“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” Winston Churchill.
We got our pigs back from our local processor last week. They dressed out at 570 pounds. I filled an entire chest freezer and spilled over into another one. I don’t know how we’re going to eat all that, but I look forward to trying.
Folks around here are consistently surprised when I tell them that we raise our pigs on pasture. They can’t believe the pigs don’t escape under the fence. They can’t believe they fatten on pasture. They generally seem to find the notion eccentric.
But historically pigs were raised in the wild. They’d fatten on acorns and other nuts in the fall, and be trapped and butchered in the winter. The practice of penning pigs up is modern. Of course the factory CAFO system is ultramodern, and thoroughly disgusting.
We buy feeder pigs, just after they’ve been weaned. We keep them in a barn stall for a few weeks until they’ve become accustomed to us, and have begun to be tamed. Then we put them out on six acres of pasture. By the time they’re ready for the freezer they are completely tame. Although we feed them to supplement it, much of what they eat is from the pasture. It’s a humane and sustainable way to raise pigs. And the pork is absolutely delicious.
Just this weekend I discovered that one of my neighbors is still curing hams in a smokehouse, the old fashioned way. He scalds the pigs, rather than skinning them, and he grinds his own sausage. He offered to do our pigs the next time we’re ready. Aside from getting the benefit of the more traditional methods of butchering them, by helping him I’ll be able to learn to do it myself in the future (having paid insufficient attention to the details of this when I was a kid). Maybe someday I’ll even be able to teach someone else to do it. And in doing so hopefully I can help keep alive some of the basic skills of self-reliant living that go back thousands of years, but are seemingly being lost in less than two generations.