Slow Food: From gestation to harvest—what does it take to raise a heritage hog?
The pork produced by our heritage Large Black Hogs is slow food in every sense of the term. It takes approximately 14 months to get a delicious heritage pork chop from our farm to your plate.
Let’s start at the very beginning—the gestation period for a piglet is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. After birth, it takes 2 months to wean a piglet naturally. And then 8 months after that to grow the little heritage oinker to a market size Large Black Hog, compared to the 5 months it takes for a factory farmed pig.
During that period, we’re maintaining a boar with a very large appetite and a need for room to roam. In addition to feeding natural alfalfa hay, grain, and fruit and vegetables to Large Black boar, sows, and piglets, we’re also vetting, housing, mucking out, tractoring, hauling, trailering and midwifing, not to mention fence and shelter building/mending and water toting in every type of weather. Like all small producers, our little operation is not taxpayer subsidized like the huge corporate farms are, nor would we want it to be.
If you’ve read this far, we suspect that you’re as interested in natural, locally produced, sustainable food and biodiversity as we are. We hope you’ll consider supporting the only heritage pork CSA in California.
We look forward to providing good food for you and your family. Come share the heritage hog farming adventure with us!
These Large Black Hogs are rare. Why are you selling them for pork?
The American Livestock Conservancy has a saying that we must eat these pigs to save them, and we believe that's true. We love everything about these hogs--but, really, their main purpose is to produce pork. If there's no market for the pork from these distinctive heritage hogs that do not fit the factory farming model in any way, shape, or form, then they will disappear from our rural American landscape.
How Does the CSA Work?
Bumpy Road Ranch CSA Shareholders participate in the growing season of a Large Black Hog from weaning to harvest by purchasing a whole or a half share of a live heritage hog. This is done through a series of monthly CSA Share payments over the course of the 8-month growing season for a heritage hog to reach an optimal butcher weight of approximately 250 pounds.
We keep you apprised of the growth of your hog via monthly email updates. Many of our CSA shareholders have visited our farm during the growing season, which all shareholders are welcome to do at a mutually agreed upon time.
At the end of the approximately 8-month growing season for a weaner piglet (a 2-month old newly weaned piglet), and upon receipt of payments in full, we will issue you a bill of sale for your live Large Black Hog and deliver your live animal to the local USDA-inspected processor, where the animal will be humanely slaughtered and processed to your specifications under custom processing. You pay the processor directly for slaughter and processing when you pick up your pork.
By making a financial commitment to our farm for a growing season you become a Bumpy Road Ranch Heritage Pork CSA Shareholder. As the only heritage pork CSA in California, this effort represents a way to more affordably supply healthy, natural meat that is raised locally, ethically, sustainably, and humanely.
What is the time frame? When do CSA Shares begin? And when is harvest?
Growing season begins April 1, with the weaning of piglets. Harvest is expected December 2012, just in time for the holiday season. As a CSA shareholder, we’ll apprise you of your hog’s progress throughout. You can pay your pig a visit if you wish. And once the harvest is over, throw a Matanza or fill your freezer up with enough naturally raised heritage pork to sustain you and your family for months.
How is a pork CSA different from my veggie box CSA?
The concept is similar. But in practice, it is quite different.
You’re probably accustomed to picking up your share of vegetables weekly. Dealing with meat is much more challenging. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s nearly impossible to break down a whole hog and attempt to divide that hog equitably among several shareholders. For example—if you divide a hog up into quarters, who gets the back and who gets the front?
Your vegetable farmer can give everyone five zucchini in her weekly veggie CSA share distribution. Dividing up kale or cauliflower is pretty straightforward. Potatoes can be counted and sorted.
Pork chops are a different matter. One Large Black Hog produces only a finite amount of those.
whole hog (or half hog, for that matter) through participation in an entire growing season from weaning to harvest. Using the whole hog means succulent roasts, ham steaks, bacon, and sausage, certainly. But for the more adventurous eater and those who are interested in minimal waste of these rare heritage animals and Nose to Tail Eating, it also means feet, hocks, lard, organs, and soup bones, delicious foods we often miss out on given their absence from most supermarkets today.
A pork CSA is also different from your veggie CSA in that we can't just leave boxes of pork on someone's porch; the meat has to be frozen, for food-safety reasons.
What does your heritage pork taste like?
The pork from our Large Black Hogs is the ultimate slow food.
Fed primarily grass, it takes 10 months to raise one of these Large Black Hogs from birth to harvest vs. the 5-6 months for a factory farmed pig to be raised to market weight. And what a difference a proper diet, natural raising, and 5 extra months can make!
The pork is lean yet micro-marbled for a moist product on the grill or in the oven. This is due to the fact that the animals are raised slowly, making the meat much more flavorful. It’s also full of healthy Omega-3. The texture of the pork is extra tender due to the short muscle fibers which has earned it a place in some of the most exclusive restaurants in New York and Europe. The meat is slightly darker in color with an old world flavor. Large Black Hogs are also famous for their exceptional bacon.
How are your Large Black Hogs raised?
Our family is raising heritage Large Black Hogs the way pigs used to be raised--on sunshine and grass, when food was still food, and these animals spent their lives on the land, not in factory farm pens. All of our 2011-2012-CSA Shareholders who have visited our farm have been very pleased with our hog keeping practices.
How much or how little pork can I order?
By becoming a Bumpy Road Ranch CSA Shareholder, you are purchasing a live animal that we’ll raise on our farm in Leona Valley, California and deliver to the processor for you. You may order a whole live hog or a half share of a live hog (side).
You may wish to share your purchase with friends and neighbors. We leave that up to you.
How much pork can I expect from a Whole Hog?
With a target market weight of 250 pounds, the typical hog will produce a ~175-pound carcass. This will yield ~160 pounds of meat in total (this may increase or decrease depending on your butchering choices and the individual animal). Custom butchering with a USDA inspected processor allows you to make the decisions regarding your purchase—everything from thickness of chops to curing and smoking to sausage seasoning to type of packaging. We are always available for consultation regarding your choices.
Here’s an example of the pork yield from an actual Large Black Hog half (side) share of a ~250 pound market weight animal. Please note that this information is for demonstration purposes only. Pork yield will vary slightly per individual animal and your butchering choices:
HOG CARCASS BREAKDOWN
The hanging weight (carcass weight) is about 70% of the live weight of a hog.
Commercial cuts yield about 67% of hanging weight plus there are additional cuts for the adventurous cook like the feet, hocks, head, lard, organs, soup bones, etc. This means that a whole pig hanging weight of ~ 180 lbs yields ~ 120 lbs of commercial cuts. When using the whole hog, from nose to tail, there is about 85% or about 160 lbs of the commercial cuts plus feet, hocks, lard, organs, soup bones, etc.
Actual pounds of pork, of course, varies from hog to hog and is dependent upon your butchering choices.
Ham - 45 pounds, 24 percent of the carcass
25.5 pounds of cured ham, 2.3 pounds of fresh ham, 5.8 pounds of trimmings and 11.4 pounds of skin, fat, and bone
Side (Belly) - 34.9 pounds, 19 percent of the carcass
19 pounds of cured bacon, 5.8 pounds of spareribs, 9.1 pounds of trimmings and 1 pound of fat
Loins - 33.8 pounds, 18 percent of the carcass
3.2 pounds of backribs, 10.7 pounds of boneless loin, 7.6 pounds of country-style ribs, 5.7 pounds of sirloin roast, 1.6 pounds of tenderloin, 1.6 pounds of trimmings and 3.4 pounds of fat and bone
Picnic - 16.6 pounds, 9 percent of the carcass
12.6 pounds of boneless picnic meat and 4 pounds of skin, fat, and bone
Boston Butt - 14.7 pounds, 8 percent of the carcass
4.4 pounds of blade steaks, 7.8 pounds of blade roast, 1.7 pounds of trimmings and 0.8 pounds of fat
Miscellaneous - 39.2 pounds, 22 percent of the carcassSource: National Pork Producers Council
15.4 pounds of jowls, feet, tail, neck bones, etc., 22 pounds of skin, fat, and bone and 1.8 pounds of shrink and miscellaneous loss
Who is the processor?
We are pleased to be working with Old Fashion Country Butcher in Santa Paula, California. They have superb customer service, and will be there to expertly assist you in making decisions regarding your butchering choices. Their location is convenient to both Los Angeles & Bakersfield.
Do I need a freezer?
Yes, you will need a freezer or at least a large refrigerator freezer section to store all of this delectable heritage pork! The meat is frozen and wrapped in butcher paper or vacuum packed in cryovac, depending upon your specifications. The size of the individual packages will depend on your butchering choices. A half hog share takes up about 3 cubic feet. Vacuum packed pork will last a year in a freezer.
How much does it cost? Prices for Custom Butchered Whole Hog and Half-Hog Share
As you can see, processing by a USDA certified processor is a large part of the cost of locally raised, heritage meat. Custom processing includes cut, wrap, and freeze. Smoking and curing is $1.25/pound extra. (Example: 16 lb cured ham - $20 extra.) Sausage seasoning: mild, hot or green chile is $1.25/pound extra. (Example: 10 lb sausage - $12.50 extra.)
Leona Valley Heritage Fams Pork CSA Shareholders participate in the growth season of a real live Large Black Hog from weaning to harvest. These heritage animals are not factory farm units. It can take 10+ months to raise one of these Large Blacks to an optimal butcher weight. We will raise your hog as close to the target weight of 250 pounds as possible, but the live weight at processing may come in anywhere from approximately 250 to 300 lbs, depending on the individual animal. Pork yield for a whole hog share is the average expected, for example only, and will vary slightly per individual animal and your butchering choices. Processing prices may change at the processor’s discretion.
In the event that the reserved pig is not available due to illness or death, another pig will be made available if possible, or the deposit and payments made by the CSA Shareholder will be refunded.
Your prices are much higher than Albertson's, Smith's or Wal-Mart. I also saw a whole live hog on Craigslist for a lot less. Are you overcharging?
Raising these distinctive hogs is more a labor of love than anything else, and the result of our desire to contribute to a healthy, local food supply, which we think is very important, for a variety of reasons. We're definitely not getting rich in the process! We do, however, need to cover our costs, and have a little something to show for our efforts. A hog eats about 8 pounds of feed a day. Your local feed store can give you today's price on a 50-pound bag of non-medicated swine feed and their 4-way grain mix along with the price of a bale of high-quality alfalfa. Multiply that by 8 months to grow a heritage hog to market size from weaning. And don't forget to include the overhead cost of maintaining a boar and sow.
In terms of quality, there's no substitute for what we're growing, not even at your local Whole Foods. You might want to read this: The High Price of Cheap Food.
In reference to that hog you saw on Craigslist, do you know what he's been eating? Has he been 100% corn fed? How has he been raised/kept? In a pen? In a pasture? Was he born in a crate, or farrowed naturally? Was he isolated, or did he get to enjoy the company of a herd? Our 2010-11 CSA members have been delighted with our hog keeping, which many have observed firsthand. A happy, slow-raised hog produces delicious pork.
How do CSA Share Payments Work?
You will receive 9 invoices during the period from the weaning to harvest of your heritage hog. Let's use a whole hog purchase as an example.
Farmed by Happy People ....
Produce The BEST Tasting Pork.
-- Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, Buy Local, Buy Fresh and Sustainably Grown