I have never felt more like a city girl in my whole life. I mean. I am a city girl. I grew up in Los Angeles and then Las Vegas. I’ve lived in small towns, and I live in one now, but for the most part? I’ve lived my life in urban areas.
But buying a quarter of a hog? That was next level.
I had to ask a few questions that felt absurd to me, but that I needed to know the answers to. I’ll share them (and their answers) here, so that maybe you can be spared the embarrassment.
Question One: Which quarter will I get?
I mean — is the butcher going to cut the hog in half and then in half again and process one of those quarters for me? Will I get the head or the tail?
Turns out that when you buy a fraction of a hog (or, for what it’s worth, a cow or a lamb), the animal is butchered and you get a quarter of the results. Everyone gets the same cuts. In this case: pork chops, roasts, ribs, ham, bacon, and sausage or ground pork.
Bonus: The butcher smokes he ham and the bacon and makes the sausage for you.
And all the meat is packaged and ready for freezing.
Question Two: Am I going to get weird parts?
I wanted to know if I was going to have to deal with a freezer full of hog brains/guts/feet. Or, you know, whatever trotters are. The answer was no. I’m only getting recognizable cuts of pork.
When I mentioned that on a Facebook group I belong to, I was advised to get the liver if I could. It makes good pate. I’m pretty sure I’m not at that level yet. Maybe next time.
Question Three: How much meat are we talking about here?
I honestly couldn’t wrap my head around what exactly I was purchasing. I wanted to make sure I’d have the space in my freezer.
My super-helpful husband pointed out that the live pig weighed about what he does, and we’d be able to fit a quarter of HIS meat in the freezer, so he was sure it would be fine.
Thanks, Kevin. That’s a visual I completely wanted in my head right now.
I asked the woman I bought the hog from. She’s a smallholder — she just raised two pigs. She keeps half of one for herself and sells the other pig-and-a-half for some income. She’d just had her own freezer meat butchered, so she went to count for me.
She estimates that we’ll get about a dozen pork chops, a dozen pounds of sausage or ground pork, and a ham. She didn’t mention how much bacon or how many roasts.
When I asked this question on the same Facebook page where I was offered the advice about pig pate, I got a lot of feedback from very knowledgeable folks. My best guess is that my quarter hog will result in about 50 pounds of pork.
So — will it be worth it?
I’m not buying grocery store meat for my family anymore. At least not through this pandemic while meat processing plants are hot beds for illness. I’m unwilling to require people to put themselves at risk for my ability to buy cheap meat at Walmart.
My state (Pennsylvania) has the highest level of COVID in meat packing plants in the US.
So our choices are to find sources of local meat that doesn’t come from meat packing plants, or go vegetarian. Giving up meat all together is an option, if we eventually can’t source local meat.
Right now, we’re focusing on finding those local sources. And reducing our meat consumption, so that when we eat meat it’s a smaller part of the meal.
We spent $175 on a quarter hog — which, if we’re given 50 pounds of meat, works out to about $3.50 a pound. That’s less expensive than the pork at Walmart. Of course, we had to have $175 on hand to pay for it, all at once, which isn’t an option for everyone.
I also have to have a place to safely store a quarter of a hog — or about 50 pounds of meat — all at once. I think if we had a completely empty freezer compartment of our fridge, we could have fit it all in there. But, of course, we have other things we freeze.
We bought a chest freezer from Lowes in March, when things started getting weird and it occurred to us we might want to stock up on more food. It cost $180. Anyone thinking about buying a portion of a meat animal directly from a farmer will need to have the resources to store the meat.
Someone on that Facebook Group brought up the fact that having a freezer full of meat can backfire if something happens to either the freezer or the power source. I’ll cross that bridge when and if I ever come to it.
I bought a pressure canner for $20 at a local auction last year. I have zero idea how to can pork chops, but I’m sure it’s possible.
I’d like to buy a quarter cow, too. I have my eyes open for a source.
We’ve been going to a local butcher, but the cost of buying beef by the pound is high.
I think the quarter hog was worth it. We’re waiting on delivery, so I can’t speak to the quality — but if it’s anything like the meat that we’ve been buying directly from the same butcher, then it will be amazing.
Also, it’s kind of amazing to know who our money is going to — both the farmer and the butcher.