It’s exciting writing a new post after such a long time about rural life in Brazil. There is so much to share that I was in doubt of where to start. But, finally I decided to write a post about raising pigs on my farm as I have so many fun and exciting pork recipes to share that I think this is the perfect place to start.
Raising pigs has been one of the most exciting things that my husband and I have involved ourselves in over the last year. We have always wanted to have other animals besides dogs on the farm, but never really knew with which animals to start. Sometime in 2014 we bought some little chicks with the hope of raising them so that we could have our own eggs. Unfortunately, after about 2 weeks of raising them we needed to leave for the day to São Paulo and when we came home all that was left of our chicks were feathers and feet scattered around the house. Yes, our dogs had eaten them. After this massacre we gave up on chickens as it will require quite some infrastructure to keep out our dogs (we have one who is a hunter and will eat anything that moves). Getting a cow has always been something we have thought about, but the work involved in milking is too much and with a busy vegetable production neither of us have the time to milk a cow every morning, nor, to be quite honest, do we want to!
So, last year, our employee and his wife bought a pig from our neighbor down the road to fatten and kill for meat. We spent a lot of time talking to them about how they did it, who killed the pig…etc, etc. Additionally, we both did a lot of research into raising pigs, we talked about it and eventually decided to give it a go.
In the region where we live, Serra da Mantiqueira, pork is very common and a lot of people raise their own pigs for meat. Most people raise one pig in an enclosed area on their property. Some pigs have a little bit of access to dirt, but almost never to grass. Also, all pigs are fed corn and only corn. Right from the beginning we knew that we wanted to grass feed our pigs and rotate them around our farm. We planned to use electric fence and rotate the pigs to areas which needed cleaning. We also didn’t want to feed our pigs only corn, from our research we learned that a variety of different grains would give a pig the best possible diet.
So, in November 2014 we bought our first pig from our neighbor and brought him in our pick-up truck to our farm. To the great surprise of everyone around us we managed to quickly train him with the electric fence and got him to eat grass and vegetable scraps from all around the farm.
With our first pig we actually only fed him corn, we were still researching and learning a lot about other foods for pigs and didn’t quite manage to build up a varied grain and protein diet for him. We noticed that because we only fed him corn he was actually picky about the vegetables he ate and didn’t always eat everything.
It was great fun raising him. At one point we thought that we could turn off the electric fence because he was well-trained. To our surprise he escaped his fenced area and when we came home from going grocery shopping he was by our house hanging out with our dogs. He escaped on some other occasions and found our compost piles, but in general we managed to keep him contained in his fenced area!
After about 5 months of living the good life it was time for us to take the plunge and kill the pig so that we could finally have our own meat. This was not easy, but I think we managed to make this part easier because we had raised the pig from the beginning with the intention of killing him for meat. This meant that he did not get a name…we called him porco (pig).
My husband and I had never killed or butchered a pig so we asked our employees wife to do the deed for us. She is one of the few people in our neighborhood who knows how to kill and butcher a pig and one of the few people who has the courage to do it. Without her, we never would have been able to begin raising pigs!
Killing the pig is the most difficult process in raising an animal for meat. Pigs are especially unpleasant as they scream a lot when you try to move them, pin them down and kill them. When killing our first pig I kept my distance as I wasn’t too keen on seeing everything. Our employees wife kills the pig with a knife and I was a bit worried that there would be tons of blood. Surprisingly, it was not too bad and once the pig had died, the rest of the process was easy and actually quite a lot of fun.
The meat that we got from our first pig was absolutely amazing, the best tasting pork I had ever eaten in my life. Since eating my own pork I don’t think I can ever go back to supermarket pork. Our meat is much more fatty, but it is a rich meat with tons of flavour.
Because we killed a whole pig and kept all of the meat for ourselves I have had to learn how to use every single part of the pig. Usually, there are only a few cuts of the pig that we eat/buy at the supermarket, but since I have everything and I don’t want anything to go to waste I have had to learn how to cook all of the odd parts of the pig. It has been so much fun using parts of the animal that I would have never purchased and have become really creative in my cooking with pork. Also, since I have a lot of fat I have began rendering my own lard and using a lot of it in pastries (these pastries turn out extra flakey and tasty). And, since I also don’t want to eat all of the fat I have begun to make my own lard based soap (recipes and soap making tutorials coming up in future posts).
In conclusion, our first pig was a huge success. We loved having a pig on the farm and especially having our own meat. It is so satisfying knowing exactly where your meat comes from!
About two weeks after killing our first pig we bought two new pigs from our neighbor, one male to fatten and slaughter for meat and a female so that we could begin raising our own pigs!
At the beginning of November we killed our second pig, he is now in my freezer waiting to be eaten. And, our female pig is heavily pregnant and about to give birth any day now. We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will have a litter of 4 to 6 piglets, but since it is her first pregnancy and she is still quite small and young we can’t expect too many piglets.
After gaining experience through our first pig we became a little bit more adventurous with the second two. We immediately diversified their feed and expanded their grazing areas. The result of these two changes was two pigs that weren’t fussy about any food that we gave them. They ate absolutely anything we put in front of them. Additionally, the male that we slaughtered in November had much less fat than our first pig and we got much leaner meat.
Although my husband and I are still not keen on doing the actual killing of the pig we are slowly learning how to butcher and, who knows, maybe one day we will actually do the deed of killing. First though, we will need to learn how to castrate piglets…that will be coming up pretty soon actually!
I promise I will send a little update when the piglets are born, I am super excited and am keeping a close eye on our soon-to-be mom. Also, stay tuned for lots of wonderful pork recipes….