The ideal weight of a butcher pig is about 220 lbs. The age they reach that weight depends on the breed and food given to the pig, but at 6 months old it starts to be possible.
A word of warning with any butchering enterprise: preparation and planning saves heaps of headaches.
Step 1: Preparation
It’s best to get this set up at least a day beforehand. You’ll need the following: singletree, table, several sharp knives of different sizes, gun, several buckets, plastic bags, trash bags, cold water (at least 10 gallons), and a way to heat at least 10 gallons of water. It helps to have another person to help.
Start off by preparing your singletree and winch. Your singletree should be at least 2 feet wide, and your winch should be able to haul at least 500 lbs without an issue. We use a big tree for an anchor, so that we can also work in the shade.
Prep your table and work area by cleaning everything really well, and spreading things out so that you can get to everything without having to walk around.
If you plan on scraping the skin, get your wood or fuel ready for heating the water.
Don’t feed your pig anything for 24 hours before it is to be killed. Give it plenty of water, though.
Step 2: Kill day
Start as early in the morning as possible.
- If you’ll be scraping the skin, you should begin by warming up 10 gallons of water.
- Take the gun (preferable a .22), a good knife (at least 7”), and some pig food (corn or apples are good for this). Look at the area in which you will kill the pig and make a mental picture of how things will work. You want the pig to be on a relatively clean surface with a downhill slope for letting it bleed.
- Lead the pig to the chosen spot (our pigs are used to following us around the pasture, and will always follow food), and then set the food/treat down. Let the pig eat for about 10-20 seconds, or until he’s calm and distracted.
- Stand to the right of the pig, and behind his shoulder. Aim the gun right behind his right ear and towards his left eye, so that the bullet will travel straight through the brain (there are many alternatives to this, but this is the surest way to kill a pig, in my opinion). Pull the trigger quickly and deliberately.
- Once the pig is shot, he’ll fall down and start convulsing. Roll the pig on his back, and get your helper to hold his legs. Using your knife, quickly stab straight down, right in front of the breast bone, in the center of the neck. When your knife enters all the way, move the handle back and forth until a lot of blood gush out. Once the blood gushes, roll the pig on his side, with the head pointed downhill. Let the blood fully drain (5-10 minutes).
Step 3: Scraping
Once the hog is completely bled out, it is time to get him to the table and start the hair scrape. Scraping makes the edible skin available for consumption, but it takes a while.
- Make sure your water is good and hot, but not boiling.
- Lay your pig on its side on the table. You can also use a truckbed or just a tarp on the ground. Just keep him off the dirt or he’ll get muddy.
- Using a small saucepan, pour a bit of water onto the pig, starting at the ham. Pour water down the legs, across the belly, and go towards the head. Once water is poured on the mid section, place a burlap feed sack over the head and midsection to help hold the heat. Check the hair on the ham every once in a while, and when it pulls out easily, start scraping.
- Scraping is basically done with a blunt knife. Place the knife with blade down and pull towards your body. The hair and the top layer of skin should slide off easily. Scrape and scrape, and if the skin doesn’t come off, pour on some more water.
- Work around the easy parts first – the hams, the belly, the back, the shoulder, and the neck. Once they are done, you can work on the legs and the head.
- Scraping will take a good hour to get it all clean. Then you’ll need to soap down the pig with a mild dish soap. Rub the soap in really good.
- Use a sharp knife and some water to scrape the dirt and loose hairs from the skin. This shouldn’t take very long. Once you’ve done this, you should rinse the body really well. You are now ready to hang the hog.