People who know me describe me as practical, no-nonsense, tough. (I’m sure there are other adjectives, but those are the ones relevant to this story. Hush.) While the pigs were growing, people frequently asked me whether I’d be able to butcher the them when the time came, since I frequently told stories about the pigs rolling over for belly rubs, or nuzzling my leg for ear scratches. Unwaveringly, I responded that we aren’t feeding these animals to be pets, and yes, it’s hard, but that I think it’s good to be up close and personal with the exchange that takes place when we humans agree to eat meat. One life for another.
But when butcher day came, I surprised myself by being pretty torn up about it. It was hard. I cried. I was not tough.
We butchered 3 of our 4 American Guinea Hogs on March 15. And by “we,” I mean we outsourced that. The local butcher came out to our farm and shot and bled the animals on site, then brought them back to their shop to chill and cut. I spent butchering day at my office, trembling and anxious, but Josh said the guys who came out were calm, professional, and efficient. They minimized stress for the animals as much as possible, which is what we wanted.
Once it was over, no-nonsense, in-control-of-herself Gwen returned.
We sold 2.5 of these pigs, and kept one half for ourselves. I was amazed and grateful that we have friends who took a chance on us and bought our pork, since we didn’t have anything to recommend this breed but internet heresay. (There are some snout-to-tail chefs who swear AGH is the pork.)
In the weeks leading up to butchering, I was working hard to moderate the expectations of our few customers about this pork. “The pigs are small,” I warned. “Small chops, small bacon, small hams. And it will be fatty. Really fatty. Embrace the fat.” My inspiring marketing pitches betrayed my fears and doubts. What if the yield was laughably small? What if our customers looked at their pile of cuts and thought they didn’t get their money’s worth? And what if, oh dear, our pigs had taint?
(Footnote: taint is somewhat common to uncastrated male pigs [though less common to AGH], and it has to do with dude hormones. Not all boars have taint, and not all people can taste taint even on pigs that have it. But for people who can taste/smell it on pigs that have it, it’s described as horrendous, stomach-churning, and vile. Most people use tainted meat for dog food. By not castrating our boars, we knew we were taking this risk.)
With tremendous relief, we picked up our half from the butcher and discovered that it tasted wonderful, better than I could have imagined, and the yield was respectable given the size of the pigs.
Our pig had a ~135 lb live weight, 96 lb hanging weight. Because we kept the bone in all cuts, and kept most of the organs, the cut and wrapped weight for our half (40 lbs) was very close to the hanging weight. Nothing wasted. Here’s a breakdown of the cuts and their weights, to give you an idea how much a half an American Guinea Hog will yield:
|6 lbs, 7 oz||pork chops|
|2 lb, 4 oz||hocks|
|3 lbs||spare ribs|
|1 lb, 5 oz||leaf lard|
|1lb, 9 oz||back fat|
|9 lb, 8 oz||shoulder roasts|
|3/4 lb||ground pork|
Plus 1/2 head, 2 feet, 1 ear, heart, and liver. And I’ll be grinding some of our roasts into sausage.
There was more demand for our pork than we could meet, so we’ve already introduced 5 new piglets to Tugboat, our barrow who was left behind in the first round of butchering because he wasn’t big enough. Two of these piglets will be our new breeding pair, and we’ll butcher the other three this winter.