My First Time Buying a Half Pig
I took my advice after my Buying a Whole Hog post and ordered a half pig this summer. I wanted quality local meat at a better price than buying it by the piece.
Since the farmers market I most often attend rarely has pork for sale these days (their one pork farm moved to the midwest), buying a half pig was another way to load up on pork all at once.
I bought my meat after looking through different hog farmers nearest to me on the Baltimore Foodshed map. I chose New Roots farm because I live in AAC and I had been to the farm.
New Roots Farm had a lot of good information about their animals on their site, too. Some farms simply say they sell whole animals but I liked seeing a more up to date website telling me more about prices and dates. That gave me confidence when spending a large sum of money.
New Roots farm lists their price as $6.50 a pound for half a pig, for the hanging weight of the pig. You end up with about 75% of the hanging weight. I ended up with 78 pounds of pork and paid $676 for it. That meant $8.67 a pound, which equates to about 75% of the hanging weight.
There are cheaper options out there in Baltimore, but I really liked the quality of the meat I had previously tried at New Roots farm. My family has been pleased with the flavor of everything we have eaten from our half pig.
Why Did I Buy a Half Pig?
Buying a half pig is an investment, for sure. You need to have the money to pay upfront, and the freezer space to store it. You have to be willing to try new cuts and learn new skills.
I love a challenge, and I like being able to buy a lot of really good meat at once. If you prefer local meat, it is easier to buy a lot at once rather than hoping the farm will be attending a particular market.
Buying a half pig was a perfect start to buying quality bulk meat. I love pork, but tend to stick to easy things like tenderloin and ham. Buying a half pig meant getting lard, scrapple, neckbones, and a tail. While I know what to do with lard, the rest is completely new for me.
I liked the idea of getting quality pork for cheaper prices. I like the idea of getting pork in my freezer so I don’t have to go source it from multiple markets or farms. That half pig has lasted us since August, and it is only halfway gone so far.
Adding a pork meal each week to our menu is easy. I pick a cut from my pantry list and find ways to use it and any leftovers. The list gets updated so I know what is in the freezer.
I’ve been having fun finding new ways to eat ham. Ham and beans together are so delicious, though they do get repetitive. Still, pairing cheap beans with more expensive pork is a great option. I like being able to enjoy a ham meal and then have plenty for several cheap bean meals later.
Buying a half pig means new cooking challenges because you get to use more of the animal. I like the idea of using what is normally not sold commercially. It is also interesting to learn more about what comes from a pig. It isn’t all bacon or pork chops.
Learning how much of a pig are hams and shoulders and ground meat gives me a new appreciation for why some cuts are cheaper in the store.
Picking up my 78 pounds of meat was easy. I fit all of it in a large cooler. Since it was frozen solid, the fact that the lid didn’t quite fit didn’t bother me. Buying 30 minutes away in August was not a problem.
We have eaten about half our meat so far, mostly easier cuts. I have learned to cook scrapple without it falling apart. Yet I still have a mysterious pig tail and neckbones left in my stash….
Using All of My Half Pig
My 78 pounds of meat came in large cuts like shoulders and half hams, smaller cuts like chops, tenderloin and ribs, and really small cuts like sausage, bacon, and scrapple. Neckbones, pig tail, and lard were also included.
By far, the most meat is in ham form. They are delicious, but there is a lot of meat to use up. I cook a ham with seasonal vegetables for one meal. We use leftover ham for eggs, for sandwiches, and ultimately for a pot of beans with the bone as well.
We have been smoking the shoulders. Shredding a smoked shoulder and eating it as is, or adding barbecue sauce and making sandwiches have been fabulous weekend meals.
For easy weeknight meals, we have enjoyed breakfast using bacon, sausage, or scrapple. The sausage goes well on my homemade pizza as well.
The bone-in pork chops have been the meal we enjoyed the most. We have enough left for one more meal, but I’m holding off until we have eaten down more of the other cuts.
I’ve been cooking a pork meal every week, more or less, since we got our meat in August. Larger cuts often mean multiple meals in a week, so we balance that out with a week with a smaller cut.
For my family, we have used half the meat in five months. Soon, I will go looking to order a quarter beef next. It took a few months to get our pork, so plan ahead when buying bulk meats.
What I have Left of My Half Pig
Of the 40 or so pounds I have left, 12 of them are ham. I have 15 pounds of breakfast meat (sausage, bacon, and scrapple), so I predict breakfast for dinner coming up more.
I need to render my lard soon, because I’m almost out of lard. I have one more shoulder, and one more meal of chops.
That leaves me with neckbones and a pig tail and four packages of scrapple. There isn’t a lot of information online about any of these cuts. Scrapple is a local recipe. Pig tail and neckbones have few resources.
I was first introduced to scrapple in college, and chose not to partake because I was told it was made up of everything not fit for sausage. You can imagine where my mind went.
Now that I have a bunch of scrapple, I learned more about it. When they say “not fit for sausage”, often they mean the liver, the heart, and skin. Our scrapple tastes a bit like liver but in a very tasty way.
Scrapple comes from the mid-Atlantic (mostly Pennsylvania), and is ground up with pork broth and mixed with cornmeal or flour to thicken it. It comes in a loaf shape, and you fry or bake slices until the exterior is crispy.
My first foray into cooking scrapple meant total mush. I have since experimented with different techniques, and prefer baking it. Scrapple has enough fat to make it fairly crispy without frying. At 400F, it takes maybe 20 minutes to get to the texture I like, cut into quarter inch slices.
Scrapple gets crispy on the underside when baking it. Flipping it halfway through, when it is cooked enough to hold up to flipping, will get it crispy on both sides without burning it.
The pigs tail I have is smoked. I will probably use it as a ham hock with beans or with greens. Foodies say the tail is delicious, and I may have to get more creative.
Like the tail, neckbones are also supposed to be delicious. They may be bony, but once you cook them long enough, the meat falls off and you can enjoy it properly. I wonder if you can cook pig tail like this neckbone recipe?
I have really enjoyed my first half pig. It certainly simplifies meal planning, knowing I have a bunch of really tasty pork sitting in the freezer!