How to Butcher a Pig at Home

How to Butcher a Pig at Home
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At Clucky Dickens Farm, we take care of all our own butchering and processing. People are always interested to hear how we go about the whole process of butchering our pigs at home. So here’s my blog post about just how to butcher a pig.

First disclaimer: This blog post is full of pictures that include blood, body parts, and other such messes. You have been warned.

Second disclaimer: While the pictures in this post are from the first time we processed pigs, I do edit the information in the post every time we process and learn more.

How to Butcher a Pig at Home

 

There’s a lot to tackle when you learn how to butcher a pig yourself. But don’t get overwhelmed. You can do this!

How to Butcher a Pig: Killing

The first thing you’ve got to do when butchering a pig is kill them. We use a .22 rifle. There is a specific place to aim for (between the eyes, but slightly above). One well-placed shot and they are down. (Edit – we have since learned after a few more years of raising pigs that certain breeds-or certain individual pigs-are harder to take down. In this case, we use a 20 gauge slug.)

How to Butcher a Pig: Hanging, Washing, Weighing

Next, it’s time to hang them. A skid loader comes in mighty handy at this point.

Slit the pig’s throat as soon as you have them hung. Stand back and make sure you have something to catch all that blood. (We use a portable butcher kit and it has all the knives you need for this job. We also keep the knives super sharp with an electric knife sharpener. A sharp knife is easierβ€”and saferβ€”to use.)

How to Butcher a pig

Next, it’s time for the pigs to have a bath. Have a hose and a scrub brush ready. And rain gear. (Since this picture was taken, my husband has discovered that his lined PVC gloves are really nice for this task – since it’s pretty chilly when we butcher, these gloves help to keep his hands warm and protected from the water. Bonus: whatever gets on the gloves will come back off again. Perfect for butchering day. If you don’t need something that thick or warm, we’ve found disposable black nitrile gloves also work just great.)

How to Butcher A Pig

After that, use a heavy duty hanging game scale to get a weight on those babies.

How to Butcher A Pig

Results: One pig (Supper) weighed 375 and the other pig (Hammy) weighed 400. We could have butchered them at a smaller weight, but rumor has it you want the daytime highs to be in the 40s when you’re butchering – we had to wait for Mother Nature to cooperate.

(Also, you can see in the above picture that a rope is wrapped around the pig’s leg and that is how they are hung.Β  We have since learned that S shaped meat hooks, pierced through the hind hocks, are infinitely better.)

How to Butcher a Pig: Skinning

After the pigs are scrubbed and weighed, it’s time to skin them. We put them on a trailer with a board on either side to act like a cradle.

How to Butcher A Pig

Kinda like this.

How to Butcher A Pig

Then it was time to skin. A pig is different than skinning a deer. I’ve been told a pig is more like skinning a bear (but I’ve never skun a bear, so I’m not sure). We were told by several people that skinning a hog is the worst part, but we didn’t think it was all that bad.

How to Butcher A Pig

With a deer it’s easy to tell where the skin is and where the muscle is because they are very different in color. It’s a bit harder to tell where the line is between skin/fat/muscle is on a pig, but you figure it out as you go.

How to Butcher A Pig

Eventually, the skin is only attached to the pigs back, and is draped over the sides of the trailer. It works out pretty slick.

How to Butcher A Pig

Our original plan was to hang the pig in the garage to finish skinning and gutting but we discovered we couldn’t get a 400 pound hog to the rafters with our set up. So back to the skid loader we went.

How to Butcher a Pig: Gutting/Evisceration

How to Butcher A Pig

The skinning was completed…

How to Butcher A Pig

Next it was time to take out the insides, which to me is really quite interesting. Talk about an anatomy lesson!

How to Butcher A Pig

At this point, the head was taken off with a meat saw. I have no pictures though, because it took two people holding the pig steady for one person to cut the head off.

Lastly, we halved the hog. My husband made a shallow line with his knife along the backbone, and then did the real cutting with a meat saw, careful to stay right on the backbone, basically splitting the backbone in two vertically.

How to Butcher A Pig

Sawing through a backbone is hard work.

How to Butcher A Pig

How to Butcher a Pig: Hanging overnight

The pigs were then hung in the garage overnight. We were told if we tried to immediately take cuts of meat, it would be too soft to cut. It was suggested to let the pork hang overnight to firm up.

How to Butcher A Pig

And that is our first day of hog butchering. We started this process (with one pig after another) at 1 pm and were done before supper. Not bad for our first time doing hogs.

My suggestions for anyone attempting this:
a) make sure you have good strong rope. Ropes break. I’m just sayin’.
b) make sure you have dish soap. Pig fat doesn’t come off knives if you’re suddenly out of dish soap. (Ask me how I know.)
c) even with a skid loader, this first day of hog butchering is physical work. Eat your Wheaties and get some rest.

Note: This is only half of the explanation of how to butcher a pig. The second part, which deals with how to locate and make specific cuts of meat, can be found here.

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Amy Dingmann
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Amy Dingmann

Author, Speaker, and Owner at A Farmish Kind of Life
Farmish kind of gal living on 5 acres in Minnesota. Busy in the barn, the garden, and the kitchen -- and sharing my successes and failures with all of you.
Amy Dingmann
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Comments

  1. Modern Day Redneck

    It looks like you did a great job. I have done this many times. The last time I had my young daughters help me. It was cute seeing them in their wet suits and goggles. One using the sawzall, one skinning and the other, too young to use a knife was the gopher.
    This last time I cheated and said to heck with it and just took them to the butcher. For $150 bucks a pig to have it all cut up the way I want it and ground my way, it was worth it.
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. farmishkindoflife Post author

      The visual you gave of your daughters was awesome! I can totally see that happening. I asked my husband why he was in his rain gear and he said "You'll see…" He sure planned for that right! Thanks for reading. I really enjoy YOUR blog!

      Reply
  2. Sue

    Interesting. So, did you have a book or was someone telling you what to do or is it kind of "instinctive"?
    I think the ONLY part about butchering that would bother me is the actual killing part. I kinda feel like a hypocrite as far as that goes. I'll eat meat, but not kill it. Sigh.

    Reply
    1. farmishkindoflife Post author

      We had a book, a couple websites, a couple youtube videos…but we've done so many deer in our lifetime that most of the pig was just like doing a really big deer. People had me scared that the entire process was completely different but I would have to say it wasn't (at least the way we did it).

      Reply
  3. Erin

    Wow, it seems like just yesterday you got them, they sure do get up to weight fast! Great post, I'm surprised you did it yourselves, I'm in awe! Did Farm Man have prior experience with game/deer? And did the .22 do exactly what you wanted or would you opt differently next time? You, girlfriend, are a wealth of knowledge and experience for us all now, congrats on the mental hurdles overcome as well as the full freezer of well loved and raised meat!

    Reply
    1. farmishkindoflife Post author

      We had them for seven months. Yes, we have experience with butchering, but these were our first pigs. The .22 was plenty for what we needed. I know a lot of people think "bigger animal, bigger gun" and pure logic would tell you that it takes something bigger to knock down a 400 pound pig, but if you place the shot correctly, they really do go right down. (We had one go down immediately, one took two shots. The trick is getting them to look up at you so you can place the shot.)

      Reply
    1. farmishkindoflife Post author

      It really was neat to do it ourselves. Not just because it saved money and we were able to use everything we wanted from the pig, but because there is a major sense of "Wow! We totally DID this!" that comes with it. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  4. Kim

    Our pigs go to freezer camp in February. We've been on the fence about taking them to the butcher or doing this ourselves~you may have tipped the scale towards a DIY weekend! I'm not sure whether to thank you or hold a grudge…;) Looking forward to Part 2!

    Reply
  5. Steve Gibbs

    Is there a reason why you skinned the pigs before you cut them up into joints. It would have been so much easier to do it to the pieces after, but roast leg of pork with crackle is yummy.

    Reply
  6. Janet Garman

    hey thanks for writing a very clear description of how this can be done at home. We raise hogs too and you made this very clear. We have done it ourselves and taken the bigger ones to the butcher.

    Reply
  7. Jerry Stott

    Been there, done that, largest was a 600 lb sow, I found that a battery powered chain saw using olive oil for chain lube was a great time saver.

    Reply
  8. Jason

    I came across your article while readying my family to butcher our first hogs this winter. We hunt a lot so deer is no big deal even our goats isnt that hard – kinda like a little deer. But butchering a hog is intimidating some reason. I enjoyed your article with pics – big help seeing what your doing and not just reading it.

    Reply
    1. farmishkindoflife Post author

      I was the same way. I grew up processing deer but for some reason hogs seemed like a whole different ball game. It’s really not. You just have to get in there and do it. I’m a visual learner so I’m glad that the pictures helped you, too. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  9. Dale

    We skin ours by pulling the hide off. We start at the head, and once it is skinned a bit, we fasten the hide to a tree or something and lift the pig with the tractor bucket. Comes off like a glove, and very clean.

    Reply

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