Buying local pork

We recently bought half a pig from a local farmer. When you buy a pig directly like this, you pay the farmer a set price per pound “hanging weight”. This is the weight of the pig after it has been gutted, skinned, and the head removed. So hanging weight includes the meat, fat, and bones, not just meat. The butcher gets a flat rate for processing the carcass, and then a fixed price per pound (hanging weight also) to cut, season (sausage), cure (hams and bacon), and wrap the meat. Since there are so many variables, we thought it would be useful to present the the details of our purchase.

The graph below shows how the hanging weight of our pig breaks down into meat, fat, and waste. The fat would also be considered waste, if you didn’t want to make lard with it. The percent of meat should be representative of most modern pig breeds. (This was a Yorkshire cross.) The cuts of meat, however, is determined by your instructions to the butcher and can vary quite significantly. Robin doesn’t like pork chops, so we opted for more roasts and sausage. We have plenty of ground beef from our quarter cow purchase, so we wanted all the ground pork cuts made into sausage too.

So, our 113 lb half-pig produced 73.5 lbs of meat. We paid $226 to the farmer and $91 to the butcher. This works out to $4.32/lb for local, naturally raised (not organic) pork. Yes, this is a more expensive than the meat you can buy at the store, but we consider it a good deal for three reasons:

  • Flavor – The sausage, bacon, and other cuts of meat taste awesome. There’s no comparison to the stuff you can buy at the store. Our pig was fed huge quantities of wind fallen apples, excess garden produce, and other things. You get out what you put in.
  • Knowledge – We know the who, what, when, and where of our pig’s life. Store bought pork is a mystery. There might be a picture of a pretty farm on the label, but I wouldn’t suggest going by that. A pound of sausage might contain meat from dozens or hundreds of animals, killed under highly stressed conditions, and processed at a plant that has had .. how many recalls this year?
  • Supporting Local – This is local meat from a small family farm. Hard to argue the benefits of that. For an overview of the social ills of the industrial meat system, I recommend watching Food Inc.
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6 Responses to Buying local pork

  1. Leigh says:

    For farm raised naturally grown meat I’d say that’s a good price. Plus, nothing beats the peace of mind in the knowledge of the things you mention in your post.

  2. Lynn says:

    I think this is a good deal, too. We recently got to know a local livestock owner/dealer, and plan on buying more from our other local farmers. Randy and I want to start raising livestock, too, but are having a tough time finding time to do all that we want. But regardless, we all need to support the local farms and it’s awesome to know what we are eating. Thanks for being a leader in this effort!

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  5. Gwyneth Harris says:

    In your article on the cost of raising pigs, you compare this pig with the one you raised yourself… It does seem like this pig was somewhat fatter than the other one, which, as you say could be attributable to either genetics or feeding. However, you forgot to account for the relative amount of bone in the two separate cut lists (both within the cuts and as a percentage of “waste”). It would be interesting to compare two pigs with the same liveweight and same cut list, to give some better data on what is the more productive pig and/or feeding regimen.

    • lee says:

      That’s a good point. I didn’t really consider the huge relative difference in the amount of waste (bones, etc.) between the two pigs. This chart was for a half, so the true hanging weight was 230 lbs, almost identical to the larger of the two pigs we raised. The only difference in the cutlists was that the pork chops from the other pig were taken as sausage in this one. It’s such a huge difference that I wonder if our order for the half pig was messed up (partially lost?) by the butcher.

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