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.
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.
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