Going Whole Hog

Sarah, my oldest daughter, is coming to the U.S. from Madrid, where she lives, to do a redneck tour of the Southeast in April, and although I’m not going to kill the fatted calf, I am going to kill a pig and barbecue it for her, something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember (and i’m not exaggerating. I went to my first pig picking as a child and wanted my daddy to do one in our yard). kissapig

I intend to keep you posted on my learning curve on my first whole hog, from the deal to the squeal to the meal.

First things first. I had to find a pig — a smallish one. I asked at the farmers’ market and found an organic, whey-fed little piggy for $3 a pound before it’s cleaned. Sorry, Sarah. Your dad is Scotch-Irish before he’s anything else. One of the farmers said to look in the NC Agricultural Digest: , which is where I found this ad:
Feeder Hampshire piglets pasture raised, $50 up. Vance Faulk, Snow Camp.
I called several times and got a woman and a little boy and finally a story teller a little bit hard of hearing, but very interested in selling me a pig. I learned all about his farm and his family and his grandson and his operation and how he likes his gravy. (He doesn’t eat milk gravy.) Buying a hog ready to eat, as they say, is a little complicated in that I have to come and pick the pig out and buy it first so that I basically own it when it turns from hog to pork so they can’t be accused of running a meat-processing plant. In fact, I may have to butcher it myself. I’ve cleaned squirrels and rabbits and ducks, but never a pig. I’m heading out to Snow Camp to talk about that Sunday.
So, I wondered, how do you pick out a pig. Do you get a he-pig or a she-pig or one that surgically is relieved of thinking about that sort of thing? What do you look for in terms of size and configuration? The fattest or the thinnest or something in between?

A friend in Washington, D.C., has a neighbor and a friend who cooks competition barbecue and I asked for her email address. What I got by return email is this link:


In case you don’t want to follow it and click through, here’s a sampling of what people said on the message board, with my favorite response at the top:

Posted by monty on March 17, 2009 at 19:20:57:

In Reply to: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:18:23:

My wife did it by saying “I do”

Posted by Jackitup on March 18, 2009 at 08:46:40:

In Reply to: Re: How do you select a pig? posted by monty on March 17, 2009 at 19:20:57:

ditto that!! I must’ve got her good and drunk….and she’s still here after almost 31 years……go figure!

Posted by Behr on March 18, 2009 at 10:47:06:

In Reply to: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:18:23:

One of my best friends used to raise pigs years ago when she was still married. He might want to look at the link for reference.

Most of her advise echoes what others have said, with a few other things to consider. In general, take a look at the lot as a whole first. All the pigs in the litter should look pretty much the same – this is an indication that they have been fed and cared for properly. Although fat means flavor, a fat pig (compared to others) is also going to likely mean less meat per pound on average. And inversely, an overly tall or long pig would indicate less fat and less flavor. Bottom line, look for the most average looking pig in the lot.

Not that I’d know any better, but it all seems to make sense to me.


Posted by hw on March 18, 2009 at 08:04:10:

In Reply to: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:18:23:

Look for one with large hams and a thick, well arched back for a well defined loin area.


Posted by Charles in SC on March 17, 2009 at 21:24:16:

In Reply to: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:18:23:

I would stick with a Yorkshire which is what you typically see at meat hog farms. They are the long slender mostly blonde ones. Some hogs are raised for fat they are more short bodied and have a fatter face. If you are picking it out at the farm get one that seems clear eyed and healthy and alert looking looking. Yes, I have raised hogs in a past life.

Posted by Rick in Wv on March 17, 2009 at 19:53:28:

In Reply to: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:18:23:

This has nothing to do with picking a pig for cooking,but I remember when I was a teenager and my Dad was 48 or so, we had a couple of sows. One had a litter and they were pasture raised. A guy came by to purchase one and asked Dad to pick one. He went into the pasture and grabbed one by the hind legs. The darn sow became a very fiesty Mom right then and Dad sprinted towards the fence, he tossed the piglet to me and vaulted over the gate. I never knew the man was that spry in his old age. I appreciate it now in my late 50’s. Rick.

Posted by Farmboy on March 17, 2009 at 19:46:43:

In Reply to: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:18:23:

At that size they will be about the same. I would pick out a plump healthy looking one and maybe one with a little color on it. Red or black would be good choice. Joe

In Reply to: Re: How do you select a pig? posted by MaryAnn on March 17, 2009 at 19:28:03:

Went to the pig farm, told the man I wanted one about 80 pounds. He took me to one of a row of pig sheds, past a bunch of pig pens, and said, “Pick one”.
I told him I had no idea how to tell one pig from another, and truth be told, they were all pretty much the same size, same color, same number of ears, same curly tails.
I told him I’d rather he picked the pig. He would not do it. He said, “You have to pick him”.
So, I saw a half-dozen or so all kinda jostling at the fence, all looking the same direction, all grunting about the same. The I saw one kinda sulking in the corner by himself.
I picked one of the six. Figured they’d all taste the same, but that one by himself might be bitter.

Posted by Juggy D Beerman on March 18, 2009 at 13:12:34:

In Reply to: Juggy help me out here lol posted by MaryAmm on March 17, 2009 at 19:49:49:

and be sober when you look them over. Oh, and don’t buy a pot-bellied pig.

Other than that, MaryAnn, I think the others have about covered it. I hope this helps……..




One Response to “Going Whole Hog”

  1. Richard Gilbert Says:

    I think picking an average looking one is a good idea–too big might be a fast grower but too lean; and too small may be runty and gristly or some such. All modern hogs are too lean for best flavor, but some folks are breeding and selling heritage breeds that are supposed to be better. But then there are so many variables with raising them (if you breed shop you might find the supposed best eating hog but it might be raised poorly by an idiot) that I think it is best to just find a farmer you like who raises them the way you think is right and patronize him. An average farmer, sensible and moderate, like his hawgs.

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