What is Pork Processing?
Before you start reading, let’s clarify what pork processing is.
Pork processing is the preparation of pigs for human consumption.
This service is used by farmers to sell pork cuts to the general public or to use for personal consumption. Pork processors must follow certain guidelines to ensure the safe preperation of the pork, especially when being sold to the general public.
Processed pork is graded on the Slaughter Swine Grades and Standards developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This grading system represent the quality of the meat, which improves clarity between buyers, sellers, and consumers of pork.
Pig Processing Chart
There are many different cuts that you can get from processing a pig.
The chart below showcases the main cuts of pork available on a pig. You can find descriptions for each cut below the image.
(Click to open descriptions)
The head of the pig is not commonly used, but when cooked correctly it can be used in many ways. The head can be boiled to make stocks or brawn for soups. The ears and cheeks can be taken off and cooked separately either by baking or smoking.
The cheek of the pig is located under the eyes and on the jaw of the pig. It is full of flavor and fatty which makes it great for slow cooking or chopping for soup or stew. Pork cheek is a cheap and a very underrated cut to use.
Pork butt is a cut from the shoulder of the pig. This area tends to be tougher because of the amount of movement the muscle gets. It is cut from the neck and shoulder blade to the upper arm. It is best braised or slow cooked.
The picnic shoulder is cut from below the pork butt and is a very versatile cut. This section of the pig is best used for slow roasting, barbecuing, or grinding into sausage or ground pork. It can also be diced into cubes for soup and stew.
Pork hock or ham hock is the knuckle part of the pig in the lower leg. It is full of connective tissue and needs ligaments which require a long cook at low heat. They are typically smoked before purchasing but unsmoked can also be good.
The loin is a popularsection of the pig for many reasons. Many different cuts like pork chops, tenderloin, and cutlets come from this part. These cuts are fattier and easy to overcook because they are thin.
Two most common types of pork ribs are baby back ribs and spareribs. Both of these are taken from the back section of the pig and are great cooked low and slow with a good marinade.
Bacon, or pork belly, is taken from the lower sides and belly of the pig. This location is ideal for good fat content which gives bacon it’s sweetness and crispness when cooked. Bacon should also be cooked with a moist heat.
The ham is taken from the leg or butt muscle of the pig. Ham is usually smoked and cured or it can be sold fresh. It is often sold whole and is oven roasted.
Common Questions About Pork Processing
There are many frequently asked questions that people have about pork processing.
We've collected some of the most common questions we could find on the internet and answered them here. If you have a question of your own, please submit it at the bottom of the article!
Pork Processing FAQ:
- How Much Does It Cost to Butcher a Pig?
- How Much Meat Do You Get From a Pig?
- How Many Ribs Does a Pig Have?
- Side Pork vs. Pork Belly: What's the Difference?
- Where Can I Find a Pork Processor?
Click a question to view the answer!
How Much Does It Cost to Butcher a Pig?
If you're planning on getting a pig processed, you'll want to get an idea of the cost associated with the service.
The cost will vary depending on multiple factors, such as the weight of the pig, your location, the cuts you order, and the way the processor prices their services.
An example of the average cost of processing a pig is $50-80 for slaughter and $0.97 per pound (hanging weight) for the base processing fee.
This is just one example of pig processing costs. Pig processing can be priced using various methods. For example, some processors don’t charge a slaughter fee, but charge a higher “per pound” processing fee based off the hanging weight. Other butchers may also price their services based of the pig’s live weight.
Check out these price lists for a few more examples:
- Sunnyside Meats 2019 Processing Prices
- Pickrell Locker Processing Prices
- Allen Meat Processing Hog Order Form and Pricing
How Much Meat Do You Get From a Pig?
Percentages are used to estimate how much meat you'll get from a pig.
A pig will weigh 70% - 74% of its live weight when dressed (carcass), then 60% - 75% of the dressed weight will end up as processed meat. (Source)
If your live pig weighs 250 lbs., it will weigh between 175 and 185 lbs. when dressed. For this example, let's say the pig ends up at 180 lbs. dressed. The meat yield from the dressed carcass will weigh between 108 and 135 lbs.
The final weight of your meat will be lower if you have the processor remove a lot of fat and bones. Additionally, a fatter pig will tend to yield a lower percentage of meat.
How Many Ribs Does a Pig Have?
You may be wondering how many ribs you'll get from your pig. The number of ribs actually depends on the breed and other factors.
According to a study of 10,683 pigs by the Canadian Journal of Animal Science, pigs have between 13.5 and 17 pairs of ribs. (Source)
The variation in the number of ribs that a pig has is largely dependent on the breed of the pig.
Side Pork vs. Pork Belly: What's the Difference?
There is some confusion about the difference between side pork and pork belly, but it's actually a pretty easy explanation.
Simply, side pork and pork belly are the same cut of pork and there is no difference between the two.
It is more common to hear this cut of pork called "pork belly," but some people will refer to it as side pork. Pork belly is the cut used to make bacon.
Where Can I Find a Pork Processor?
Finding a pork processor can be difficult, so we've create a search tool that shows you the nearest meat processors in your area.
Enter your city and state in the box below to find a pork processor near you!
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