What is a Half Pig Share

Pork Cut Chart

Click the image for a larger graphic with readable text.

This weekend someone asked me how many pork chops and other cuts of meat in a half pig. As luck would have it we just sent four half pigs to the butcher. Below is a typical breakdown using the numbers from one of those halves. This is probably more info than ever you wanted to know about half a pig. If not, ask questions!

Short answer:

About 23 pork chops from a half pig, 2 roasts, 1 fresh ham, 8 lbs of fresh bacon slab, 3 lbs of spare ribs, 9 lbs of ground pork, etc totaling about 75 lbs in the freezer for this half pig. That was a little on the high side. Most pigs are between 60 and 70 lbs for a half share. The chart above gives you a quick graphic view. Click on the image for a larger graphic so you can read the small print. This can vary with the individual pig as well as how thick pork chops are cut and such.

Long answer:

First note that a pig can be raised to the size you need. Some people prefer smaller pigs, others larger. As they get larger there is more fat to lean. A typical slaughter weight is between 250 lbs yielding about 180 lbs hanging weight. If you just take the prime commercial cuts that is about 120 lbs in the freezer. If you take the whole pig, nose to tail, that will give you about 160 lbs which includes great stuff like the hocks, soup bones, lard, liver, jowls (like bacon), head, trotters and other things. The pig is good to eat, end-to-end.

For the images here the specifications given to the butcher were: “A standard cutting of a half pig, packed for a family of two with Hot Italian spicing for the sausage.”

If you prefer you can specify custom cutting and they’ll follow your instructions. For example, perhaps you want more ground meat, no hams and no roasts. Or maybe you would like tenderloin and fewer pork chops. Or perhaps you want to reduce the bacon and go with more ribs. If you aren’t sure, just say “Standard cut for a family size of 2” or what ever size your family is. You’ll get great meat in familiar cuts like those from the market.

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The other big question the butcher may ask is what type of sausage you want. Realize that this is sausage patties in one pound packages. It is not sausage in the little wiener links. We use this at our house for meat balls, chili, American chop suey, spaghetti sauce, breakfast sausage patties with fresh pastured chicken eggs, etc. The option at most butchers is: Plain (no spices), sweet Italian, Mild Italian, Hot Italian or Maple Breakfast. For a standard cut there is only about nine pounds of sausage so just pick one type of seasoning.

Pork on Table
The photo above shows this half pig share laid out on the table all wrapped up in cuts. Below is a chart of the actual cuts from this half pig.

Pounds Item
—— —-
13 Pork chops 1″ – total of 23 pork chops, 7 packs of 2 + 3 packs of 3
3 Spare Ribs – Ask for my mother’s recipe if you need one
9 Hamburger/Sausage ground meat in 1 lb packages
15 Fresh Ham – easily brined or sent for smoking
8 Fresh Bacon Slab – brine & slice or send for smoking
10 Shoulder Roast
4 Butt Pork Roast
5 Stew Bones – good for dogs if you don’t make soup or stew
8 Fat – you can render this or feed it to dogs or chickens
—— —-
75 Total pounds of cuts in the freezer

The reason for the pork chops being 7 packs of 2 and 3 packs of 3 is that is convient for for a family of two. If you are a family of four ask for four chops to a package, etc. The smaller pork chops near the end were packed three to a package to adjust for their smaller size, thus the two different package sizes. Total count of pork chops was 23 for the half pig. These were thick 1″ pork chops. Thinner 3/4″ pork chops would yield more chops from the same pig. A shorter pig would yield fewer, a longer pig more. There is some natural variation. Figure on the typical pig having around 20 pork chops per side – more is a bonus. Also note there may be an oddly sliced pork chop towards the end – small and great for a child or sandwich.

Pork in Cooler
Above is that same pig packed in one picnic cooler plus the ham and bacon soon to be brining in a five gallon pail. If I took the ice out of the cooler the ham and bacon barely fit.

A typical pig would have yielded 60 to 70 lbs of cuts. This pig was a little bigger. Since these are pasture raised, heritage breed animals, they are real live creatures – thus they have some variance rather than the cookie cutter uniformity of factory farmed products.

Two other weight terms you may hear related to pigs are:

The “hanging weight” was 78 lbs for this half pig share. One interesting thing is the left side and the right side weight slightly different amounts. On this pig the other side was 80 lbs. Thus the whole pig’s “hanging weight” was 78 + 80 = 158 lbs. This was measured without the skin, head or feet. Note that some places measure the hanging weight with skin, head and feet on and would thus have a significantly higher hanging weight. Had the pig been scalded and scraped instead of skinned the hanging weight would have been higher, more like 215 lbs or about 107 lbs per half. The trade off is that with the lower hanging weight some meat in the feet, head, tail, neck, jowl and the skin (pork rinds) was lost. This is important to know if you are buying by the pound hanging weight.

Note that the processing is a big part of the cost in a pig. If you process your pig yourself, be it just the butchering or also the slaughtering, then you save a lot of money. It’s a skill you can learn. You can do an entire pig with just knives, no saws required so you don’t have to have fancy equipment. Of course, to make bone in commercial chops you’ll need a bandsaw and you’ll probably want a grinder too.

If your pig were weighed skin, head and feet on for the hanging weight, then the cuts weight (the 75 lbs above) would be very different from the hanging weight. For this pig, the hanging weight with the head, skin and feet would likely have been about 87
lbs for the half instead of 75 lbs. That difference of 12 lbs is almost all waste that goes in the trash but you would pay for it anyways in a higher butcher bill. If you are buying by the pound then with the head, skin and feet on your would also pay a higher price for the hanging pig. Ask about this little detail if you buy by the pound “hanging weight”.

The “live weight” was approximately 300 for this pig. We don’t have a big enough scale for live pigs so we measure by taping them. This is a pretty good estimate. See this article about how to weight a pig with a string.

Note that these are from early in 2006 prices in the examples. The prices of slaughter, butchering, smoking, fuel and the pig itself have all changed a lot over the years with the large increases in the cost of nearly everything. Early 2009 and 2015 prices have been added to the tables below for comparison and the 2006 prices have been kept for historical information. For up-to-date pricing see our web site.

When bought with a friend as a whole pig and split* the cost break down comes out as shown in the table below. The prices are shown as when this article was originally written in 2006 as well as updated pricing over the years. A half pig is also shown:

2006
Whole
2009
Whole
2015
Whole
2015
Half
~$2.25 $3.50 $4.25 $5.00 Price per pound hanging
180 180 180 90 Hanging Weight**
$350 $630 $765 $450 Pig Price
$40 $35 $55 $40 Slaughter, Chill & Hung
$86 $135 $155 $100 Butcher (vacuum packed)
$46 $46 $58 $30 Smoking (hams & bacon)
—- —- —- —-  
$522 $846 $1,033 $620 Total
$4.32 $7.10 $8.60 $10.28 Cost/lb Commercial Cuts
(~67% of hanging)
$3.22 $5.22 $6.37 $7.65 All Cuts/lb (~90% hanging††)
2006
Whole
2009
Whole
2015
Whole
2015
Half

Notes:
Linked sausage is also now available at $2.50/lb. See the article Sausage and Law.
*Buying a half pig is the expensive way to do it. The half pig price is $5.00/lb whereas the whole pig price is a much lower $4.25/lb. This savings reflects that when you buy in volume you save me the time and effort of matching your order up with someone else and handling two separate order. A big savings I can pass on to you.
**A pig can be raised to any size, within reason, so if you want a larger pig, just ask. Hanging weight at the butcher we work with most is defined by her as after the butcher slaughters & guts, typically about 72% of live weight scalded and scraped, head on, feet on. The butcher defines it differently than the previous butcher who slaughtered and then skinned removing the head & feet yielding less meat. The advantage of the current butcher is there is more meat available in the final order including bones for soup, head, feet, tail and other things that the previous butcher tossed out. This accounts for the difference in hanging weight for the same pig so I have averaged them both to 180 lbs which is fairly typical.
Price effective 1/1/2015
††All the pig is good to eat. There is a lot more beyond the commercial cuts you see in the stores. Trotters for thickening soups and stews, hocks slow cooked, organ meats, tail, head cheese a.k.a. brawn and more.

And what did the farmer (me) get per pound? We keep about 60¢/lb in 2009 dollars. That’s a little more than we were getting in 2006 which helps with the increased costs of living. We won’t get rich raising pigs but the life is good, the pigs are happy and fortunately I never have to worry about where our next meal is coming from!

There are smoke houses that will take the fresh hams and bacon and maple cure them or smoke them to your preference. When we slaughter for our family we don’t smoke the meat, we just brine it which is delicious. See this article about brining a ham to see how we do it.

Below is the finished product – a fresh, pasture raised pork chop. Ten months from breeding to butcher, raised on pasture, hay, milk and cheese. Delicious to the last bite!

You may find the article “What Good is a Pig: Cuts of Pork Nose to Tail” helpful.

Update 2008-07-01: Note that since this article was published there are a few changes. Our butcher now uses vacuum packaging which gives a longer storage life in the freezer. This costs a little more per pound but is worth it. We now sell by hanging weight rather than halves and wholes. See our web site for up to date prices and if you have any questions, just email me.

75°F/70°F Sunny after 7″ of rain this past few days on top of three weeks of rain earlier. My corn drowned. :(

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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80 Responses to What is a Half Pig Share

  1. Rosa says:

    Fascinating. Never a dull read when I visit!

  2. Now mind you I just ate my share and anothers this past 4th at a gathering hosted by our friends.

    But this takes the cake (and the “key” lime pie)just reading this post made me hungry again.

  3. Anonymous says:

    In the photo of all the cuts from this half, I don’t see the Boston Shoulder on the table with the other meat.

  4. Anony, the Boston Shoulder was ground to make the nine 1-lb packages of “Ground Pork” in the middle of the table. If you wanted additional ground pork (Hot Italian Sausage in this case) then you could have ground the “Picnic Shoulder” and that would have doubled the amount of ground meat. We use a lot of ground meat at our house for various dishes. It is a very flexible form of meat. Next one might grind the ham if you don’t like cooking a big piece of meat – we love a whole ham so we keep it as one piece.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Walter — can I use this chart? The one at the top with the pig showing the cuts? I would loe to have something like that for our farm brochure. That is the best chart I have ever seen. Also could I use the other photos?

  6. “Can I use this chart?”

    Glad you like it. You may use it. Please leave it as is with the URL and make a link to http://SugarMtnFarm.com giving credit. Note you’ll want to snag both the small version shown above and the big version that it links to since the big version has the readable small text.

    If you do use it online and would drop me an email with a link I would love to come visit your web site. If you use in a print brochure, could you send me one? Just email me to ask for my postal address. It is fun to see how other people do stuff.

    You can use the other photos from the article too. Again, just give a linking photo credit. In print just give the URL (http://SugarMtnFarm.com).

  7. TalaMuir says:

    oh my gosh, I’m definitely budgeting in one of these for next year.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey Walter…..great posting on the 1/2 pig…….it answered alot of questions i’ve always wondered about. You’re an inspiration when it comes to communicating useful information…..BTW there seems to be more than one Anony lurking about…i seem to have a shadow…..Anony I

  9. Dear Anony,

    Yes, there does seem to be a plethoria of Anony commenters. Must be a common name. If you would like to use something different when posting a comment, click on the “Other” choice and then a field should popup for you to fill in your name or any other nick-name you might like to use. For example, you could fill in “Anony I” so we could all tell you Anony’s apart. :)

    If you use the “Other” choice you can optionally also fill in the field for your blog or web site address if you have one.

    Glad you enjoyed the half pig share post.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  10. Leslie says:

    SUPER informative post, Walter. One of your best, IMO. There was a question on a homesteading forum about this exact topic – I’m off to point them at this.

  11. ranch101 says:

    Brings back memories. When I was a kid, every fall Mom would order half a beef and a whole hog. And our little family of 5 would run out before the next autumn, too. Love your blog.

  12. Karen Black says:

    My pig comes back from the butcher with a heart and a liver. What happens to yours?

    Other than that and a slight typo (“Sweat” Italian sausage?), a very useful post!

  13. Karen, thanks for the proof, “Sweat” is now “Sweet”! :)

    My son and I like liver and onions but don’t cook it as my wife can’t stand the smell. We have asked people if they want the heat and liver but everyone says no so it goes to our livestock guardian dogs after slaughter. They appreciate the organs. If someone wanted them they could certainly have them.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Walter,

    Thank -you, Thank-you, Thank-you!!!!!!

    About a year ago, my husband caught a wild female baby pig (about 50 lbs) running on our property in Central FL. (He hog tied it with his shoe strings) My oldest son (15) said he would care for it and a pig farmer was born! We used your idea to till the garden and around Christmas time “Pig Pig” had visitors – another female and a boar (full size). Long story short and two litters (?) later, we are wallowing in pigs. Currently , we have “Harriett” (the second female) back in the garden because I did not plant this year. We are planning on slaughtering her in the early fall – first cool day. I am a visual learner and your Pork Cut Chart has helped me tremendously. Now I will have answers to questions before they are asked on butchering day!!!!!!

    Appreciatively,

    Shiela in Davenport, FL

  15. Lindsay says:

    Can pigs be bred and eaten? That is, are they less tastey once they’ve aged and made babies? I am getting 2 tamworth piglets next month (siblings, but I’m told they’re ok to breed…?) and I’m not sure the best thing to do with them. I want to eat bacon, but would like to try breeding as well.

  16. On Tamworth, I have never dealt with them so I can’t speak from personal experience. What I have heard is they are good on pasture but lacking in the loin (pork chops) development.

    The breeding of siblings is supposed to work fine as long as you don’t do it for too many generations. One or two is fine – just cull any pigs with issues.

    Many people buy a bred gilt and then eat her after she weans her litter of piglets, raising the piglets and then eating most of them and breeding one, etc. It is certainly one way of handling production of replacement livestock. As you note you can even inbreed for a while.

    Pigs taste excellent at every age and variety I have tried so far:

    50 lbs to 300 lbs unbred gilts
    bred gilts (not yet had their first litter) generally 200-300 lbs
    sows that have had litters 300 to 600 lbs
    barrows (castrated males) 50 to 250 lbs
    boars 50 to 400 lbs

    The oldest boar we’ve eaten so far is 14 months – no sign of boar taint. See this article

    The only pigs I have found to be less than excellent eating are those under about 30 lbs live weight as the meat is too soft for my preference.

    Note that it is possible for your experience to differ based on your pigs and your own personal preferences. I have heard that some breeds of pigs taste differently. Other people say they all taste the same. I only have experience with our pigs which are a mix of predominantly Yorkshire (Large White) with some Duroc, Glouster Old Spot and who knows what thrown in the mix based on the occasional colored pig that pops out.

    I suspect that the question of bred vs not bred is the same on taste across all breeds. The one suggestion I do have for you is that after weaning the piglets you may want to let the mother build backup a bit of back fat before slaughter as she may be nursed down which means her fat reserves may be used up. A month should be enough time.

    -Walter

  17. amy says:

    Regarding the “smoked” vs “brined”, is there a difference in taste? Is it easier to have the hams and bacon smoked by the butcher? If you order fresh hams, do you have to brine them before cooking them?

  18. Amy, yes, smoked tastes a little different than brined. It’s all in the sauce, er, smoke. What you burn to do the smoking imparts a flavor to the meat. Also what you use for brining imparts a flavor. Brining is the first step in smoking. Around here very few butchers do smoking. I know of only one, “Sharon Smoke & Bones” but they are a long ways from us and tend to be so busy that it is hard to get into their schedule. “Vermont Smoke & Cure” is a smoke house in Barre but they don’t do the slaughter and butchering.

    Personally, I go with the brining. I like the taste and it is easy to do. To date I have not tried smoking a ham or bacon. Maybe someday.

  19. EllaJac says:

    Hi Walter, I got my tamworths and am learning as I go. I can’t seem to find the same answer twice to my question, so I thought I’d ask you. My pigs are eating a mix of commercial 16% protein (non med) and rolled grain (about 2:1). I also feed them clean kitchen scraps, things edible for us if we chose (apple cores, leftover salad, etc). I just made turkey soup and I have about a half-gallon by volume of ‘scraps’. No bones, mostly gristle and bits of meat and such. I am trying to determine if this would be appropriate eating for them. I can’t see why not, but the people I got the pigs from don’t think it’s such a great idea. I shied away from my in-law’s thanksgiving ham scraps (that just seems wrong to me, but it might be fine…?). I hate to see good ‘stuff’ go to waste, but what do you think?

    Thanks,
    Lindsay

  20. From email: hey Walter, at the end of your blog on half pig shares there are two ads by Gooogle:

    Keep Pork off Your Fork
    Check out our list of the Top 10 reasons not to eat pigs.

    Do you have any control over ads on your site?? lol
    Jenny

    Aye, isn’t that a blast. I have no control of the ads – Google does them. Those ads are from PETA. And if you click on them I get a penny or something. Wouldn’t it be great to drain their bank account!

  21. From Email: Hi Walter, great article, especially since I’m thinking of raising a couple of pigs myself this summer on excess goatmilk. Your average live pig weighed about 243, you said in the article… how old was it by that age, approximately? Jenny

    That’s about six months, maybe seven for that larger size. Six months is generally about 225 lbs but they vary from pig to pig. I had one gilt that hit 250 in five months. I kept her as a breeding sow. She is a daughter of Big Pig. You can guess that she was also “Big”. :) The goats milk will be great for them. They should thrive on that. Give them lots of hay too if you have them in a pen.

  22. Aileen Ruess says:

    Have you ever posted directions to render the fat from pigs?

  23. I haven’t written about that yet. It is fairly simple. You can do it in water or in a low oven. The oven produces nice cracklin’. The water, like when making soup, produces a very nice clean fat and then you can do the oven phase. We put it in mason jars like for canning soup, meat, veggies and jams. I’ll write about it sometime. Cheers, -WalterJ

  24. Feisty_Granny says:

    I found your blog through a nice lady on another site. Very nice!
    Downloaded the chart with URL.

    Oh, I clicked on the “Pork and Fork” – have a penny! hee,hee…

  25. baringapark says:

    Hi Walter

    I love this old post and find myself returning to it fairly regularly as it is so useful!

    Have you ever done any other breakdowns with pork cuts? I am asking because we often have chefs request particular cuts, but as we are a small-scale operation, are usually unable to supply.

    Recently I was asked for 4kg of pork fillet, 11kg centre cut pork loin (no fat, no bone =medallions?), 1kg belly. Now because we do a LOT of belly, I know that I get about 4-5kg of belly from a 60-70kg (liveweight) pig (8 months old). However, although I do keep records, we never bother with fillet and only occassionally do a few loin medallions. I am therefore unable to work out how many pigs I would need to fulfil such an order! Don’t you hate it when they only want the ‘best’ cuts? I love my scotch steaks, but chefs have NEVER asked me for that – not fancy enough! Anyway, I digress – love talking pigs n pork!

    Do you know of any resources where such info could be found? Also, would a pig of hanging weight around 50kgs (110 pound) have a large enough fillet for chefs to be bothering with?

    Thanks again mate

    Elizabeth

  26. Elizabeth, I just so happen to be working on an article just like this. Currently I’m working on the photos for it. -Walter

  27. baringapark says:

    Ahh Walter, you are just so good to me! I look forward to reading this when it is done! Elizabeth in Aus!

  28. Hi Walter!

    I’ve spoken with you once or twice before over on Homesteadhogs in Yahoo. Can I use your pig photo showing the cuts and packages on our website?

    Your site truly has a LOT of useful info on it. I’ve based a few things on our farm, upon what you have said, like the garlic for de-worming animals and other things.

    Thanks a LOT!
    Katharine

  29. Yes, you may have permission to use that photo for non-commercial purposes as described. If you have the budget and can pay I always appreciate that. In the past those who have paid have send $50 to $450. You can just mail a check to our address since we nolonger take Paypal after it’s recent signs of financial instability. [20110715 Note] I would like to have a clickable link back for online usage or photo credit such as “Walter Jeffries at http://SugarMtnFarm.com” or similar for print media. If you produce something that can be mailed or is available on the web for viewing I would enjoy seeing it.

    Note that there is a higher resolution linked image you may also use in conjunction with the 400 pixel wide image above. Just click through to it.

    Cheers,

    Walter

  30. chris from California says:

    We have a few hogs fenced in w/hog panels. I'd like to have them free range on the surrounding oak tree pasture but I'm afraid they'll escape. It's fenced w/barbed wire for cattle on 3 sides & for goat on the other. What type of fencing do you use for your free range hogs? Thanks.

  31. Chris, there are a number of options from poultry netting to polywire to high tensile smooth wire. These can be combined. See these posts for articles I’ve written about how we fence. A key issue is to train the pigs to the electric fence in a well physically fenced area such as what you have already. They must first respect it.

  32. Heidi says:

    I have a friend who has been raising winter pigs for spring slaughter for years. This is the first time I am purchasing a pig for food. Is there anything I need to know (Other than it will be the best pork ever eaten) I really like the pig chart, it is a great help to know what meats come from where.

    Do you have to brine or smoke the hams, or can you just leave them all natural and cook them as you would any other store bought ham?

    Also we are grain feeding the pigs with very little “slop” Do you think this makes for better eating?

    What else can you tell a first timer about raising and slaughtering pigs?

    Awesome article too. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Heidi,

    I can’t tell you much about “slop” as I’ve never fed it. Generally that term refers to food wastes, often post consumer food wastes. These should be cooked to prevent diseases from being transmitted to the pigs and back to people. I would avoid feeding meat to pigs for disease reasons – cooking becomes even more important there.

    As to grain feeding, again, we don’t do it so I can’t give you a whole lot of guidance on grain. Pigs are commonly fed grain so you should be able to find info about that in books. Check out “Small Scale Pig Raising” by Dirk van Loon.

    We feed pasture in the warm seasons and hay in the winter supplemented with dairy. This produces an excellent meat with a sweet tasting fat. We also feed a little apple, veggies we grow and other things good foods.

    You can cook hams without brining or smoking – then they are just like any other pork. They make excellent steaks and are great for use in stews, soup and stir fry. If you want to brine it you can do it quite easily like we do as described here.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  34. Hugh says:

    Hi i’ve just started to rear pigs. My name is patrick and i live in ireland. I have three gloucester old spot pigs, a boar and two sows. The boar is 22 weeks old and i am planning on sanding it to the abattoir. I have been reading all about your farm and i am thinking of turning my boar into rashers and sausages only. My plan is to sell the rashers and sausages to my friends and neighbours. What do you think.

  35. Interesting new word for me: ‘rashers‘. I had to look that one up. Yes, I think that is a fine plan. Check out the articles I’ve written about boar taint. Basically, some boars have it and some boars don’t. My suggestion would be to taste test the meat before grinding it all to sausage. It may be that your boar does not have taint and will taste fine, most are fine. If it does not have the taint then you can use the cuts like usual. If it does have the taint then one of the solutions that is traditionally done with boar meat is to mix the lean with fat from a sow or beef to make sausage since most of the taint is in the fat. Since many people can’t even taste the taint and taint is reduced through pasturing you may well have no trouble.

  36. Kristy says:

    This was very helpful, especially the photos. Thanks. I wish I lived closer and could buy from you to support your butcher shop project. Having the butcher shop on farm is the ultimate. That way your animals get to stay home. No stress. I love the way you farm. I hope that farmers near me will take a clue from you and open more small butcher shops like youre planing.

  37. Jenny says:

    You have some great photos and I especially love the delicious looking country meals. I eat too much junk food. I want to get back to eating good wholesome food red meat in particular. It is the natural food of our ancestors. I want the stuff you raise. I wish I lived closer! Seems like that is a common complaint. :(

    • Glad you love the photos. The dinners are good fare that keeps us going. Do support your local farmers by buying locally. Same goes for other local businesses. Every dollar you can keep in your local economy will come back to you some day.

  38. Erin henderson says:

    Thanks. These photos and chart helped me figure out what we’re getting in our order. So how many ice cream containers would this equal?

    • Let’s see, Erin. Refrigerator and freezer space is measured in cubic-feet. A half pig is about two cubic feet of cuts. Think of two milk crates which are about 12″x12″x12″ which is one cubic-foot or 1,728 cubic-inches. A half gallon of ice cream comes in a box about 3.5″x6.5″x5″ which is 114 cubic-inches or about 0.066 cubic-feed. Thus a half pig is about as big as about 30 half-gallon boxes of ice cream.

      By the way, speaking of freezer space, chest freezers are more energy efficient than upright units because each time you open the door the cold falls out of the upright. Along those lines, a full refrigerator or freezer is much more energy efficient than an empty one.

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  41. Jeff Marchand says:

    Walter, in your example you say that the 180 pounds of hanging weight yeilds 160 pounds of meat if you take everything. What accounts for to the missing 20 pounds? The head and hide?

    I just sent a small pig (the one with prolapse) to slaughter she had a hanging weight of 108 pounds and got 71 pounds of cuts. I am wondering what happened to the missing 37 pounds.

    Jeff

    • Hide if discarded can account for a lot of loss. You could tan it, make it into crisps or feed it to chickens and dogs. Heads are also quite heavy and more useful than hide – stews, soup, head cheese. There’s bits of trim the butcher cuts off, shrinkage due to loss of moisture to the air of about 9 lbs, loss of blood continuing to drip out and it seems to always come down a bit. Theotically it should come out that 180 lbs hanging yields 180 lbs but the reality is I find it is a little bit less, even when I process it totally myself and know nothing was lost.

      As to the missing cuts, realize there is a huge difference between the “commercial cuts” vs “everything”. Commercial cuts are what most butchers are going to give someone unless they ask for everything. Commercial cuts are things like the pork chops, ham, shoulder, bacon, ribs, ground. But there is a lot more to the pig before you get to the oink. Additional things to ask for are the hide, head, hocks, heart, trotters, liver, bones, leaf lard, back fat (won’t be much on such a small pig), etc. See the Half a Pig article with its pork cut chart and click through the chart to look at the larger version to see all the things you might be missing out on if you don’t ask for them.

  42. Jeff Marchand says:

    Thanks Walter,
    I’ll know for next time. What are trotters? The feet?

    Jeff

  43. Stor says:

    Pork, is my favourite meat by far! Amazing post and analysis, I didn’t know most of this info..

  44. Pingback: How much pork is in a pig? « Grace Note Farm

  45. Trent says:

    Hi Walter, You have a very informative blog. I have a question about home processing. I am capable of doing the slaughter and skinning or scraping but have only done smaller pigs less than #100. The problem I see is the chilling of the carcass after the initial hanging time. Being in Texas the weather usually doesn’t cooperate with temperature.

    For the smaller pig a refrigerator works well. Maybe it would work for a larger hog but lacking experience, I’m not sure. I’m wanting to do #250 live weight.

    I would appreciate your input and perhaps share your knowledge on the importance of chilling the carcass before processing.
    Thanks

    • Aye, the chill down is going to be a truck for you. Hot cutting to primals and using multiple refrigerators is probably the solution since a single refrigerator may not have the capacity to suck out the BTUs (heat energy) of that pig. You need to bring that carcass from the original 103°F down to below 41°F in under 24 hours ideally. Longer and you can start getting spoilage. 12 hours would be better.

      250 lbs live weight = 180 lbs hanging weight
      Remove the skin, feet, head = 150 lbs
      Quarter to about 40 lbs each (+/-) and use four refrigerators will make this a lot easier.
      40 lbs x (103°F – 40°F) = 2,520 BTU’s of heat to remove from each of those pork quarters.
      2,520 BTUs / 12 = 210 BTUs/hour to be removed from each quarter pig.

      Check your refrigerator’s rating to see how powerful it is. Mine doesn’t appear to have a rating but this article suggests 750 to 2,000 BTU per hour but that’s over running the duty cycle of the fridge and may damage it.

      Note that a freezer, as long as it is not the one on one of those fridges, can be used to help. Just monitor the pork to keep it from going too low. You don’t want to freeze it as you want to let the meat tenderize a little. I like three days or more of chilling ideally. What you really need is some of our cold weather – we still have snow and is April 15th. :}

      So how many friends do you have that will let you use their fridges?

      Check my math – no guarantees. :)

  46. Jess says:

    Hello,
    CAn you get a pig with no bacon?

  47. Pingback: Weekly Digest for August 4th | William Stearns

  48. Dave Stewart says:

    This is more of a question about pricing sides or whole hogs by hanging weight. I’ve got a couple of Tamworth hogs to sell. Around here, the going price on the hoof is $1.75 per pound. How would I go about pricing by hanging weight instead of live weight (since people seem to like that idea better) AND still make a comparable dollar given the loss of pounds involved? Is it reasonable to think this way?

    • Assuming the pork you produce is the same quality then the conversion from live to hanging is LW/72% so it would be $2.43/lb. That is the number you’re looking for as your floor price. To cuts on average would be HW/67% more so $3.62/lb. HOWEVER, are you comparing apples and oranges? Pork from pigs raised in a pen on commercial feed is not as high a quality as pastured pork, dairy fed pork, etc. Also, on the cuts remember that you must sell all the pig so high-on-the-hog cuts sell for two or three times that while low-on-the-hog goes for less.

      The best thing to do is produce top quality and charge appropriately. Remember that you do yourself, other farmers and consumers a disfavor if you charge too low a price. Too low a price means you’re not sustainable, you can’t stay in business. Consumers then see that artificially low price and come to expect it. This hurts them as it destroys their source (you go out of business) and it hurts other farmers because they have to compete with a false low price. This is why subsidies are bad. They tilt the market and create an unlevel playing field.

  49. Corey says:

    Great article….
    Some small butcher shops have gone to buying boxed meats as opposed to buying and cutting off the hook. I’m not sure I understand how could this be advantagious to them if they can use all the parts of a pig for resale, thereby maximizing their profits. Would like to hear your opinion on boxed meats vs. hanging(off the hook)meat.

    • Cole Ward, the butcher who we apprenticed with, says that the reason that the big stores are going with the boxed cuts is that it allows them to hire less skilled butchers who don’t know how to break down a carcass. I suspect that another factor is that consumers are no longer as familiar with using the oddments so it requires more marketing savvy to use and sell the whole pig. Thus some retail butcher shops buys just the primals or cuts they know they can sell to avoid ending up with slower moving products. The reality is that drives up the cost of the prime cuts since the entire pig must be paid for before the next pig can be slaughtered. In the real world pigs are made of much more than just bacon, hams and loin. Still, I keep breeding toward that ultimate 50′ long pig with 8 legs. :)

  50. Jason says:

    Thanks!! This was really helpful.

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