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.