Monday, April 11, 2011
Hocking Our Wares
The time has come for us to sell you food, real deal food, grown in the mud and rocks of our rolling hill. Specifically, we'd like to sell you pork. While we may have a few other offerings throughout the season (We're in the midst of scaling up our garden and planning for some meat chicken production this Summer), hocking pork is on the top of our To-Do list.
There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which are ???????. No, the big, dark cloud looming over our pork is processing. You see, there are but a few businesses that can take our pigs and turn them into the cuts of pork you're so used to dealing with. Some of them are USDA inspected, but most are not. This presents it's own set of challenges, both logistically and legally, but I think we're up to the task.
As I write this I'm having trouble sticking to the point and not going into the nitty gritty of why meat processing is so convoluted and confusing, but that will be fodder for a few blog posts in the near future. To keep it as straightforward as possible I will lead with an anecdote:
Last Summer when we found ourselves with both chickens and pigs in the pasture we took a clear stance: Intervene as little as possible. We were only able to do this because of the small numbers of stock we owned and it proved to be fruitful. We chose not to build a well fortified bunker for the fowl to keep them safe from the pigs; building a bunker takes time, and dealing with birds inside one is less than ideal. While we lost a few animals as we learned the perfect level of protection, we also found out exactly how little we had to do in order to meet our goal. Why is this applicable, you ask?
Because small scale meat processing in America runs a similar gamut, from multimillion dollar compounds that process thousands of animals a day all the way down to people raising their own chickens and popping their heads off in the privacy of their own back yard, and you can just imagine which of these is more accessible to us. As farmers we are forced to spend some of our time marketing our product, a part of our business that we enjoy immensely, when it's in moderation. The trick here is to strike a balance, and much like the bird-pig-cohabitation-algorithm, we're going to try and start on the end of the spectrum that's easiest for us (again, an explanation as to why it's easier for us will be written in the near future.)
This fall we would like to sell 12-15 market weight hogs. We're writing to you now to see who might be interested in these schemes.
First, we'd like to offer you the opportunity to come to the farm and slaughter and butcher your own pork. We're planning another big gathering in the fall (late September, early October) and I've set a goal to sell 5 pigs to people who are interested in participating in the processing. We slaughtered and butchered a few pigs last year and it was fun, interesting, rewarding and educational. I have to believe that having more people involved would only intensify all those adjectives. We will start with live pigs "on the hoof" and end with vacuum packed (hopefully) cuts for you to take home with you. If you're interested in the butchering but not the slaughtering, let me know as it may be easy to set up. We may be able to make sausage and cure hams and bacons, but if it doesn't work out you will surely go home with the know-how to do it on your own time. The process takes 4-6 hours and the time would be spread over a few days and a few people in order to keep it relaxed. If you want your pork with the skin on this is your only option, no local processors have the appropriate equipment.
The pricing for this is as follows:
$2.75/LB hanging weight per whole pig
$3.00/LB hanging weight per half pig
$50/participant, 3 person per pig maximum, $100 per pig minimum
If you're not interested in all the blood and gore we can have the pigs processed for you. These pigs should be available for slaughter somewhere between September 15th and November 15th. If you want cuts smoked that process takes two weeks and can be done local to us or to you. If you're in a nearby major city (Phila, NYC) we may be able to get the meat to you so you don't have to come up here. We apologize for the vagueness of all this, but being our first year of pork production we have a very limited supply and the calendar is very fluid. If you need a specific date, delivery to you, whatever, please let us know when you express your interest. Flexibility on your end this year is greatly appreciated.
The pricing for this is as follows:
$3.00/LB hanging weight per whole pig + processing costs
$3.25/LB hanging weight per half pig + processing costs
We can have your pig processed at a number of local shops and the pricing will vary. You will be able to choose what cuts you'd like, how you'd like them packaged, whether or not you'd like your hams and bacon smoked, what kind of sausage you'd like and how much, as well as a few other variables. Bare bones local processing should cost $60-80 per half, the full monty (smoked hams and bacon, lots of sausage, etc) will run you another $30-$50 per half. If you're interested in USDA inspected processing that can be arranged, but the price is substantially higher.
What is a hanging weight, you ask? The Hanging weight is the weight of your pig without guts, skin, head or feet. A butcher hog is slaughtered somewhere between 200 and 250 pounds, although they taste just as good at any weight. The hanging weight is typically 70-74% of this (160# for 225# live weight). If you only want the commercial cuts, stuff you'd find in the grocery store, you'll be taking home ~70% of the hanging weight,(112# or ~$5.20/LB in your freezer max including processing). If you choose to take the mainstream but less common stuff (soup bones, stew meat, lard, etc) you can approach 90% of your hanging weight, and if you take the odder stuff (head, heart, liver, etc.) you can end up taking home more than the hanging weight (This is especially true if you choose to slaughter/butcher yourself, if done right you could end up paying as little as $3.25/LB in your freezer.)
A fellow farmer and blogger has done a nice write up on how this all breaks down.
how much pork is in a half pig?
Everything is first come first serve, and once we have it pinned down a bit we will be asking for deposits. It goes without saying that this is all experimental. If you see something you like but you want to tweak it a bit, let me know. If you're interested but you think a half is too much for you let me know, I may be able to find someone to split it with you, if we weren't flexible we wouldn't have lasted a week. You can contact us either through the comments or via E-mail to TBAFarms@gmail.com.
Finally, if you're still with me, you should know that this time of year is very busy for us up here at TBA. If you're the type who wants to visit and sweat we have lots to do between now and June 1st, we'd love to see you, as would the piglets who get bigger every day.