D'Ranch is officially in the pig business. Not the big smelly hog barns, nor the sloppy muddy pig pens, but clean, green, happy piggies foraging and rooting in the forest! These little bacon seeds will grow up on a diet variety of seedlings, grass, acorns and walnuts, brush, and overgrown weed beds, with a little corn mixed in so they are friendly and lovable. Pigs are foraging animals and not meant to live in confinement where they are fed a rationed diet of pellets and grain bi-products. They are omnivores just like us, and need a large variety to keep them healthy and happy.
One thing I have learned during this process -and am still trying to wrap my head around- is the more pigs move around, the more tender the finished pork product is. It seems almost counter intuitive until you look at chickens. When we eat the different cuts of chicken, which is the most tender: the breast or the legs? The legs of course. Why? Simply put...muscle. Muscle, in moderation, creates tender meat. (more on that later in the blog)
But wait, what about veal? If you have ever had a tough piece of veal (and I have) it goes against everything we have been led to believe. "Keep that animal from moving around and the meat will be tender". Hogwash. If you cook a veal cutlet longer than 5 minutes you may as well eat shoe leather. Veal is so lean that only by serving it rare/med rare will it remain "tender", and even then its a shot in the dark.
Now let's think about steak. Mmmmm...
Got lost for a moment. Just thinking about steak makes my taste buds sit up and take notice. Anyhoo, this is what I have learned; "The common thread with beef and pork though is that TOO MUCH muscle makes a tough steak. You see, muscle contains collagen, and the higher the collagen content, the tougher the steak becomes. Think ribeye compared to round steak: ribeye comes from the area directly behind the shoulder of the cow while round steak comes off the thigh. There is quite a bit of movement in the shoulder as the cow grazes, and while the shoulder is building large muscle, the area behind it is building much smaller muscle. If that cow stood all day and never moved around, the muscle mass and blood flow would diminish, and so too would the fabulous marbling and tenderness that a ribeye is known for.
Now imagine a pork loin. It is located in the same basic location as the ribeye. Not a major muscle, but a companion to one. The ham on the other hand is taken from the hips and thighs. Major muscle = less tender. But still just as tasty! If that pig is allowed to move around, it's meat will be leaner, more tender, and have more flavor thanks to the natural diet than it's hog barn counterparts."
Still not convinced? I, too, still have some skepticism, but perhaps we will have to do a blind taste test some day. A store bought, traditionally raised pork chop against our pasture pork. Who wants to volunteer? Seriously though, the chicken argument almost has me persuaded.
OK, back to the forest foraging piggies. We are going to set up a single wire electric barrier, using a solar panel and a large battery, in order to allow them freedom without worry of them wandering off. Solar is a must since we do not have electricity within 1/4 mile of where they will be located. Every few days the wire will be moved depending on the amount of foraging they have done and how big they are growing. We also do not want them to root up the ground too much, and the longer they are in one spot, the more that happens. So many factors to consider.
As I stated earlier, these pigs will also get bonus corn/3-way feed just to keep them friendly and tame, and to build a small layer of fat along that bacon belly. Nothing worse than a wild unmanageable pig with a skinny waist. The plan is a 70/30 split of forage/corn which simply put just means they will get fed once a day in small amounts, increasing as their weight increases. Also pigs that are frequently handled and given love and care, produce more serotonin and less adrenaline, which also makes tastier meat! https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/08/how-animal-welfare-leads-to-better-meat-a-lesson-from-spain/244127/
Now for the fun part. FARM SHARES! That's right, we are offering farm shares to our friends, neighbors, and ranch guests who want a healthy, naturally raised option for their meat. In the next few weeks we will also be offering pasture raised meat chickens as part of the farm share, and will continue selling our free range eggs. While a chicken's main diet needs to consist of commercial feed, fresh grass and bugs each day keeps them parasite and disease free. This is going to be a cost conservative way to ensure your meat is fresh, sustainably and humanely raised, and as natural as we can possibly make it.
The cost will be evenly distributed based on the amount of shares purchased plus 25% for my time and labor. So let's say we have 10 shares of pigs reserved this year, and 10 shares of chickens. We are raising 5 pigs ($275) and 50 meat chickens ($62.50). The cost of feed constantly varies and is going up exponentially this year (along with everything else it seems), but it averages $8.00 per 50 lbs of corn, and $19 per 50 lbs of organic meat bird feed. Let's do some math.
Average feed consumption per pig: 600 lbs avg feed/pig - 70/30 forage/feed split = 180 lbs
180 / 50 lbs (bag weight) = 3.6 bags per pig
3.6 x $8 = $28.80
Average feed consumption per bird: 18 lbs avg feed/bird - 20/80 forage/feed split = 14.4 lbs
14.4 / 50 lbs (bag weight) = 0.288
.288 x $19 = $5.47
Butcher cost per pig: Approximately $150.00 per pig. (see breakdown chart)
Butcher cost per chicken: $2.00 ($100 rental for equipment for 2 days/50 birds)
Total cost per pig: $75 + $28.80 + $150 = $253.80 + 25% = $317.25
$317.25 x 5 pigs = $1586.25 /10 shares = $158.63 each
Cost per pound (150 lb avg): $2.11 lb
Total cost per chicken: $1.25 + $5.47 +$2 = $8.72 + 25% = $10.90
$10.90 x 50 birds = $545.00 /10 shares = $54.50
Cost per pound (8 lb avg) $1.36 lb
Breakdown chart of butcher cost
150 lbs average dress weight x $0.48 lb = $72.00
60 lbs avg cured meat weight x $0.80 lb = $48.00
slaughter fee per pig $30.00
Total $150.00 per pig
What does one pig render in meat?
22 chops 1/2 lb each
1 loin - 3-4 lbs
22 shoulder steaks 1 lb each
4 sirloin chops - 1 lb each
4 racks spare ribs - 2 lbs each
2 hams 15 - 18 lbs each
ground pork - 25 lbs
bacon - 15 lbs
jowl - 4 lbs
lard - 12 lbs
hocks - 6 lbs
This is an average breakdown. Weights and quantities may vary.
Ground pork may be sausage if preferred. I find it easier to spice my own as needed.
Obviously a half pig would equal half as much meat in every category.
So there it is. Our very wordy, very detailed, seriously informative reasoning of why you should buy a farm share and enjoy a freezer full of humanely and naturally raised meat.
But wait! There's more!
We also have a limited supply of lamb this year. Total cost per lamb = $175 or $3.50 lb.
Grocery store pricing per pound for lamb chops as of June 11, 2021 ... $8.48 lb !!!!!!!!
So thank you all for sticking with this narrative to the end, and we wish you a blessed and safe summer.
Until next time...
p.s. This breakdown looks different from my screen to yours, so if you are confused...$317.25 whole pig, 158.63 1/2 pig, $54.50 for 5 chickens.