Just like with our grass-fed lamb, the amount of meat you take home is a little less and depends on the cuts you choose.
That's a lot of bacon—and ham and chops and sausage and hocks and pork steaks. We had an amazingly flavorful pork roast for dinner a few nights ago, seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper. The bacon, which we have smoked but not cured—so as to avoid adding nitrates—makes the best BLTs.
More below. . .
Sadly, most of the hog farmers—including my hunky farmguy Joe, who bred and raised hogs for the first 7 years he lived on this farm—have been put out of business, mostly due to sky high feed prices and rock bottom hog prices, courtesy of big agribusiness corporations.
But some of us refuse to trade in our flavorful, homegrown pork for meat that comes from animals who have been raised in horrid, inhumane CAFO conditions, and thankfully a few hardy locals still raise hogs. For years we've been buying our pork from a guy who fattens up a few dozen butcher hogs each year, supplementing their feed with milk from his dairy cows, which makes the meat extra tender. Hogs and dairy cows often go hand in hand on a small farm.
You know that ten member family that supplies us with fresh raw milk each week—the ones with the darling baby calf? They also eat a lot of pork along with all the milk they drink. While walking back from admiring the new calf, I asked the young milk maid if they still had any hogs. She said they'd just butchered all three themselves, right there on the farm, including a 700-pound, 9-foot long sow. That's a big job—which provided this hardworking farm family with plenty of good meat to eat.
Now they were already makin' more bacon, with these happy young pigs they'd recently purchased from one of our Amish neighbors. Even when the freezers and larders are full, you always need to be planning ahead.
Looking to eat local? LocalHarvest.org is a great resource for finding naturally raised meat, vegetables, and other foods grown close to home.
More photos from friends' farms? Here.
More photos from out and about? (some repeats from above) Here.