The Local Food Report: on pig

I drew you all a picture. Don't laugh—I'm not much of an artist—but for today's purposes, I think it will do. I want to talk about pork, and all the different cuts of meat that come from the various limbs and layers and parts of a pig—and in order to do that, we're going to need a visual. So here it is: my rendition of the cuts of a pig:

I got the idea for this from Aidan Davin, a hog farmer from Rutland who sells his meat at the Provincetown Farmers Market. He has a big poster in front of his stand with a diagram of cuts on it, and almost everyone stops to wonder, ask questions, stare. I was there doing interviews for my radio show, and so when he caught me staring, we talked through the sections and the cuts that come from each one. So here you go—the primal cuts of a pig, and the fabricated, or retail, cuts that come from each one:

1. The Jowl

The jowl is the loose, lower, drooping part of a pig's cheeks. The animal has no bones in this area, and the flesh—which has a fair amount of fat—is generally cured and made into jowl bacon.

2. The Shoulder

The shoulder is generally broken down into two cuts: the shoulder butt, which contains the shoulder blade bone, and the picnic shoulder, which contains the shoulder (arm) bone and shank bone. The shoulder butt is also called the Boston Butt and can either be cooked as a roast, cured to make smoked daisy butt—similar to ham—or further broken down into butt steaks, ground pork, or sausage.

3. Fat Back

Fat back is a layer of fat about an inch thick that lines the animal's back. If the skin is left on, it can be fried into cracklings or pork rind. Without the skin, it is often rendered into lard for cooking, or made into salt pork.

4. The Loin

The loin contains the upper portions of the rib bones, the backbone, and the hip bone. It is the source of all sorts of familiar cuts, including Canadian bacon, country style ribs, boneless loin, loin and rib chops, baby back ribs, pork tenderloin, and crown roast.

5. The Ribs

Beneath the loin is the home of the spare ribs. This cut comes from the lower portion of the ribs, and also contains the breastbone.

6. The Belly

Arguably the most delicious part of the big, the belly is a fairly fatty area free of bones. It is either cut into slabs and left uncured—pork belly—or cut into strips, cured, and smoked to make bacon.

7. The Ham

The ham comprises the thigh and rump area of the pig. It contains the leg bone and the hind shank bone, and is generally cured and smoked to make what we think of as ham, although it can also be cooked fresh.

8. The Hock

The hock is the cut right above the hoof, between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot. Also known as a pork knuckle, it doesn't have enough meat to be served on it's own. Instead, it's generally throw into soups or braising pots to lend flavor to vegetables.

So, there you have it. The cuts of a pig. If you want to hear my conversation with Aidan, click on over to the podcast—he goes into a bit more depth, and I think it will be worth your while. Otherwise, have a wonderful weekend, filled, I hope—if you're into that kind of thing—with plenty of bacon. I'll see you Monday, everyone.


andrea said...

No way! Aidan and Kate sell at P'town?! We have been getting our meat through their CSA for a couple of years now and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them (and their animals!) I hope you went away with some of the deliciousness. Seriously, we don't eat much meat, just what we get from them monthly and a bit of fish to round things out, but their meat is so wonderful that a little goes a long way. If only the bacon was a more frequent addition to the monthly share. :)

Elspeth said...


i didn't realize they ran a CSA. i did make off with some bacon, which was quite good. do they deliver to you—how do you get the meat? i've only seen it retail at the market in p'town.

all the best,

A. said...

Um. Aidan and Kate aren't together any more. http://stillmansfarm.com/thefarm.html. So the Stillman's CSA is not = to the meat Aidan is selling. They're both clearly committed to raising conscientiously grown, delicious meat. It's just not from the same place.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.