How Is Pork Produced?


How are Pigs Raised?

  • In order to produce pork, one must first raise pigs. In the cases of most commercial pig farms, pigs are kept indoors in sheltered climate-controlled conditions to prevent health problems as a result of temperature extremes. Piglets are initially kept with their mother for a period of one month until they are weaned off of her milk and are able to eat solid foods. From there the piglets of roughly similar age are penned in groups of 50 or less; any more and they tend to fight and harm one another. They are fed consistently up to a half-dozen times a day with good quality grain pig feed containing up to 15 percent protein additives. Liquid vitamins are included in their feed once a month. As pigs don't do much aside from eat and grow, that's really all there is to their care. After 18 months a pig can be up to 300 pounds and is ready to be slaughtered.

How is Pork Produced, Part 1

  • The pigs are placed in the backs of covered trucks and driven to the slaughterhouse, where they are kept in holding pens. When it's their turn, the pigs are driven down a chute onto the slaughterhouse's killing floor. Typically if they've not been fed prior that day they are easier to goad along as they think they're being taken inside to be fed. The pigs go into the killing chute one by one. Once inside they are stunned by means of an electrical shock or by a pneumatic ram which cracks them in the skull. This is done for several reasons. It's considered humane as it means they won't know what's happening to them. Also, if they become aware that they are in danger, they will panic. This causes the males to urinate inside of themselves as their genitals are typically retracted in their normal state. They will also receive a huge shot of adrenaline through their bloodstreams. Both of these things serve to foul the taste of the meat. The pig is then hung upside down from it's rear legs on a suspended railway system. It's throat is cut and the pig dies. The blood drains into a catch trough before the carcass is pushed down the dressing line and the next pig is brought into the killing chute.

How is Pork Produced, Part 2

  • The tendons in the pig's rear legs are severed to allow the animal to hang with less resistance. Before anything further is done, the pig is doused with boiling water to loosen the skin and clean it. Then a worker uses a specially designed device that looks a bit like a belt sander to scrape off all the pig's hair and bristles. Another worker then skins the pig. The skin is set aside and sold separately to make pork rinds. At this point a worker with a reciprocating saw severs the pig's head, which is set aside with other heads so the meat on them can be boiled off later. A butcher employed by the slaughterhouse guts the pig and carefully removes the reproductive organs, intestines, heart, lungs, stomach, and all the other organs. Two workers then guide the empty carcass through a large buzz saw to cut the pig down the length of the spine. Some slaughterhouses leave it at that and then ship the halves out to meatpacking facilities and grocery stores via refrigerated truck, who would then divide the carcasses further into all the different cuts of pork that you can find at the store. Some slaughterhouses will do this extra step if requested by the organization buying the pork. In this way an organization that sells cuts of pork need not keep their own certified butchers on staff.

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