Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Going Whole Hog: Our Experience in Pig Butchering Class

When I announced that we'd be participating in a Whole Hog Butchering Course at Bolzano Artisan Meats on Facebook last week, my friend Rena was one of the first to respond. 
 "... you are the only person i know who would be excited about a pig butchering class," she said.

And I had to laugh.  It's probably true, to great extent.  But, I don't think it would have always been the case.

If someone had suggested to me ten years ago that we'd be interested in breaking down the primal cuts of a pig, I probably would have fallen off my chair laughing.  Why on earth would anyone need to know how do that?

But, things change. And these days, we're increasingly interested in the ins and outs of the food we eat.  If we're going to consume meat, we want to know the details about it -- where it came from, how the animals were treated, and what impact our decision to eat that particular meat has on the environment. If I decide to order a portion of pig from a local farm, I'm interested to know which cuts are available to me -- and become more well informed about how to use and modify them. Likewise, when I'm buying a package of meat from the butcher, I'd like to know I'm getting the cut I requested.

More importantly, Peef REALLY wanted to see firsthand where that delicious slab of pork belly comes from.  And so, the opportunity to harvest his own bacon became a part of his birthday present.

To be honest, the experience was pretty amazing.  Although we weren't complete newbies on the topic of how cuts of meat are prepared, we did learn a great deal about the versatility of different portions of a pig -- about the options for obtaining ribs and pork chops, and why certain portions of meat are named as they are

Boston Butt, for instance, is really part of the shoulder... so why on earth is it called butt??  Well, in the early days of pork processing in the U.S., less valued pork cuts like shoulder cuts were packed into casks or barrels (also known as "butts") for storage and shipment.  Since many of these "butts" originated in the boston area, the way the hog shoulder was cut became known regionally as  "Boston butt."

If you're interested in seeing a summary of our course in photos, take a gander at the slideshow.

So, what's your perspective?  Would you take a hog butchering class?

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Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.


  1. One of our favorite restaurants in town, Corner Table, butchers their own pigs & offers this class quite often, We keep meaning to take it. I figure we buy 1/4 - 1/2 of a pig from time to time so why not know how to butcher it.

  2. Lo,

    First of all, thanks for checking out Glutton For Reward! Secondly, there's a great article in BUST Magazine's recent food issue about two women who are vegans turned whole animal butchers in California. For some that might seem like a leap. Not to me. Using the whole animal purposefully is so different from factory farming where waste and disease are prevalent. So yes, while I rarely eat meat, I would want to learn whole animal butchery!

  3. Kudos to you guys for doing this! There is no way that I could...I had to stop the photo slideshow even. haha.

  4. Wow, such a great experience! Funny thing is I recently butchered a pig too! Must be the season for it! :) We can compare experiences! :) I did two posts on the experience on my blog!

  5. I signed my husband up for this last year but a conflict prevented his attending - I know he was crushed. I'll have to check his schedule and see if he can do it soon.

    LOVE Bolzano!


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