Buying a whole or half a pig is a great way to have pork always on hand and save some money in the long run. But how should you go about buying large quantities of pork? You will probably ask yourself what cuts or parts should I order or how long you can expect it to last for a small or large family. These questions and all other details are covered in the articles.
Buying a whole pig vs buying half a pig
First of all, we need to clarify how much meat is a half or whole pig?
The weight of a pig can vary a lot. A pig can weigh from 80 pounds up to 200 or more. A hog is any pig that weighs over 120 pounds. Meat obtained from a pig is called neither pig nor hog; instead, it is called pork.
There are three different weight definitions that you need to know about before buying a whole or half a pig. These are:
- Live weight
- Hanging weight, and
- Yield weight (packaged weight)
Usually, you will discuss hanging weight or yield weight, depending on who sells the meat or where you buy the meat. If the local farm sells meat, then you will discuss hanging weight. This is usually the case when pigs are killed and processed in a meat process plant.
If you get the meat directly from the butcher, you will usually discuss yield weight.
How to buy half pig butchered, what cuts or parts should I order
So, how you go about buying half a pig. It is straightforward. You simply say to the butcher that you want to buy half a pig. Typically, a half pig will always have the same cuts, although there are some that we can order depending on our preference. Mainly it will involve having the bone removed or left inside.
What do you get from half a hog:
- Leg (ham)
- Belly (bacon)
- Shoulder (Boston butt) and picnic ham
- + ground pork
The ham can be deboned, but it is usually better to leave it alone. The amount of bone it has is relatively minimal, and the butcher would have to take it apart to take the bone out, which ruins the integrity of the cut.
The loin is always better deboned. It’s a wonderful, tender piece of meat that is best prepared roasted. Some people prefer it with the bone, but that’s for very particular dishes that ask for tender meat with bone.
Bacon is bacon. You could ask for extra fat in your bacon, as there’s always fat to spare. Pig’s bellies have so much fat that we only ever get to see a small fraction of it. The belly fat is often separated to sell separately or to make sausages. You can always ask for leftover belly fat and make yummy cracklings or use it in various dishes instead of oil.
There are a few ways of ordering ribs. The most popular is to ask for them all together, called “spare ribs,” or to have them cut into smaller pieces.
Smaller pieces are called country-style pork ribs, or you can ask the butcher to cut the most popular rib part, which is baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are from the top part of the rib cage and are best for smoking, grilling, or roasting in the oven.
Make sure you order ribs the way you like them because it will be complicated to cut them into desired pieces afterward. If you don’t have a meat cleaver, it will be literally impossible.
The shoulder can be ordered with or without a bone. The same thing goes for the skin. If you get it without the bone, you will be able to cut it much easier into desired pieces.
There isn’t as much fat between skin and meat, but I suggest you get the cut with the skin on if you will roast it whole. Roasting it with skin on will ensure juiciness, and you will also get nice cracklings. If you are going to make cutlets, then I suggest you buy it with skin off.
When buying a half or a whole pig, you also get, or you can separately order, ground pork. Ground pork is fantastic and very versatile. The amount of meat you get will always depend on the size of the pig. This meat is usually leftover from the cuts, and it is directly proportional to the pig’s weight.
How to buy whole pig butchered, what cuts or parts should I order
Buying a whole pig is not much different than buying half a pig; the only difference is that you are getting twice the amount. When purchasing a whole pig, you may also ask for special cuts.
Pig’s feet (front and rear hock), for example, are a popular choice. These are great for soups or aspics (meat jello).
A pig’s head is also an interesting choice. The head includes some very unusual and delicate cuts, like cheeks, tongue, and brains.
Pigs head actually has more cuts and meat than you would imagine. If you decide to buy it, I suggest you already know how you will use it before you get it, because you can’t just throw it in the oven and roast it.
When buying a whole pig, there is a big chance the butcher will also include the offal. Offal is one of the most nutritious foods, and most can be used in very delicate dishes. The best parts you can use are the liver and heart. The liver is best if you make it with lots of onions and pepper and finish it with some dry white wine. The heart is best if you use it in stews.
Another thing you might want to do is to ask for any leftover bones. They might come in handy for soups, stews, or simply for your pets to chew on!
How much meat do you get if you buy whole or half a pig
|How much meat do I get from half or whole pig (hanging weight)|
|Cuts||half a pig||half a pig||whole pig||half a pig|
|Loin (chops and tenderloin)||15 lb||7 kg||30 lb||14 kg|
|Ribs||7 lb||3 kg||14 lb||6 kg|
|Shoulder (steaks, roasts)||14 lb||6 kg||28 lb||13 kg|
|Ground||12 lb||5 kg||24 lb||11 kg|
|Leg (ham)||20 lb||9 kg||40 lb||18 kg|
|Belly (bacon)||12 lb||5 kg||24 lb||11 kg|
|SUM weight||80 lb||36 kg||160 lb||73 kg|
How to buy a whole pig for roasting
Buying a whole pig that hasn’t been cut to pieces is probably the easiest way to buy a pig. The only time you would be purchasing an entire pig is when you choose to roast it whole. The only thing you need to do is to decide on the total weight of the pig and order it at your local butchery.
It is best to let your butcher know beforehand that you will be buying a whole pig for roasting, especially in local or small butchery. While most places keep a lot of meat in storage, chances are they don’t have a whole pig that hasn’t been cut to some extent. Many butcheries get their pigs in halves or with some cleaning done (like the head, for example).
Also, it’s important to note that pigs for roasting are actually suckling pigs. Very small pigs that shouldn’t exceed 50 lbs in weight.
A pig for roasting is typically cleaned and gutted. Butchers take out the nasty bits, clean it for you, and that’s it. No cutting whatsoever!
So, be careful to buy a suckling pig or simply a pig that weighs no more than 50 pounds, and be clear about having it gutted!
How long will half or whole pig last for a family
First of all, we need to know how much meat does half, or a whole pig has (yield weight). After all, not all families eat the same amount of meat. For some, 100 lbs of meat is a lot, and for others, the amount lasts only a month or two.
As a general rule, a whole pig can be anywhere between 100 and 200 pounds. In most settings, an entire pig’s worth of meat weighs about 150 pounds.
By that logic, a half pig is about 70 to 90 lbs.
And how long is that supposed to last? Well, it depends. Mostly, it depends on the size of your family and how much pork you consume per week.
If you’re buying this pig for some special occasion, then you can expect it to be mostly gone after that one day- particularly if you’re having guests over. The same goes if you are buying a pig to roast it whole.
But if you’re buying a half or whole pig in cuts, you can expect it to last quite a long time. Data shows that, at most, Americans consume up to 63 pounds of pork a year. That rounds up to 0.17 pounds of meat a day, whereas most of us consume a little less, at 49 pounds per year.
That’s 0.13 pounds of pork a day! Not a lot. So, according to these facts, here’s a handy table to show you how long a pig of half pig can last for a small or large family, assuming that you are eating about 0.15 pounds of pork a day:
|Half a pig||Whole pig|
|Family of 3||Half a year||One year and one month|
|Family of 4||Five months||Ten months|
|Family of 5||Four months||Eight months|
|Family of 6||Three months and three weeks||Seven months|
|Family of 7||Two months and two weeks||Five months|
What are the best ways to store half or whole pig
You just bought half a pig, and you need to store all this meat so that it will last a long time. You have two options. The first one is to hold everything in a deep freezer, and the second one is to store most of it in a deep freezer and some of it in a refrigerator.
Whenever I buy pork, I usually store it the following way:
When you buy half or a whole pig, you will probably need to cut certain pieces of meat into smaller pieces. This depends on the amount of meat you consume per meal and the cut you are dealing with.
For example, if you roast a whole ham for a family gathering, it is better to put it in the freezer whole. But on the other hand, a single ham can be cut into several portions of steaks, cutlets, or cubed pork. You can use these portions for stews, sauces, breaded cutlets, or stir-fried pork.
When you put things into the freezer, it is always best to separate the larger cuts with bone on one side of the freezer and smaller packages that will be used for lunches or dinners on the other side.
If you are looking for the best size freezer for your pork, check out my post about freezer sizes.
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Last update on 2021-08-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
All the offal goes into the refrigerator. I always use liver and heart first because they taste best, and the structure stays fresh if you use them as soon as possible, without freezing.
If you put liver, heart, and other offal in the freezer, it will taste bad quickly. I once left liver inside the freezer for a month and couldn’t eat it even after making it perfectly seared with onions, marjoram, lots of pepper, and white wine.
The second thing you can put in the refrigerator are cuts that you will consume in three or four days. The ones I usually keep are roast or pork chops and some ground pork for meatballs.
In general, the best way you can go about it is to make a plan of which cuts have priority and which cuts don’t (and do this before you buy the pork!). The high-priority cuts can go in the fridge, while the lower priority ones should go straight into the freezer!
Now you know that a half pig has five main types of cuts and that a half pig should last about a month for a family of three. A whole pig, however, can last two months or longer for that same family!