For those of you who started reading recently when I have been writing about my reaction to the political hoohah of the past year, you might not know that I have been involved in the farm to table movement for the past six years or so.
My business, Can-Do Real Food, works with small local farms capturing their surplus produce and preserving it either by canning or dehydrating. This helps reduce food waste, offers the farmers another income stream, and provides local consumers shelf-safe local food that can be eaten any time of the year. I work with produce only; vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Most of the farmers, however, have animals for eggs or meat production. One of my farm partners, Wooden Mallet Farm, is located northwest of the small town of Yamhill in the foothills of the Coastal Range. They offered the opportunity to buy a whole or half hog and we plunked down $50 about 6 months ago to help with feed and reserve our half.
This morning I went to the farm to observe the processing. Why? Because I am curious. I get the meat all wrapped up in white butcher paper, so if I lived in a fantasy land I could imagine there is some “immaculate conversion” from hoof to plate, but instead I wanted to honor the animal by being there.
Several years ago I naively went to a farm in West Virginia to observe chicken processing and ended up being involved literally up to my elbows. So I understood the general process.
One amazing aspect of farming in Oregon is that mobile slaughter is allowed to occur on the farm. The processor butcher explained that the regulations are not as strict as the indoor facilities and we discussed the differences between this winter time processing with the low temps (we are having unseasonable cold weather…it was maybe 30 degrees this morning) and the need to work fast while there is light. Summer time processing has the issues of flies and other insects as well as concerns about higher temperatures affecting potential spoilage.
So from the time the 22-caliber bullet was fired into the brain and the carotid artery was severed, until the time the carcass was hanging in the truck was perhaps 15 minutes. Hoofs were saved for a friend of the farmer to make dog treats. The processor collected the hides and offal for someone else who processes the skin and renders the rest. The livers were inspected and several rejected; winter hogs apparently often have some liver damage. The ears and hearts were saved by the farmer.
The carcasses will be weighed and I will receive an email tomorrow about the hanging weight. That check goes to the farmer.
The email will also give me contact info for the butcher and I will call to give him the cutting instructions. We like our pork chops one inch thick for example. We will get a small ham and the rest cut into ham steaks. We want the baby back ribs and country style ribs. And the bacon. There is never enough bacon. There will be some roasts and a few other steaks and then the rest will be ground. We will request Italian sausage. There will be a fee for that butchering, the curing for the hams and bacon, and the wrapping for all.
All in all we will purchase a whole lot of pork that will feed us for about a year for about one-third the cost of purchasing the same amount at the store. In addition, we know our farmer so we know how the hogs were raised, the food they ate, and the way they were treated. And, as much as you love bacon you get at the supermarket, I want to tell you that this bacon is better….way better.
I could take a few hours to honor the animal that will be feeding me.
January 5, 2017 at 8:14 am
Thanks for the post. I’ve never heard of mobile slaughtering before. Is this fairly common?
January 5, 2017 at 9:14 am
I never had neither before moving to Oregon. Apparently Oregon and Washington permit it. The butcher comes out to the farm with a large panel truck. The back portion holds the hung finished carcasses. The truck also has a large water reservoir which feeds the hose used for washing. The farmer brought his 4 hogs up to the barn the day before from where they had been pastured. They set up a small mobile fence and brought each pig out. There was no stress, not any loud noises, just slow and gentle. One hog wandered back into the barn and they maneuvered her back out. The farmer said the last one was hardest because she always like her belly rubbed and rolled over for him. One .22 bullet to the brain and immediate cut across the carotid make the dispatch quick and painless. This system avoids the loading on to a truck and the adrenaline rush of fear many animals have at an unfamiliar indoor facility. Adrenaline can have a flavor and texture effect on the meat, so this results in flavorful, tender meat.
January 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm
NOW, you make me sorry that I never asked you to join the Balint & Scheirich (my sister’s godparents) families when we did our whole-hog slaughter/butchering activities during my youth. After butchering, then came the sausage-making, ham-curing, head-cheese making, smoking meats, etc. Some Hungarian acquaintances of mine still follow this tradition – I just received some photos & will forward them. LIZ
January 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm
NOW I would have loved to participate. Then….OMG you know the hurdles that would have had to be jumped. LOL Let’s figure a time for you to teach me to make sausage!