Ask Farmer Pete: What’s in a Pig?
Pete King is in charge of the pastured livestock operations at Freedom Farms. This month, Pete took a break from feeding cows and setting up portable fencing to give us the breakdown of what’s inside a Freedom Farms Pastured Pig.
A Map of the Half Hog
So you want to buy half a pig, but you’re wondering what’s inside? Freedom Farm pigs are raised on pasture, with constant access to fresh air, fresh food and clean water. In the summer, we keep the pigs on brushy, shaded hillsides, and in the fall we move them into the woods so that they can forage for acorns and other tree nuts. Our pigs have room to roam. Pigs are curious creatures, and they like to explore the world around them. They like to dig for grubs and roots and nuts. This natural, varied diet and the constant exercise during their lifetime makes for great tasting pork that is good for you. Our pigs live a good life, and are humanely processed. The meat has a much leaner, better, and more complex flavor than a factory farm pig that has lived life in captivity.
We sell hog halves here at Freedom Farms. When you buy half of a hog, you are investing in the highest possible quality of humanely raised meat at a very reasonable price. Here are the cuts of meat that you will receive, along with some of my favorite tips for preparing those cuts.
2 Boneless Ham Halves
Our boneless ham halves are tumbled in brine and cold smoked. The ham is the back end of the pig. It’s a big chunk of meat! This cut is a great holiday ham or party ham. It can feed a lot of people. I’m a big ham sandwich man, myself, so I always look forward to the day after the party when I can cut up the leftovers and use them for sandwiches.
1 Slab Smoked Bacon
Bacon is made out of smoked pork belly, which is the best part of the pig. I wish the whole damn pig was made out of the belly. Bacon is the best no matter what you do with it.
1 Shoulder Roast
The shoulder roast is the top of the loin. The pork loin runs from the back end to the front end, up into the neck. The coppa cut (featured in a recipe on page ? of this issue) comes from this cut. The shoulder roast is a good cut which makes a great roast. I like to brine my roasts for a day, do a dry rub, and then slow cook them. If you do use a dry rub, make sure to rinse before cooking to remove excess salt.
Sausage – Breakfast Links, Sweet Italian, Hot Italian Links
When you buy half a hog, you get about 30 lbs of mixed sausage. I love sausage; it’s great for anything. You can’t beat breakfast sausage with eggs to start your day. I like to add pork to my meatballs, for burgers, for stuffed peppers, and of course the hot sausages are amazing grilled over a fire.
Pork Chops, 4 packages
The pork chops are the main part of the loin and the back of the pig. Our pork chops come bone in. Those bones are the rib bones. When the bones are pulled out, you end up with a boneless pork chop and a baby back rib. We like the bone in chops because it’s much easier to keep them tender and moist. When they are cooked boneless chops they often seem dry to me. Also, I really enjoy pulling meat off the bones.
1 Loin End Roast
The end roast is the back end of the pig’s back. The tenderloin starts to taper off and this cut comes from right above the hip bone. This roast is bone in, and includes the back end of the spine. There’s a little extra meat on top of the loin with a layer of fat on top. That makes this a good roast with tons of flavor and a great texture. I like to brine mine with brown sugar, salt, and pepper for a day or so. I soak them and then slow roast them. Try it, you’ll be glad you did.
1 Rack Country Spare Ribs
Country Spare Ribs include the bottom half of the ribcage. This cut is usually packaged into two separate pieces. I like to boil them for an hour, pull them out, and then grill them outside at a high temperature. They come out crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
There you go, folks, that’s a half hog broken down for you! Order yours today by calling the Freedom Farms Farmers Market at 724-586-5551.
Originally published in the January 2015 issue of Freedom Farms Magazine.