Putting meat by

Posted on November 18, 2010


Some people get invited to glitzy parties.  I, on the other hand, am invited to Experiences.  Brad Kik wrote:

Thought you might be interested in an old-fashioned hog slaughter taking place at the Romeyns’ Farm on Monday.  Amanda and I asked Ryan not to send our pig to Ebel’s to be processed—instead we’re going to do it ourselves (with a lot of help) . . . .  Should be some cool pictures and good stories to come out of this. Hope you can stop by!

I mulled this over and said of course I would come.  Then I assembled reinforcements.  Babs said of course she would come too.  On Monday we presented ourselves at Providence Farm.  Do you want to stand around with us and drink coffee and talk about the cold, drizzly day, so ideal for a hog slaughter?  No, I thought not.  Let’s go down to the pig barn then, shall we? 

This is the pig, a Duroc cross I’m told.  He is the star of this little drama.  You already know that he is a tragic hero.  No suspense there. 

The supporting cast, from left to right, includes Brad himself, whose job was to dispatch the pig as quickly as possible.  His wife Amanda was there with the new baby, Ily.  She would take care of the children.  Jen Knauf was there to drive the Kubota.  Jess Piskor came over from Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport.  His job was to open the carotid artery to allow the blood to drain.  Still with me?  OK.  Brad, Jess and Jen would share the work of cleaning the pig and removing the useful organs.

Babs, of course, was there to make photos of all of this.  And I was there to write about it and, as it turned out, to weep for the pig.  I had decided not to have any breakfast, as I was worried about losing it anyway.  In the event, I did not feel queasy.  I felt sad.   

Brad says his philosophy is that animals raised for meat should have a good, peaceful life with only one bad day.  He also thought that if he was going to eat an animal, he ought to be able to face it and take its life himself.  That is a philosophy I can grasp.  This particular pig had a very good life up on the ridge above Torch Lake.  He was well fed, well tended, and given a farewell skritch.

After that it got harder.  Brad took his time, wanting to do the job right.  One shot, placed just so.  You might think that this would be easy.  It is not.  A person must decide to take a life.   

The shot went home, and the pig went down. 

Jess moved in to open the artery. 

It got harder here.  There isn’t any “instant” about dying.  It took just under two minutes.  There was a fierce pounding of hooves as the pig’s body fought to stay alive.  No squealing.  Just a sound like a herd of mustangs galloping, galloping across the prairie.  Then it was over. 

Brad and Jess and Jen gathered around to catch as much blood as they could.  Nothing was to be wasted.  Brad massaged the body, doing the work of the stilled heart, moving the blood through the veins.

Jen brought the Kubota around, hoisted the pig up and trundled off to the space prepared for the cleaning.   

A clean trash can waited, filled with hot water.  They hosed off the carcass and lowered it into the hot bath to loosen the hair. 

The laborious job of removing all the hair began.  It must be done thoroughly or the meat will be off. 

After fifteen minutes or so of that, Babs and I went off to Sonny’s for breakfast.  I know, I know.  I am surprised myself.  But I was hungry and in need of a cheerful place. Two hours later we returned, just as the team finished the scraping and shaving.   

The next part of the job would require skill and care and a great many sharp implements, but it would be much easier.  At this point, you see, the pig seemed less an animal and more meat.  I’ll show you the cleaning part tomorrow.  [Update: See Bringing home the bacon]