My Half Pig Order
I eat animals. To some extent, I eat animals and animal products pretty much every day. I’ve already discussed the ethics around eating animals in “Should Humans Eat Animals“, and a later link to two articles in “Feeling Guilty About Eating Meat?”, so I won’t bother this time around. What I’d like to do in this post is explain in detail the manner in which I sourced a half pig from a local farm called Gelderman Farms (I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada) that I believe is raising the animals responsibly.
A while back, I discussed different ways to source high quality animal products, and let me tell you, I have put those practices into action on many occasions. This time was no different. I went straight to the farmer and made a half pig order directly, which is the most economical way to buy meat that I know of. Especially meat you know has been raised well by people that care.
So how did it go down? How much did I get? How much did it cost? I’ll break it down for you, but first: Why did I pick this farm?
The first thing you’ll want to do when you go directly to a farmer, is choose a farmer! So how did I choose Gelderman Farms? Well, Gelderman farms is a main stay at a local butcher that I know does their due diligence in sourcing high quality animal products. I’d been buying that pork for several years, so I knew it was one of the best around. I’d been purchasing quarter beefs for years and truly enjoyed the variety of cuts and the economy of it, so I had the idea to try a half pig.
At the butcher, they offered a list of prices/pound of pork for half/whole pig orders. The most expensive on the list was Gelderman Farms. I asked why, and their answer was “That farm puts the most thought and care into their animals. It costs a little more, but it’s worth it”. I took the information and told them I would think about it.
The butcher said that they would charge me $5/pound hanging weight, which means that when the half-pig came in, they would weigh it, and charge $5/pound prior to any cutting/waste. I know from experience that you only get about two-thirds of the hanging weight as cut weight, which is the weight of the cuts that you end up putting in your freezer. You lose things like skin, bones, organs, and excess fat. Organ meat is great (if not for the taste, than for the nutrients), so I try to get it, but that’s generally how it works.
I went home and Googled Gelderman Farms to make sure it was what I wanted. I read about their pork raising practices, and this is what they were offering:
- Raised locally in the Fraser Valley
- Bedded on sawdust
- Freedom to run and root
- Supports the 100 mile diet
- Feed custom made on the farm
- No animal meat by-products
- No therapeutic antibiotic treatment
- No growth hormones *as per Canadian regulations
- Animal Care Assurance Certified
- Canadian Quality Assurance Certified
- Government Inspected
OK, sounds pretty good. Not certified organic, but that’s fine with me so long as there’s no antibiotics or growth hormones and the animals are treated well. Sometimes the only difference between organic and non-organic is whether the feed to the animals is certified organic, and if they bother to go through the certification process. They have a photo gallery on there too, and I thought that this photo best described the state the pigs were in:
No cramped cages. The animals can move around. Looks clean. There’s natural light and ventilation. Seems a little crowded, but pigs are social animals and they like to be close. I could dig it!
I noticed there was a store on the website, and lo and behold on the website was an order form for half pigs, whole pigs, variety/sampler packs, and individual cuts. The half pig, which is what I was interested in, was being offered for $3.05/pound of hanging weight. Actually, it was a flat rate of $295 for what they said would be an average of 97 pounds. That’s cheaper than the butcher, so BAM – I made my order.
The Process Post-Order
After the order was made on their website, I got an email from a woman named Audrey (Gelderman? I think so) asking me to call her to give her my cutting instructions. We managed to connect a few days later, and I had a nice conversation where I got her advice on what I wanted. For the different parts of the animal, here’s what I ordered:
- Loin – turn it all into pork chops, please.
- Ribs – leave them on the pork chops, please.
- Leg/ham: cured ham, please!
- Hocks – leave them as is (for the slow cooker).
- Belly – please turn it ALL into bacon
- Cheek – sausage meat, please
- Picnic – roasts, please.
- Shoulder – roasts, please.
- Lard – yes, I will take the “leaf lard”, please.
- All other scrap meat – please turn it into sausages.
- Head – no thanks, I’m not ready for that (maybe next time?)
- Organs – I will take what I can get!
Then, all we had to do was wait until the order was processed (took about three weeks), and arrange for the pick up! As Gelderman Farms routinely visited the local Farmer’s Market, I decided to go there when the order was ready. Admittedly, I got the Saturday/Sunday Farmer’s Markets mixed up, so I had to wait another two weeks. We did eventually connect, however, and I got my tasty pork.
I had the opportunity to meet Jerry Gelderman at the Farmer’s Market. We had a good conversation about how he raises the pigs, and I learned quite a bit. Him and his family respect their pigs quite a bit. They feed them a mixture of wheat, barley, and soy (I don’t recommend that for human consumption, but apparently the pigs do well off of it). I learned that they have an in-house butcher, grow and sell blueberries (I bought a bag), and also sell compost. We also talked about how much work goes into the distribution and fulfillment side of the business. Farmers work hard!
OK, here’s the fun part. I picked up three boxes of frozen pork that was all cut up and labelled. I enjoyed carrying these back to my car, although there was also the option of a dolly.
Inside, here is exactly what I got:
|Cut||# of Packages||Mass per package [g]||Total Mass [g]|
|Pork chops (pack of 2)||10||500||5,000|
|Pork chops (pack of 3)||1||750||750|
|Pork butt roast||3||850||2,550|
|Bacon||10 (9 large, 1 small)||9@480, 1@160||4,480|
|Total (no extras):||43||-||26,355|
*These are what are considered “extras” meaning that you don’t have to choose these items. I figure that not only are these nutritious parts of the animal, but this little piggy died for me, so I’m going to get as much out of this gift as I can. No liver as the abattoir didn’t allow it for some reason (didn’t look good enough?). Also, some of these weights are approximate as they weren’t all equal, and I had to do a little guess work to save time. Close enough!
Pretty solid! Illustrated further:
OK, so I got approximately 28,800 g (63.5 lbs) of pork including the extras. Without the extras, it was about 26,300 g (58.0 lbs). So, the price of “cut weight” came to:
With extras: $4.65/pound ($10.22/kg)
Without extras: $5.09/pound ($11.19/kg)
Compare this to the butcher’s price of $4.99/pound purely for ground pork, and you see the economy of scale! Pork chops sell for $7.99/pound, and bacon is $8.99. You get it all for about the price of ground pork, and you get all the variety and the satisfaction of supporter a farmer directly. I like it!
As for the “extras”, I do plan to eat them. I’m not sure what I will do with the tongue, or the feet, but I will sort it out. Might just make soup with the feet! I’ll find a recipe soon enough.
The bacon is absurdly good, and the pork chops are world class. I’m happy with my order, and will be repeating the process soon.
Next up, in December, I’ll be receiving a quarter cow from Hooke Farms. I’ll document it all for you then!
I encourage those that eat meat to look into some local farms that sell whole or shares of animals. Not only do you get the best stuff at the best price, but you learn a lot about where your food comes from.