more animal husbandry on the farm, warnings for discussion of livestock as meat and such, but not in any great detail and I’ll spare y’all the pictures for now. i might crosspost one from instagram later when i’ve got more time to look at the photos i took, but i’ll avoid any gross ones. just meat. i try to tag, but insta doesn’t always work, with tags, so, apologies if you find it super gross. I have the feeling people who were real grossed-out by it have long since unfollowed, but I don’t like to be gratuitously icky about stuff I know might take people that way. (Do I succeed at this? lol no. But I try to try, for whatever that’s worth.)
they had about a dozen pigs processed in a USDA slaughterhouse this week so they could sell the meat at retail, in parts– selling whole animals is a loophole of NYS law, and so can be processed cheaper; also the local USDA joints usually fill up way in advance, and so b-i-l had managed to get himself on the waiting list in a timely fashion, so the timing worked out. Now they can sell pork at the farmer’s market by the piece, or on the farm from the farmstand the way they sell chickens. Much easier than must-prearrange-to-buy-50-to-100-lbs-of-
meat, which has been what they’ve done before.
They got one of the pigs back, though, just killed, scalded, and split in half. To their surprise, the slaughterhouse left the head on, and just split it straight down the middle. One half of the pig was 111 pounds, the other 109. It still had the feet on, but the hooves had been peeled off.
A pig’s brain is tiny. I mean, in an animal that was probably 360 pounds on the hoof, its brain was smaller than my fist. I know, because the skull had been split straight in half, and the entire spinal column was visible for the entire length of the animal. (The tail had been pulled to one side, and so was attached to one half.)
Scalded meant the hair was off, which meant it had flesh exactly the color and texture of a dead white person. Seriously, it was the same shade of pink, and pallid. Given the size as well, it was unnerving.
They’d stamped the skin in several places with a tattoo of ink that had the USDA logo on it and I think the serial number of the slaughterhouse.
We saved the skin, this time– some of the roasts, we left it on, and others we peeled it off. Apparently having the skin on a roast helps it stay moist and imparts it with a deeper flavor, or so some cookbooks say. The skin itself is most often prepared as pork rinds, which I’m cautiously willing to attempt to make.
When we cut up a pig we’d slaughtered on-site, without access to a large enough scalding tank, we couldn’t get the bristles or the hooves off, so we discarded the head, feet, and all of the skin. Prepared this way, there was almost no waste from the entire animal; we even carved out the jowl bacon, and then the assistant livestock manager took both halves of the skull home to attempt to make head cheese, which is a traditional foodstuff made by brining, then boiling, then mashing up everything from the head (minus eyes, tongue, and brain), and then fishing out the bones, and pouring the resulting gelatinous mass into a mold, and then you slice from it like luncheon meat. I’ve seen this before but have not eaten it, but I know it’s very German.
It was kind of nice, though, to clean up afterward and have basically nothing for the compost. Now, the large bones will wind up in the compost in a couple of days, but we’re going to boil them for stock first. The stock from pork bones is stinky but so good.
My sister had a brainwave and sent the KitchenAid with meat grinder out with us, so while the other two were cutting, I made sausage and got it over with. Last time after a whole day of work, dead on my feet, I was left with the task of grinding 20 pounds of meat and packaging it up before I could stop to rest, because otherwise it’d go off. So being able to take care of it was great, if the process of sanitizing a seven-year-old KitchenAid was a bit daunting. (That thing looks like it did the day my sister got married, now, after all my scrubbing and bleaching. You never notice how grungy something is until you get it out in an all-stainless-steel meat processing room that you’ve just bleached the bejesus out of.)
I’m so tired now, though. So tired. I didn’t drink enough water and I’ll be congested until I die, but we’ve defeated the beast.
We were talking about butchers in popular culture and i mentioned that I wanted to write a novel that included chicken processing and I didn’t have the guts to explain that in fact I had done so already. I can’t talk about the Internet in RL, guys. I just can’t. Why am i like this.
I thought I’d be more squeamish about this. The last one, I wasn’t, because the head came off right away. This one, I was a little grossed-out because in cross-section its teeth looked weird, and I was a little unnerved by the eyes, but I mostly wasn’t squeamish.
I was a little sad because this group of pigs was so cute the whole time they were alive. They were very curious and sweet and good-natured and playful. Even in death and cut in half, this pig’s snout was super cute, and we had a moment, thinking about how cute and wiggly all their snouts always are when they’re alive.
But they exist to be eaten, and this is the animal’s noble purpose, so you either get very sentimental about it and do other things with your life, or you learn how to cut it up so you don’t waste anything.
This is why only the breeding stock have names. You don’t name meat. some of the egg chickens have names. None of the meat chickens do. You can’t, because you have to look them in the face.
About ten of that batch of piggies are still alive, still cute and wiggly-snooty and all. They’re going to the other processor next week for the non-USDA processing as whole animals. The loophole is that if you raise livestock for someone, it’s legal to have it processed on their behalf, so that’s why they sell them as whole, half, or quarter animals for pickup only, by prior arrangement– I think you technically have to have put a deposit down on the animal before its processing, so that technically it’s yours. But that’s how state law goes– it’s not shady to buy meat this way, it’s just a lot less convenient than picking up a single pork chop today to eat tomorrow.