Every farmer would love to have a pig that is 50 percent pork chops and 50 percent bacon. But such an animal doesn’t exist; if it did it might look something like a snake, in that there would be no hams (hind legs) or shoulders (front legs). I know this may be a strange way to get to where I am going, so here goes.
When the time comes to process pigs at the USDA processor, we have to fill out what is known as a “cut sheet”. A cut sheet tells the processor how we would like our meat (in this case pork) returned to us. The choices might not be as easy as you think and it affects or sales.
Let me start simply by looking at the pork belly. Choice number one is to grind this meat into sausage and thereby have no bacon. This choice might work for some, but usually we can’t produce enough bacon. The second choice is to leave the belly unprocessed, and thereby have what I always referred to as fatback. This is raw bacon, like grandma used to cook. The third choice is our choice, which is no nitrate bacon. But this isn’t the only type of bacon, we could, but we don’t chose to make bacon with nitrates.
The bacon was a simple choice; let’s take a look at the loin. Try to follow, this gets tough. Sure sausage is an option, but I don’t think it is a good one. Another choice is to convert the loin into Canadian bacon. This isn’t a bad choice but it certainly isn’t the best. How about pork chops? Everybody loves a good pork chop, right?
Ah yes, pork chops, would you like that with or without a bone? That’s right you have a choice, but it is a choice with consequences. If you choice bone in (my personal choice) then you have to forego both pork tenderloin and baby back ribs. But what if you want those baby back ribs, well then you must accept a boneless pork chop. That was easy right? Not so fast, you can cut a roast into pork chops, but you can’t glue a pork chop into a roast.
Oh yes so what were those basic loin choices again? First there is sausage; then Canadian bacon; possibly a pork roast with bone; maybe boneless pork roast; most likely a bone in pork chop (no ribs no tenderloin) and occasionally boneless pork chops with baby back ribs and tenderloin.
And than doesn’t include all those fancy names such as center cut pork chops, sirloin pork chops, blade end pork chops, and more. Keep in mind that when you add those names that there are price swings, center cut pork chops would be more expensive than sirloin chops. Keep in mind it is the same muscle with different prices. That is why all our bone in pork chops is the same price.
There is a point to this explanation; bacon, and chops are fantastic pork cuts, but they are not the only ones. Every farmer would love a pig with 75 pounds or bacon and 75 pounds of chops, but a pig like that would have no legs, no head and no tail. Imagine a snake as round as a 55 gallon barrel.
The reality is pigs have hams and shoulders, as well as neck bones jowls and ham hocks. Shoulders make fantastic Bar-B-que, and great sausage. With the last group of pigs I over estimated shoulder, and under estimated sausage. Because of this mistake, we are out of all sausages, but hundreds of pounds of shoulder. So get out those crock pots and start the shoulders rolling.
What I am trying to say without saying it is, if you want more bacon, you can help by considering a ham or shoulder purchase. Who knows if you try it, you might like it. And there are millions of internet recipes, so don’t say you don’t know how to cook it.
One last iron to throw into the fire is that winter choices are different than summer choices. It doesn’t affect BLT’s but it might affect other choices.
All this was to prepare you for this fall when Walnut Hill farm will have 21 whole pigs for sale starting in November. That will be when you get to make your choices for your freezer. It isn’t too early to think about a half or whole pig.