I'm not sure I would have ever been brave enough to order an entire pig from a farmer if Brandon's dad hadn't helped us years ago. But even then the situation was different, because he raised the pig and coordinated with the butcher, so all we had to do was pick up the boxes of meat. Brandon remembers always having pork to eat from pigs his dad raised when he was growing up, and has some funny stories about trying to hold a pig still while his dad gave it a shot and of helping cart off pig intestines in a wheelbarrow when his dad butchered a pig in the barn. As soon as Brandon and I had a house and room for a freezer, he offered to raise enough pork for us too.
Before he raised a pig for us, I didn't even eat sausage, much less cook cuts of meat more exotic than ground beef or boneless pork chops and chicken breasts. I was never a big meat eater anyway, and I heard too many horrible stories of meat packaging facilities to trust meat that was ground up and seasoned like sausage. Who knows what's in there, right? But, finding myself with a freezer full of sausage, roasts, hocks, bacon, and jowl meat that was processed by a butcher my father in law trusted, I opened my mind and my taste buds, and immediately realized what a good thing we had.
It wasn't long before Brandon's dad was raising a beef cow for us too, and even a meat goat. I started to learn to cook cuts of meat that I had never even eaten before. Because all we were paying for was part of the food costs and butcher bill, we were getting to eat steaks and tenderloin on an income that was only hot dog and ground chuck worthy. We were spoiled!
After Brandon's dad died and no one was left in our family with the ability to raise animals, I had to adjust to grocery store prices for meat again, after years of getting to skip the meat counter. Talk about sticker shock! Not only was the meat expensive, but it didn't taste as good. It was time to find a farmer. Remember those pretty pigs I was feeding pears a couple of weeks ago?
Last week, Farmer Joe delivered eight boxes of pork! But, before the pigs were delivered to the butcher, I had to fill out the "cut sheet", which is instructions for the butcher about how I like my meat. Maybe you can see the cut sheet in the photo above if you click on it an zoom in.
The cut sheet gives options for each type of meat; shoulder, loin, side, ham, trim, and variety meats. I wasn't really sure how I liked many of these things, but I took my best guess and had many conversations around the water cooler at work with my two work friends who also ordered a pig from Joe. I selected breakfast sausage for my trim, smoke seasoning on my bacon, bones in my chops, and a lot of other options. I recommend always ordering bulk meat at the same time as coworkers, since the office buzz focused on spare ribs and pork liver for weeks prior to the actual delivery, and now we get to compare recipes as we each try the different cuts. It's a real team building exercise.
Since Brandon and I split our pig with my parents and Byron and Shanna, we got to bundle up in the chilly garage and sort through all the meat before we took them their share. It was like all my birthdays and Christmas's came at the same time! Each box was opened with ooos and ahhhs - "bacon! chops! yummy sausage! pig heart...?" Since all the cuts don't come in even numbers, we had to make some decisions about who gets what, which to anyone listening would have sounded something like this "bacon for me, liver for them, bacon for me, neck bones for them, bacon for me, caul fat for them, bacon for me, pig feet for them..." I'm kidding. Brandon wouldn't let me cheat (he will regret that when I serve him that pig heart, I'm sure).
If you are curious about how much food comes in a pig, check out the photo of the package list above. We got forty two pounds of sausage from a three hundred and fifty pound porker!
Brandon, accustomed to the frugal pig rearing practices of his father, and the prices you only get when it's your dad that is charging you, was having a little sticker shock at the cost for this pig. At $3.75 per pound for the hanging wait, Joe was giving us a good deal, and a price that is in line with or slightly less than other local pig farmers who raise their pigs on organic pasture, feeding locally grown non-GMO feed, and are antibiotic free. In the end, we got one hundred and sixty-five pounds of pork for $861.00, which works out to $5.21 a pound. Just for a comparison, I looked on-line at the prices listed on a Kentucky farm that sells cuts of naturally raised pork from their farm, and did some quick math to see how much it would cost to buy the cuts of meat individually from them. Not counting some of the odd bits, like liver and fat, which they didn't have listed, but just to buy the chops, sausage, hams, and other more normal cuts in this quantity would have cost $270.00 more than we paid. Buying in bulk really does save money, it's just hard to come up with all that cash in one go.
Once all the meat was sorted and stored and we scrambled up a quick dinner of tortilla's stuffed with peppers, onions, and some of the best sausage we've even eaten, we forgot all about the cost and the hassle of sorting and storing meat. I really hope Joe gets more pigs next year!