Why Buy Bulk Pork?
Buying a whole hog enables you to buy delicious local pork at a cheaper price. You can fill your freezer (a great way to avoid food shortages!) and support your local farmer at a cheaper rate.
Buying pastured pork is a delicious way to enjoy nutritious, environmentally sustainable pork. Not all local pork is pastured, but the pork you find through Baltimore Foodshed has certainly been raised better than conventional pork.
When buying a whole hog (or half of one), you get to know your farmer, and you live closer to your meat. That pork is not a commodity, it is food, and it is better for you than conventional pork.
There are many pig farmers in the Baltimore area. The Baltimore Foodshed map can help you find pork producers nearby. Check their websites to learn more about their pork, as well as whether they offer bulk pork. If they don’t explicitly state they sell whole pigs, ask if they do!
Before you go buying a whole hog, though, there are things to think about. Pricing and freezer space are easy to figure out. But you also might want to try the product before investing in a large purchase of meat.
Buying a whole hog means a lot of meat, and potentially cuts you aren’t familiar with. Are you ready to learn more about your food?
Buying a Whole Hog (or Half)
There are many farms in the Baltimore area that sell animals by the whole or half. Searching for pork producers on the Baltimore Foodshed map will result in many options. Click through them and see what the farms offer.
Some farms are very upfront about their farming practices, as well as whether they sell bulk pork. They may tell you how much their pigs weigh, or how to choose pork cuts.
However, some simply tell you they sell whole and half hogs. That means you need to contact them to ask questions. How much meat do they get from a whole hog? What is the price per pound? Who chooses the cuts you get? When will you get your pork?
Besides the basics, you might want to ask more about the pigs they raise. What breed are they? What are they fed? How are they raised? Can you buy some smaller cuts to try?
Pigs can vary widely in size. A heritage breed might be smaller, but have more fat and juicier meat. Depending on the breed, they might take longer to reach the right size for slaughter. Finding out how much meat to expect is important!
Evermore Farms sells whole hogs, and customers can expect about 144 pounds of pork cuts from an animal. They say as a general rule, 50 pounds of meat fits into 2.25 cubic feet of freezer space, so 144 pounds means almost 7 cubic feet of space is needed.
A standard sized fridge has a freezer capacity of 4-5 cubic feet. Ideally, you’ll want a stand alone freezer for a large bulk pork purchase.
With the inflation from COVID, it’s hard to put a price on what you should be spending per pound when buying a whole hog. Right now, Evermore Farms says they are charging $6.50-$7 per pound of meat you get. 144 lb * $6.50 is nearly $1000, so a hefty investment.
Brad’s Farm Market says 160-170 pounds of pork at $2.35/pound, plus butchering at $225. That runs $600 or so. It pays to look around and see what is available.
Obviously, not everyone can pay high costs upfront. Yet the $6.50 a pound is comparable to Sprout’s All Natural Pork (conventionally raised) prices. For 2 adults eating pork moderately, that’s 18 months worth of high quality pork at a decent price.
Of course, different farms raise different pigs. Buying a whole hog could mean 200+ pounds of meat to store, or a heritage hog might not even reach 200 pounds, giving you about 100 pounds of meat for your family.
On average, the yield weight (what you bring home) is about 70% of the hanging weight (after slaughter), which is about 75% of the live weight (what the pig weighs before slaughter).
Ask your farmer how much meat you get when buying a whole hog, as well as how much it will cost. A heritage pig will likely cost more, but the meat quality may be better.
Bringing Home a Whole Hog
When buying a whole hog, you may have choices as to how you want it cut. It depends on your farmer’s sales practices and their butcher, but you may be able to get specialty cuts.
Likely your butcher will have a standard cut list. You can ask for different cuts, or have some parts ground. You might be able to choose if they cure your hams and bacon.
On average, you can expect 15 pounds of pork chops, 5 pounds of ribs, 15 pounds of roasts, 30 pounds sausage, 25 pounds of ham, 10 pounds of bacon, and 5 pounds of ham hocks from a large whole hog.
With the standard cuts, you can then customize your sausage, or ask for roasts or hams to be cut into smaller portions. You can also ask about the trotters (feet), lard, extra bones, and offal from your hog if you want.
Trotters make amazing stock because they have a lot of gelatin in them. Bones as well are great for broth. Rendering your own lard means nutritious fat for cooking and making amazing dishes. Learn different ways to prepare offal so you use all of the pig.
If you are buying a whole hog, you want to use the whole hog! Get all the parts, even those unfamiliar to you, and challenge yourself to learn how to use them. Using all of the animal is much more sustainable.
Other Things to Consider
Before buying a whole hog, you definitely want to take a look at your family’s pork consumption, how much money you are willing to spend, and whether you have the space to store all the pork.
If you don’t have a good way to keep track of your meat with a pantry management system, you might want to start now! Chest freezers are hard to keep organized.
If the cost is too much at once, you might want to look into pork CSAs. There are several options in Baltimore, and buying meat every month or three might be a better option for you.
Committing to a large meat purchase may seem intimidating, but if you have the space, the cash, and the desire, buying bulk pork can save you money. Plus, you’ll certainly be committing to eating locally for quite some time!