How Long Should Pork Hang Before Butchering? A Full Guide

Are you a farmer or home processor looking to butcher your own swine?

If so, you may be wondering how long to let the pork hang before sectioning and curing or freezing.

While many prefer to wait for the chilly days of late fall or early winter, there are other factors to consider when it comes to properly cooling the carcass.

In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for slaughtering and processing pigs, including tips for scalding and skinning, as well as recommendations for cutting and grinding meat.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, read on for everything you need to know about how long pork should hang before butchering.

How Long Should Pork Hang Before Butchering?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including the weather conditions and the method of cooling used.

If the weather is cold enough, the pork can simply be hung from the rafters of an unheated barn or shed, or on an open-air frame, until the flesh reaches the proper internal temperature of 33 degrees Fahrenheit to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. In this case, the finished carcass must hang and cool for at least 24 hours before the meat can be sectioned and cured or frozen.

However, if the day is too warm to allow the hog’s natural body heat to dissipate quickly, the home processor has to resort to the shaved-ice or iced-brine method of cooling, or pay for hanging space in a commercial meat locker or cold-storage warehouse.

Generally speaking, it’s best to slaughter hogs at an outdoor site that’s close to both the pig’s pen and to the location where you plan to scald and gut the animal. Swine aren’t the easiest critters to move around under any circumstances, and it’s quite important that you not excite or panic a creature that’s about to be butchered, since doing so will definitely lower the quality of the meat.

The Importance Of Properly Cooling The Carcass

Properly cooling the carcass is crucial for maintaining the quality and safety of the meat. The purpose of chilling is to remove heat from the carcass as quickly as possible after slaughter. This is done by transferring heat from the carcass to the atmosphere or to another material through convection or conduction. Heat transfer needs to be done quickly in order to be effective in meat products because the temperature of the carcass, the time it takes for the carcass to chill, and the rate of pH decline all affect pork quality.

Chilling creates an environment that is unfavorable for microbial growth, which increases the shelf life and safety of meat. The meat industry uses refrigeration as the air-chilling system to slow microbial growth and maintain carcass quality. However, small pork processors may hold carcasses for an extended time prior to fabrication, and the effect of extended storage on the microbial quality of pork carcasses has not been well documented.

Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the hog is properly chilled at a temperature of between 33 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 24 hours before sectioning and freezing or curing. Trying to preserve meat that has not had the chance to gradually reach the proper internal temperature can result in souring. It’s also important to hang the carcass high enough to be out of reach of scavengers and to avoid wrapping it with gauze or sacking, as this would drastically slow the loss of body heat.

The best way to determine that the carcass has been properly chilled is to insert a meat thermometer in the center of one ham. When the gauge registers a reading of 33 degrees Fahrenheit to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, your hog is ready to be sectioned. Never try to cure or freeze meat that hasn’t cooled to an internal temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. If the weather is too warm for proper chilling, using iced brine or shaved ice can lower the temperature of the carcass. Properly cooling the carcass ensures an essential step in meat production that increases pork quality and safety.

Factors To Consider When Deciding How Long To Hang Pork

When it comes to hanging pork, the amount of time it should be hung depends on a few factors. First and foremost, it’s important to consider the temperature and humidity of the environment in which the pork is being hung. If the temperature is too warm, the pork will spoil quickly, so it’s important to ensure that the meat is kept at a cool temperature.

Another important factor to consider is the size of the animal. The larger the animal, the longer it will take for the meat to cool and for rigor mortis to set in. This process can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, depending on the size of the animal.

It’s also important to consider the desired flavor and texture of the meat. Some people prefer a more aged and tender meat, while others prefer a fresher taste. If you’re looking for a more aged flavor, it’s recommended to hang pork for at least 24 hours before butchering. However, if you prefer a fresher taste, hanging the pork for just a few hours may be sufficient.

Lastly, it’s important to consider your own personal preferences and experience with hanging meat. If you’re new to home butchering, it may be best to start with shorter hanging times and work your way up as you become more comfortable with the process. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to food safety.

Best Practices For Slaughtering And Processing Pigs

When it comes to slaughtering and processing pigs, there are several best practices that should be followed to ensure the humane treatment of the animals and the production of high-quality meat.

First and foremost, it is important to follow the guidelines set forth by the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires humane handling and slaughter of animals. This includes proper preslaughter handling, stunning, and slaughtering techniques. Pigs should be moved in small groups using plastic paddles and sorting boards or curtains, and stunned using CO2 or electrical stunning to render them insensitive to pain and unconscious instantly.

Additionally, it is recommended to fast pigs prior to slaughter, as this can improve animal welfare, pathogen risk, and carcass hygiene. Pre-slaughter fasting should be implemented correctly with attention to local factors.

After stunning and bleeding occurs, the carcasses should be put in a hot water bath to loosen hair follicles before being dehaired in a tumbler. The pork carcasses should then move through a singer to remove any remaining hair and decrease surface pathogens for food safety benefits.

Finally, it is important to recognize the sanitation efforts that occur in meat processing facilities every day. Every piece of equipment and parts should be thoroughly washed, scrubbed, sanitized, and rinsed with extremely hot water after each day of processing.

By following these best practices for slaughtering and processing pigs, producers can ensure the production of high-quality meat while also upholding humane treatment standards for the animals.

Tips For Scalding And Skinning

Scalding and skinning a pig is a crucial step in the butchering process. Here are some tips to make it easier:

1. Determine whether you want to skin or scald the carcass. If you choose to scald, you will need a significant amount of water and a heating source to heat the water to 150°F. You will also need a metal barrel or container to hold the water.

2. Use a tractor or pulley system to hoist the carcass into the air. Make sure to have strong rope, chain, or gambrel to secure the pig.

3. If you choose to skin the carcass, use a skinning knife or bell scraper to remove the skin. A sharp knife is recommended for this job.

4. If you choose to scald the carcass, heat the water in the tank to about 160°F. Don’t let it get too hot or it will cause the hair to “set” and be difficult to remove.

5. Kill and stick the pig by cutting one of the jugulars so that it will bleed out. Catch the blood if you want to make blood sausage.

6. Move the pig to the scalding tank using a tractor with a 3-point boom or front-end loader.

7. Dip the pig in the scalding water and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Raise it out and scrape as much of the hair off as possible using a hog scraper.

8. Repeat step seven until all of the hair is removed from the pig.

9. Once you can easily scrape all of the hair from the pig, remove it from the scalding tank and complete scraping of the entire carcass.

10. Have a clean bone saw or reciprocating saw on hand for cutting through bones.

11. Make sure you have a container for inedibles and proper disposal.

12. For safety reasons, don’t do this solo. Make sure you have a “butcher buddy” to assist you throughout the process.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your scalding and skinning process goes smoothly and efficiently, resulting in high-quality pork for your consumption.

Recommendations For Cutting And Grinding Meat

When it comes to cutting and grinding meat, it is important to keep it chilled. All meat, except for pork, should be aged from fowl to cow before cutting. Pork should only hang overnight to chill before being cut up in a chilled state.

Cutting a pig into 1 to 2-pound packages and vacuum sealing, along with chopping sausage meat into small pieces to fit through the grinder, can take anywhere from 3-4 hours in total. For those planning on making larger quantities of sausage, investing in a LEM 3/4 hp meat grinder is recommended. This will not only provide cleaner sausage without mashing or emulsification but also increase efficiency. Instead of 5 minutes per pound, it can grind up to 7 pounds per minute.

When cutting a pig, it may take some practice, but anyone with knowledge of anatomy and skill with a knife can pick it up easily. This year, the authors of the original text experimented with making cased sausage and found that it was worth the effort. For those interested in making their own sausage casings, cleaning them is necessary before use. However, pre-packaged natural sausage casings can be purchased and are ready to use after soaking to remove the salt and moisten them for about half an hour.

How To Store And Preserve Pork After Butchering

Once the pork has been properly butchered, it’s important to store and preserve it correctly to ensure it stays fresh and safe to consume. There are several methods for doing so, including refrigeration, freezing, curing, and canning.

Refrigeration is a good option if you plan to use the pork within a few days. To store pork in the refrigerator, wrap it tightly in butcher paper or plastic wrap and place it in the coldest part of your fridge. If you plan to freeze the meat, wrap it in freezer paper or plastic wrap before placing it in a Ziploc bag. This will help minimize exposure to air and moisture which can cause freezer burn.

Curing is another option for preserving pork for longer periods of time. To cure pork, it must first be salt dry-cured. Once this is done, the meat should be hung or placed on a non-reactive rack to dry out further. With classic meat curing, it’s important to avoid case hardening, which occurs when the outside of the meat dries out before the inside has had a chance to dry out. To prevent this, use thinner meat cuts that are around half an inch to an inch thick. Once the meat has reached the desired level of dryness, you can pack it in lard or other fats to preserve it even longer.

Freezing is another popular option for preserving pork. Before storing it in the freezer, remove the meat from its packaging and dab away any excess liquids or juices with a paper towel. Then place it in a hermetically sealed plastic or glass container or bag suitable for freezing. If you don’t have special containers available, you can also vacuum pack the meat or wrap it several times with plastic film.

Finally, canning is another long-term preservation option for pork. This involves cooking the meat and then sealing it in jars with a pressure canner. Canned pork can last for years if stored properly.