That is what a typical cut sheet looks like – what we give to the butcher each week. That one is for a whole pig, a roaster pig and four cutter pigs. The cutters are finisher hogs which will go to cuts and sausages for our weekly delivery route for standing orders from local stores and restaurants.
The cutter pigs are about six months of age and 225 lbs to 250 lbs so in weight. Our goal is 300 lbs as that is where the best economies come with the butchering and transport but generally we’re a bit lighter right now.
A typical 250 lb live weight pig x 72% yields a hanging weight of about 180 lbs. The “loss” is the guts and their contents which go to rendering at most slaughterhouses. At our soon to be completed facility we’ll compost this offal, returning the valuable nutrients to the soil and the cycle of life.
From the hanging weight of 180 lbs we get about 120 lbs of standard commercial cuts or a 67% yield off of hanging weight. The “loss” is oddments like the head, feet (trotters), tongue, heart, liver, kidney, tail, bones, etc. Almost all of that is good eating so ask for it and be an adventurous cook!
Live weight to commercial cuts is a yield of about 48%. When you buy at retail you’re only paying for that final half but the other half of the pig still must be supported, must still be paid for. Note that the butchers typically charge for cutting based on the hanging weight. All the more reason to ask for everything and eat heartily. This is why it is much more expensive to buy a few chops at retail than a whole pig at hanging weight or live weight.
A pig isn’t all bacon and pork chops so there is some balance that must be made and some choices must be made. If you were doing a single pig cut sheet then you would pick just one type of sausage and there would not be as many options on the loins since there would be less meat. Note that some cuts compete with each other. That is to say the same portion is used to make different commercial cuts.
Examples of Cuts that Compete:
Pork Chops vs Loin Roasts.
Bone-In Pork Chops vs Tenderloin (unless specially noted)
Boston Butt Shoulder vs Country Ribs.
Bacon & Spare Ribs vs Meaty Ribs.
Ham, Fresh Belly, Jowl & Bacon vs Sausage.
Fresh Belly vs Bacon.
Ham vs Ham Cubes vs Ham Steaks vs Ground.
That gives you some ideas of what to ask for when working with the butcher. Also check out our order form on the literature page which gives you some other ideas for cut names and specifications you might make. Another good article on this is What is a Half Pig Share.
You can specify all the custom cuts if you like but don’t be overwhelmed. Alternatively, simply tell the butcher your family size and ask for “Standard Cuts” and they will know what to do to give you a set of cuts that make good use of your pig. No need to be complicated.
Which ever you do, if you want feed, back fat, organs, head and other oddments be sure to ask for them or they may get thrown in the compost or rendering. Waste not want not. Enjoy all the bounty!
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†Seriously famous. It has appeared on BBC and lots of other places and has been the basis of even a painting. I don’t mind people using my cut chart unaltered as long as they provide a clickable link back to https://SugarMtnFarm.com and give me credit. Enjoy.
We once bought back fat from a pastured pork farmer at a farmer’s market. We approached his table and asked if he had any, and he said he did beyond what he needed for sausage, in a freezer at home.
US: How much do you charge for it?
HIM: Um… no one has ever asked for it.
We made an offer, and ended up coming back the next week to pick up 10 lbs or so of back fat, from which we derived our first experiences cooking with lard. They will not be our last experiences — it’s great stuff (unless you get the hydrogenated commercial stuff).
Once again Great post. Our chefs we sell our pork to, taught us about use all the meat all the time. What they do with the head, the feet, the tongue is amazing to see and taste. More and more folks are ordering their first whole and half hogs EVER as they are tired of spending good money on bad meat. Butcher and locker business is booming in Central Illnois. Can’t wait to see your place completed. Walter do you sell many whole and half pigs to your restaurants ? If so, how long do you let it hang at the locker before delivering ? Thanks
All of the pigs hang the same amount of time which is four to five days depending on the butcher’s schedule. It then gets cut, packaged, boxed, chilled and delivered on the sixth day. This gives a one week schedule. “But, Walter,” you say, “a week is seven days!” Yes, this is true and on the seventh day the pigs are resting. We deliver the pigs to the butcher and then they get to overnight before being slaughtered the next morning giving them time to settle down from their long trip before going to the kill floor. This delay improves the quality of the meat by having them be fully calm and relaxed right at the end. The excellent animal handling by Adams Slaughterhouse is a very big reason why we chose them. We’ve spent ten months from breeding to finish to raise quality pigs. All is for naught if their last day is stressful. Happy pigs make happy meals.
As to the whole and half pigs, I would think that restaurants would buy more whole pigs than they do because it would be less expensive. However in reality we have found that most restaurants do a weekly standing order for a certain set of cuts, say: 4 nine-rib loins + 10 lbs hot Italian sausage + 4 racks of spare ribs + 10 lbs ground + 8 hocks, etc. They have figured out a menu and are just getting what they need for that menu. There are some who get whole pigs and then creatively use all the parts. It is certainly more challenging cooking and it requires having the space in their freezer and cooler for a whole pig. They do menu planning long term so making changes takes a lot of work on their part, getting the menus adjusted, training staff, etc. There is the old saying of it takes a village to eat a pig. Our solution is that it takes many restaurants and stores combined to eat a pig. And actually it takes many pigs each week to satisfy the joint demand of everyone. Between them all virtually everything is enjoyed.