Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our Pork Chops vs. Their Pork Chops Part I

Our two pigs remained in their woodland pigpen until I opened their gate last Monday evening. They both walked right out, up a small ramp and onto an open air trailer without so much as a nudge from me. However, in preparing for loading the pigs I had jumped across the fence into their pen to retrieve a feed pan. I simply ran and sailed right over the fence into the mud. I grabbed the feed pan and made the same leap back over the fence, but my boots were sucked back somewhat by the mud. Once airborn I noticed that the ground was much lower on the pigs' side of the fence. I realized that I was not going to clear the fence. As gravity pulled my 180 some pounds down my boots caught the fencef violently, my pant leg ripped open on the metal fence post, jabbing into my leg. I hit the muddy ground and many protruding tree roots with my ribs looking every bit like a world wrestling federation champ free-falling onto a hapless victim. Once I verifed that nothing was broken my only thought was "Dang! I sure am glad I'm hidden from view back here in the woods and no one saw me do that silly-assed dive over the fence." What I didn't know was that my dear wife was peering down at me from the screen room on our house at just that moment...apparently quite impressed with my pig loading skills. Later she said, "I had never seen anyone jump straight up in the air like that. I thought it must be some pig whispering leap to get them to go out the gate and onto the trailer."

All things considered, I was quite happy that the pigs were safely on the trailer. The day before we had just finished eating our first ever homemade donuts. If you've never tasted homemade donuts you are really missing out (picture below). I saved two glazed donuts and apple peelings to serve to the pigs as dessert after their final meal. Hams and Bacon had led quite good lives at our homestead, but I wanted to give them thanks for giving their lives so that we can eat this next year.

Tuesday morning Beth and I rose from bed extra early and drove the pigs to the local butcher in Lafayette. It was still dark out when they walked into the abbatoir and across the scales. One bystander's mouth dropped open when he saw how large the pigs were...he bet me that the one was a 300 pounder! The man weighing the pigs gave us the weigh slips. Hams weighed in at 275. Bacon weighed in at 245 (an average weight for a market pig is the 275 pounder is a heavy weight). They had started out life on our homestead at a mere 25 lbs each (see picture above) The total amount of actual pork, minus all of the inedibles, was a grand total of 370.8 pounds! That, my friends, is a lot of pork. We brought home the fresh pork cuts today. The hams, bacon slices, and other cuts that will be cured will take another week.

Although we have not fixed pork chops yet, we will soon. First on the menu will be a stir fry using small bites of pork steak along with greens, onions, and cabbage from our CSA basket. However, it was time to calculate just how much our pork chops cost us in dollars and cents. Here is how it came out:

Pigs $40 each = $80
Straw = $7.50
Nipple waterer = $5.00
Feed (1,300lbs) = $234.67
gas/hauling = $20
Butcher/processing = $326.91

Our pork chops cost us $1.82 per pound.

I cannot yet vouch for any taste differences between our pork chops and those that you can get at the local supermarket, but we have a hunch that our pork chops will compare with the natural raised pork chops from the farmers market. So when we compare our cost of $1.82 a pound with the $4.75 per pound price at the farmer's market, we do pretty well. But, pork chops can be had in our town for less, I found out. Much less! Payless has a "loss leader" on pork chops this week selling at a mere 97 cents a pound. These were their "mixed" chops...of mediocre quality. I know because I've had them before. Their better chops are selling at $1.69 a pound. Still less than ours cost us to raise, despite the fact that we had to provide daily care for our pigs, haul feed and water for five months, pay the butcher, while taking ownership for growing our own food. Now, Marsh supermarket, just down the road from Payless, is selling their good quality pork chops for $3.99 a pound which makes me feel better. More than double ours. Which makes me scratch my head a bit, too.

What gives? how can Payless sell pork chops for half the price that it takes me to raise mine from scratch? And, how can the good folks at the farmer's market command more than four times the amount that Payless gets for theirs?

It has a lot to do with the cheap food policy promoted by the federal government and agribusiness corporations, cheap but wildly potent fossil fuels, and the dietary choices we each make. At this juncture, I'm going to taste our pork before extolling any further on these issues. Be back soon!

1 comment:

Toni said...

Did you hear about the farmer who won $1 million in the lottery? When the reporter asked what he planned to do with the money he said, "I'll keep farming till it's all spent."