If you intend to raise pigs for meat, as many of our forum members do, it is essential to know the value of different cuts or pig parts.
With so many useful parts of a pig, waste is simply not an option. While there are some pig parts that are not preferred for human consumption, that does not mean the livestock guardian dogs on the farm will not willingly consume those parts as a treat. Waste not, want not.
The most desired cuts are those that are high on the hog. Even the middle of the hog cuts do fairly well in terms of sales, but the low cuts are not quite as in demand and can take time to sell. If you have plans to butcher, make room in the freezer for those parts that will take a little longer to move down the road and don't be surprised by the amount of time it may take in some cases. For parts that are especially tough to sell, think about keeping them for yourself to make a nice stew or another delicious dinner concoction.
Cuts that are high on the hog cuts are those that are literally at the highest point of the pig along the back. It is through the sale of these cuts that pig farming is supported, from the raising of piglets to the purchase of feed. High on the hog cuts include:
1. Tenderloin is high in demand and one of the leanest cuts on the pig. It is frequently sliced into medallions for sale.
2. Sirloin cuts are located between the ham and the loin at the base of the spine. It is also lean and is normally sliced into thin cutlets.
3. Loin roasts and pork chops are located along the spine. These account for the primary back muscles and can be cut for roast or chops with the bone in or out.
4. The Boston Butt is the pig's shoulder but should not be confused with a picnic shoulder which comes from the front leg. Boston Butts are marbled and make great roasts in addition for being used in pulled pork.
Next up are middle of the hog cuts. These are slightly below high cuts on the dollar scale and come from the middle section of the pigs. This is from where meats for bacon, ham, sausage, salami, prosciutto, and such come. Cuts include:
1. Ham is located near the rear leg of the pig and sometimes includes the hip bone. Most hams are brined and smoked for flavoring and glazes are often used in preparation.
2. Picnic Shoulder is another section of the pig that is used for pulled pork. It is also available as a roast with or without the bone. In some cases it is ground as well.
3. Pork Belly is where bacon is born. This mix of meat and fat serves many other purposes as well, such as pancetta, sausage, and pork sides.
4. Ribs are available in spare ribs and baby back. Spare ribs have two racks to a side of pork whereas baby back ribs are in the pork chops when the bone is still present.
5. Sausage hails from the middle of the hog, in some cases high as the butt but mostly it comes from hams, belly, and picnic shoulder. Occasionally the jowls and hocks are used in sausage as well. Sausage prior to linking and spicing is commonly referred to as Ground.
Cuts that are low on the hog are those that are often overlooked by consumers but are useful nonetheless even if they are less expensive and can take longer to sell. These include:
1. Hocks are used in sausage or can be roasted. They are also great for soups and stews and contain an often surprising amount of meat.
2. The Jowl or cheek of the pig is usually used for bacon flavoring in soups, stews, and chili. It can also be smoked or used in sausage.
Knowing your cuts are a vital part of any butchering for sale endeavor. Though many cuts are listed here, rest assured this is only the beginning of a pig's usefulness. These are most of the traditionally sold meat cuts, but there is plenty of advantageous pig left once the cuts are gone. Stay tuned for more information on Oddments, Offal, and other pig parts to come!