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.