What I Wish I Knew Before Butchering Pigs

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Warning: I’m trying to keep this blog as accurate to our lives as possible. That means posting sad things and mistakes we make. This is not a pigs going easily to the farm in the sky post. This is a hard lessons learned butchering pigs for the first time post.

I learned something the other day. Pigs are not easy to kill.

There is a lot more that goes into butchering pigs than other smaller animals. Up until now I’d only raised meat rabbits and chickens that I’d butchered myself. So in the process of butchering our pigs we made some mistakes. I wish I could say they died a quick easy death, but neither Kyle nor I have ever killed anything as big as pigs before. We thought we knew enough and had the right tools. We used a .22 rifle on one (which was not big enough), and Kyle missed his first shot with the .45-70 on the second one.

I’ll just say it. It sucked.

Seeing an animal you raised suffer is not a good feeling, even if it wasn’t for long. Part of raising our own pigs was that the whole process was supposed to be humane. Because of this experience Kyle doesn’t want to raise pigs to butcher again, though I still do. Next time we’ll have the experience to do better. And we’ll borrow the right sized gun if we don’t have one.

Anyone who wants to raise pigs for meat should be prepared to get attached to them.

They are surprisingly like dogs. Ours came when we whistled, were happy to see us, and just kind of ran with our pack of huskies. I’m so glad we don’t have neighbors so we can experiment with free ranging! Pigs are notorious for getting into (or out of) places they shouldn’t. Ours had space to explore and fresh ground to nose around in. Happy pig life? Check! I will say though, I did not enjoy pig poop in random places.

As for the rest of our butchering process?

After dispatching the pigs everything else was pretty easy. We watched Youtube videos to figure out how to properly gut the pigs. It wasn’t any harder than butchering chickens. Just bigger! I did get a little confused around the tail. On a chicken you can cut the whole thing off. Turns out that is not easy on pigs, so its better to just leave the tail on and cut in at the base.

Because we have so many predators in this area, we took the parts we weren’t going to eat down to the lake. Bears, wolves, foxes, coyotes, lynx. No reason to call our carnivore neighbors right to us!

Once that was done we left the pigs outside in a chicken wire cage to finish bleeding out. We wanted to make sure our dogs and the magpies didn’t get to them. We ended up having baby back ribs a few nights later for dinner, and they were amazing! We also traded some ribs and pork chops to our neighbors for moose.

Cutting up the pigs probably would have been easier if it wasn’t so cold outside.

The carcasses froze before we actually got to separating cuts of meat. We needed to wait for cool weather because we don’t have refrigeration. We’ve actually lived without a fridge for almost 2 years now! But I imagine skinning and separating cuts wouldn’t have been so hard. Not to mention working with frozen meat meant having cold fingers wielding sharp knives.

So what do I wish I’d known before raising and butchering pigs?

  • I wish I’d known that you pretty much have to be an expert to kill them on the first shot. Neither Kyle nor I have done much practicing with our guns. That is something we will need to change for next time, or before going hunting.
  • Did you know pigs are loud? Ours have been so quiet out here I didn’t realize how piercing they could be. Chickens and rabbits don’t make much sound being dispatched, so I never even thought about the pigs being loud.
  • It would have been nice to know how much like dogs they were before we got them. It’s more than a little hard to kill something that is so friendly. If we raise pigs again I’ll make it a point to be a bit more standoffish with them.
  • I think next time we’ll separate them even if we are butchering more than one at a time.
  • Because our pigs were free ranging, our plan was to lure them into a small pen so they couldn’t take off. I wish I’d known how smart pigs are! Even with food in the pen, they knew something was up. Next time we’ll take our time and get them in the pen to dispatch them.

I really think pigs should be a staple of our self sufficient lives out here. They provide us meat and fertilizer, as well as tilling the soil and eating vegetable scraps/waste. I am disappointed that this processes didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. We can only do better from here.

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