"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adios, Porker, We Hardly Knew Thee


The men from Keizer meats were here bright and early in their businesslike panel van. They were here before I got back from dropping the kids off at school, actually. They were sitting in their truck waiting for me to get here, because, they said, they didn't know "which one" to kill. 
"There's only one pig," I said. "he's right there."
"Oh it's a pig? the paper we got says 'lamb'." 
"Glad you didn't kill one of my goats!"

I asked if I could watch, since we were trying to decide if this was something we could do at home next time. They didn't mind, so I observed the whole process closely. The pig was killed with a 22 pistol, right in the head as he ate some grain I fed him. It was obvious that he was dead instantly, nerve reaction notwithstanding. He keeled right over and went stiff as a plank, twitched and flopped and pedaled with his feet for about two minutes, the movements getting smaller and smaller. I'm completely certain he didn't suffer. 

A large knife to the throat, under the jaw, and he bled out very quickly, probably within two minutes or so. The men used a chain and a motorized winch to haul him over to the truck and get him set up on a metal sawhorse, face up. They washed him all over with hot water from a hose in the truck.  Then they took their knives and skinned him carefully until the hide was only attached at the back, underneath. They cut around the hocks and ankles and broke off the feet, still attached to the rest of the hide. They cut off his ears and nose as they skinned the face. This is the part that took the longest, probably twelve or fifteen minutes. It became quite clear that these guys were seriously practiced and that we would not be as neat, clean or quick by a longshot. One of the guys said to me, at this point, "this isn't as easy as we're making it look." That's for sure!

When the skin was almost all off, they used a large saw to open the chest cavity and put hooks through the back legs, under the strong tendons there, and hauled the pig up so it was hanging clear off the ground. This would be hard to duplicate ourselves, without a motorized winch or anything tall and strong enough to hang a pig from! They pulled the rest of the hide off and threw it on the ground. I was surprised how thin it was. For some reason I expected it to be thick and tough looking, but it was like a sheet. You could see light through it.  I asked the guy about the whole cutting around the anus and tying it off thing, but he said "you don't have to do that with a pig, you just grab it and pull out as you cut the guts out." And that's what he did. He held onto the anus-end of the guts and cut carefully the thin membranes that held the intestines and stomach against the back wall of the body. I guess this might be the omentum? The whole pile fell out forward as far as the liver, and then he had to cut some more to get the upper organs - heart, lungs - out. It all fell out together in a big slimy pile, but there was no blood at all. It was white and clean-looking.

I thought about asking for the liver. If I'd thought ahead and had a clean bowl handy I might have. I asked if they did anything with the hides, if they sold them or what, but they said, "no, it's garbage." 

All in all, I was very impressed with how quick and clean it was. There's a small puddle of blood where they cut his throat, and that's it. This pig, too, looked very lean, just like the last one.  I could see the pink meat through a layer of white fat, and in most places the fat was very thin. I don't think we'll be getting any lard back this time, either. I wish Homero had stayed home long enough to watch. He's the one who wants to kill the next one, after all, not me.