Hanging Around

14 Month Old Boar Meat

The above is meat from a 14 month old boar. The meat was great and even better after hanging for a week. This winter we slaughtered a four year old sow. She was tender and delicious – with proper hanging. I had been meaning to do a hanging experiment and did it with her.

Little Pig died in the blizzard on Valentines Day. I hung the quarters in our shed during the second half of February. The shed temperature was 36°F. We have done this testing before in a less vigorous way which lead me to the idea that hanging would be good, especially with an older pig.

Day zero – we ate a loin within hours of slaughter – tough, rigor mortis.
Day 3 hanging – loin – okay, tougher than a finisher.
Day 5 hanging – loin – good.
Day 7 hanging – loin – good, fairly tender meat.
Day 10 hanging – loin – excellent, tender meat.
Day 14 hanging – shoulder – excellent, very tender, increased flavor.
Day 21 hanging – remaining quarter slimy on the outside, to the dogs although the meat inside was fine.

Note: At the time I did the research I had fairly simple facilities for hanging. I suspect that with better control of humidity and temperature I could hang another week or two for tenderizing just like with beef. For over five years now we have been hanging for a week which works well with our weekly pigs to market schedule. The results above shows that extending this to two weeks would perhaps be optimal but that does not work with the hired meat processing facility’s schedule or our delivery route schedule at this time. Meat continues aging in the cryovac packaging if kept fresh – this is called wet aging. Not as good as dry aging but something.

The remaining quarter was probably still good on day 21 although very slimy on the surface. I chose not to risk it. Probably the humidity was too high in the shed from what I’ve read. We weren’t starving and the livestock guardian dogs have to eat too so they got the last 80 lbs or so. When dividing it up into packages of dog food to freeze on the porch I found that just under the surface the flesh looked and smelled fine.

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The standard ‘word’ I’ve read and heard from most butchers is that pigs don’t need hanging. It is now recognized that sheep and cattle both benefit from hanging. There are some butchers who disagree with the convention and think everything benefits from hanging. Some say all grass fed meat should be hung. You’ll note that the top restaurants brag about how long they hang meat. Perhaps the reason commercial high production pigs aren’t hung now is that most pigs that go to slaughter are only five or six months old so the need for hanging was lessened and thus expensive reefer space was conserved.

So what to do with an old lady? Certainly grinding her for sausage is safe. I guess it depends on if you’re doing the slaughter and cutting and thus more willing to take the chance. Then if she’s a tough old sow you can always grind.

My personal favorite cut of pork is the Boston Butt steaks and Country Ribs, both from the same section of meat, out of older sows. It is well marbled and tender with a rich, robust flavor. The connective tissue is more developed so at cooking time one needs to do a better job of trimming that out which is quite easy.

There are those who wonder on the sentimentality of life and death, of eating a pig I have known for so long. I liked Little Pig in both life and death. She was a good sow and I knew her well. She is survived by one sister, Saddle Pig. In nature, as on the farm, there is no waste nor would a pig want it that way.

Related:
Sugar Mountain Butcher Shop Project
Of Pig Brains and Tea Cups
Box of Death
The Second Pig
To Kill or Not
Cutting Death and Disturbance
A Quick Death
A Brief Dance with Death
Adams Farm Slaughterhouse
Death on the Farm

Update 2014-12-28: Since I originally wrote this back in 2007 we’ve continued to age our pork for about a week which fits with our farm’s weekly cycle of taking pigs to butcher and then cutting the meat the following week for delivery to customers. Interestingly, while the ‘industry’ has been doing hot cutting and zero day aging (<24 hours) for decades there may be a move towards what we've been doing of hanging for a week as discussed in this article "Ageing and the Impact on Meat Quality” on ThePigSite.

Saturday-Friday Outdoors: 80°F/40°F Mostly Sunny, 1″ Rain
Farm House: 76°F/53°F
Tiny Cottage: 72°F/67°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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24 Responses to Hanging Around

  1. karl says:

    i’ve had aged NY strip in a fancy restaurant in santa barbara before and it was wonderful. i was told that they have to cut off the outer meat. i would never risk it at home.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I rember taking my grandma shopping at a supermarket, She tryed to find cuts of meat that had been hanging around long enough to grt a tinge of green onthem. Not only were they cheaper, she insisted they were more tender because of the age. how can you argue with Grandma?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love this. Answered many of my questions. Thaks!

  4. Julie says:

    There’s an issue of Fine Cooking that discusses dry ageing meat in your fridge. I’ve been meaning to give it a shot but I always forget. If it’s beneficial for one type of meat I don’t see why it wouldn’t be beneficial for another.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi,

    I hope this isn’t a duplicate post. Does the carcass have to hang, or can it just go into a refrigerator? We are going to process some goats in the fall. They are over 3 years old and the temperature here is not cold enough to hang outside. But I can take the shelves out of a refrigerator and probably fit the carcass inside if it’s cut into quarters.

    Sasha

  6. Sasha, the fridge should work fine if it is in the right temperature range. The idea is to keep the meat at a low temperature so it does not spoil yet do not freeze it or even take it too low. If the meat gets too cold then the tenderizing stops. I have read recommendations to not go below 34°F. Others say not below 36°F. Some recommend an optimal temperature of 36°F to 40°F. I’m still looking for authoritative research on this. I open or close the doors on the shed to adjust it’s temperature a little and only do this in the cooler weather.

  7. Chris in Oswego County, NY says:

    Walter,
    I just had chops from my first garden-raised pig. My butcher is family-run since 1930 or so, and they insist on hanging a pig for a week. Of course, my own home-raised pig is better than anything in the supermarkets.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog and encouragement — you gave me the courage to grow my own, and it was worth it!

  8. Anon says:

    I regularly buy large beef roasts (top lion, ribeye) in the cryovac, and “dry age” them in my refrigerator for two to three weeks before i eat them.

    Remove the meat from the package, pat dry with paper towels, and then put on a cookie sheet with two or three paper towels underneath. the outer 1/8th inch of the meat will dry into a crust, which i trim off when I cut a steak off, and over the two to three week aging, the meat will lose about 10% of its total weight.

    the economics for my area are as follows: new york strip lion is $6.99/lb. A strip lion roast (the whole lion) is $5.39/lb. What you lose in weight is water, not flavor or meat – it gets concentrated. When I slice off a steak, I allow it to rise to room temperature for 2 or 3 hours. rare beef is 130 degrees — so allowing the meat to stabilize at 60 or so means I only have to raise the temp another 70, which means less cooking (and subsequent loss of juices) to reach the target weight.

    I have tried ‘aging’ individual steaks, but do not get a satisfactory result. the best result is for cuts of meat that have a layer of fat around as much of the cut as can be. The lion tens to be covered at least 50% with fat, which ages very nicely.

    If it molds, or turns an unappetizing color, just trim that off. As walter found with his 21 day old hanging, the meat on the inside is just fine.

    I’m raising 4 weiner pigs now, and plan on hanging the halves for two weeks before they get cut into steaks and roasts and so on.

  9. David says:

    Walter,

    Do you see any benefit in hanging an 80lb roaster for a week? The tenderness is not really a problem, but would it help develop more flavor? Do you see any reason not to?

    • I have not experimented with hanging smaller roasters like this for varying lengths of time. We currently hang them for about a week. This is because that is one cycle from delivery to the butcher to delivery to the customer with our schedule of driving to the slaughterhouse in Massachusetts once a week. People say they’re really good and come back year after year to buy roasters again so that length of time seems to be working well.

  10. jack says:

    it’s important to keep air moving [fan] when hanging or condensation forms on carcase
    the right amount of humidity is also important, I’ve forgotten the amount but google will know

  11. Bethany says:

    Yes! So glad I found this again on here – I knew I remembered reading this years ago! I am going to try to chill a split hog over ice in an unplugged chest freezer, but wasn’t sure it was worth the risk of still-air chilling for any length of time. The hog in question is a 15-month-old uncut boar, however, so I want to do whatever I can to get the most tender meat out of him. Much to consider, and quick, so thanks once again for your incredibly useful (and entertaining) resource here.

  12. peter says:

    hello all…. my big tam sow turned into a complete crank!!. she will not tolerate any other pigs around her to a point of trying to kill them. Her last litter totaled 11 and she wouldnt let me anywhere near her and she crushed 9. Not good for profit!! i realize that maybe being mistreated might explain behavior like but she lives a pretty good life. Shes going to be butchered in the morning…just wondering if anyone else has had this happen.

    • That is too much aggression. Some protectiveness of the nest is good but it should not be excessive and it should cease a few feet away from the nest. This is very dangerous for you, other people, working dogs, etc. She also is not showing good mothering skills.

      Temperament is highly genetic. If she is bad tempered there is a good chance she’ll produce bad tempered offspring.

      I would cull her and I would be incline to not save any of her offspring for breeding. They are good meat.

  13. Carina says:

    Hi! I found your site through Homesteading Today :)

    We are new atbpig farming and I have a question about hanging a roaster piglet:

    We have a piglet we are planning to roast on a spit on Sunday. Wondering if we should slaughter today and hang for a few days or slaughtered the morning of the roast and cook it right away? Thanks in advance!

  14. CarolG. says:

    RE hanging meat and the development of a “slimy” coating on the outside. A couple of the biographies from the early part of the last century mentioned this and stated that is was necessary to cut this off to get to the “sweat” meat beneath. One in particular, Ralph Moody -and I fail to remember which of his many books- mentioned shipping a loin of beef to his mother in cold weather. Apparently the smell and appearance were bad enough she was ready to throw the whole loin away until another woman persuaded her to cut off the bad portion whereupon the rest of the meat was found to be wonderfully flavorful. I agree having some test run to determine the safety of this would be good.

    • Since I did these tests years ago I’ve learned that often aged meat has this outer coating and they simply trim it. Or some even don’t. A very good book I read last year on the science of meat was “The Meat We Eat”.

  15. Farmerbob1 says:

    Walter, you will find some Chinese characters missed into one of your responses to this post.

    As for hanged meat, I wonder if this is why I don’t much care for most pork that isn’t bacon or sausage? Pork is the only meat that I am not happy to eat (other than bacon and sausage). When your shop is up and running and you are producing, I might buy some aged pork from you to see.

    The USDA will allow you to hang pork for at least a few days, right?

  16. Farmerbob1 says:

    I just noticed the caption under the top image, Walter.

    “14 Month ld”

    Missing an ‘o’ there – unless the boar has been link dead for 14 months :)

  17. Jeff Tucker says:

    So, I wasn’t clear on the answer that was given about, “is it ok to hang or stack a processed pig in a home refridgerator or does it actually need to have air on all sides? I have a barrow that I plan to slaughter tomorrow. It is not cold enough to hang in the garage or in the shed so I am considering putting the meat in my garage refridgerator. The pig is, I’m guessing 325 lbs, live weight, and I am hoping to chill it in an ice bath for a number of hours and then cut it into quarters or smaller and then arrainging it in the refridgerator. The fridge is a standard home model, freezer on top and fridge on bottom. Any comments would be welcome.

    Jeff

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