Home Butcher Guide

Butchering Pigs

Butchering Pigs On The Farm

Pigs are easy keepers and provide excellent meat. Butchering a pig at home takes a little work but with the right tools, equipment and friends to help, you can achieve a successful butcher of pigs at home! 

Is Pork Good For You?

Pork is one of the most consumed animals in the world according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. It’s an excellent source of protein and is known for building muscle mass. Pork is a complete protein meaning it includes the 9 essential amino acids. Pork has creatine and taurine which plays a part in muscle growth and function of muscle through antioxidant power. Pork also keeps you full longer and can prevent overeating and binge eating.  

Why Butcher A Pig At Home

Raising animals from birth to butcher is an accomplishment. You gain a sense of confidence and are able to self-sustain your family. When you learn to butcher at home, you will never starve. 


Growing up in the 80’s in central Minnesota, my family often times butchered their own pigs. The price of pork per pound in 1980 was $.37. The price to pay the butcher to process a pig today in central Minnesota is $.70 cents per pound.  Paying the butcher to process your meat can get expensive.

pigs to butcher

How Long Does It Take To Butcher A Pig?

Butchering is a commitment; it takes a lot of work and usually spans over a two-to-three-day period. The first day being the day to kill and dress the pig with the second day as cutting day. If time allows, a third day is used to render lard, make sausage and head cheese if desired. If a third day is not possible, a cold and snowy winter day is a great day to make sausage. The pork trimmings and fat keep for 6-12 months in the freezer. We like to keep the trimmings for making venison sausage in February.

A ‘Fat Hog’ or Lean Pork?

In the 1980’s when our family began butchering pigs at home, the ‘fat hog’ was 430 pounds! That is an extremely fat hog. They look like a barrel with legs. This was probably not the healthiest way to consume pork and butcher pigs are not that big anymore. They are bred much leaner now. Today’s pork is nearly as lean as a chicken and meets government guidelines for extra lean meat. This is the preference now. 

When Is the Best Time To Butcher a Pig?

Cooler months. When butchering, the meat needs to cool. It’s hard to achieve this in warm months without owning a large walk-in cooler. The best time to butcher any large animal is late fall and winter. When the weather cools, so does the hung meat and it will not spoil.  

raising pigs

Remove Feed 24 hours Before Butchering

With most butcher animals taking feed away for a twenty-four-hour period before slaughtering is common practice and recommended. It can also make it easier to lead them to butcher when you offer them a small handful of feed to confine and kill them. Do not remove water from them. They need to stay hydrated.

Keep Pig Calm Before Slaughter

There are a few important flavor benefits to keeping your pig calm before butchering them. When an animal is wound up before killing, it raises their adrenaline and lactic acid is released in to their system. This can sour the meat, make for tough hams. When the animal stays calm it will bleed out properly and the meat will be less bloody.  

How To Slaughter a Pig

The most common method to kill large animals for butcher is a gun. Using a .22 caliber for a medium sized pig is sufficient. 


A pig should be shot in the brain, which extends from the spinal cord. Look at the neck, imagine a line from the neck up to the spinal cord toward the skull. If the pig does not do down on the first shot, be ready with another.


Always shoot the lowest pig in the hierarchy first. Pigs start to get in a frenzy when their comrades beging to go away. The leader pig should be shot last. This will keep him calm.


Immediately after the pig is unconscious, you are able to ‘stick’ the pig. This can be done on the ground or by hoisting the pig up on a skid loader or tractor with a rope or chains tied to its back legs.

How Do You ‘Stick a Pig’

Sticking a pig takes all the strength you have to get through the layers of fat in the neck. Your aim is to sever the carotid artery without cutting into the surrounding meat. You don’t want to slice from ear to ear to cut the throat. That would damage too much meat and be wasteful.


The proper way to stick a pig and get a proper bleed out is to use a long wide-blade butcher knife which is sharpened on both sides. Yes, both sides. That’s what Granddad would use. Insert the knife into the center of the throat just before the breastbone. Point the knife to the pigs’ rear and push until you hit the backbone. Now move the blade back and forth toward the chin. The cut will be about 3-4” long. Pull the knife out and blood will gush. If it doesn’t, go back in a little deeper without hitting the heart. Lay the pig down slightly for a better bleed out.

butcher knife

How Do You Remove Skin and Bristle from a Pig?

There are two approaches to skinning a pig. Skinning or Scalding. Which one should you choose? 


Skinning is the preferred method by most home butchers. It does not require much equipment or manpower. Scalding is the process of removing the bristle or hair from the pig only. By not removing the actual skin, it leaves a nice layer of fat on the meat for the hams and allows more fat for lard, but the process is longer and dirtier. It also requires more time and extra equipment. 


Skinning a pig can be done simply and can be done on the ground or hoisted. Hoisting gives you the advantage of gravity to pull the skin down the pig. Easier on your back also. 

Best Way To Skin A Pig

A four-step process to skinning a pig. 


Step 1: Cut off the feet. Before hoisting cut the feet off at the knee joints leaving some heel tendon. Now cut between the tendons and the legs so you can insert a gambrel to hoist the pig.


Step 2: Cut the skin but not too deep. Using a round-tip skinning knife held low, close to the skin, make a cut from the rear of the pig all the way to the jaw. Then make a cut from the legs to the center cut.


Tip: Pig hide is thick. It will not come off like a deer hide. It comes off best in strips. Make cuts down the pig starting at the hams. The belly skin and the inside of the legs is a thin skin and you may not have to strip-cut these areas.


Step 3: Skin the pig. Using a skinning knife and slide it under the skin where you started by the leg. Continue around the pig with the hardest part being the hams. Pull these strips down to the head.


Step 4: Cut off the head. Your strips of skin and the head will all come off together. You can skin the head later if keeping.  

Butcher a pig

Scalding A Pig Is Traditional

Scalding a pig is a traditional way to remove the bristles from the pig. This method requires a few extra people to help lift the pig if heavy equipment isn’t available. Also requires boiling water. A great way to heat water outside is a propane gas cooker. The traditionalist would have a metal barrel to heat the water in, and a fire gong underneath it as it leans against a table.


If you have ever seen a two-foot-high table a barn sale or antique store, this table may have been used for scalding pigs. Men would lean a fifty-gallon barrel against a two-foot table with two people on the table. They would use hay hooks strung through the hind-leg tendons, for a handle and successfully dunk the pig in boiling water then pull it out onto the table. This process still works today.   

Best Way To Scald A Pig

A four-step process to scald a pig. 


Step 1: Boil water. Boil to 150 to 160 degrees. No more than that. 170 make the hair follicles shrink which keeps the hair in place. That’s the opposite of what you want to do. You want to remove the hair not keep it in place.


Step 2: Dunk the Pig. Dunk the front half of the pig up and down for 30-45 seconds then pull it out onto the table. This may take two people if manually doing it.


Step 3: Removal of Bristles and Scurf. Using a bell scraper or a large, not too sharp, butcher knife and begin scraping the pigs head and legs. These areas cool faster. Remove dewclaws for pickled pigs’ feet using a pliers. If the skin starts to dry, throw a bucket of the boiling water on it and quickly continue removing the bristles and the scurf on the skin.


Step 4: Dunk the Back Half: Using a hay hook or gambrel through the mouth or hold to front legs and dip in hot water. Continue removing all bristle and scurf until all done. The back half goes faster and is easier.


Tip: Using old towels to clean off the pig during scaping is a good idea. Use the remaining hot water to wash off the scraped pig when finished.   

Mmmm, bacon.

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