Bring on the Pig!

14 Feb

By Theresa Reynolds

Chef Mic and students display their pig

Last year, I took Advanced Meat Analysis and Knife Skills, Diet 414. This is a required class for my culinary arts emphasis that I am taking along with Nutrition and Dietetics. For those who do not know about this track, it simply means that I have to take a few culinary classes instead of other electives. I take all of the same Dietetic classes (except Clinical Practicum, unfortunately) and will be able to apply for the internship and take the RD exam afterwards.
For Diet 414, the lab sessions include “hands-on fabrication of beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry and fish. I could talk about our seafood day or I could talk about the different ways to cut up a chicken. However, I think that getting a whole pig in a class and then breaking him down into 5 primal cuts in less than six hours will make a pretty good topic. It also doesn’t hurt that we got some pretty great pictures of the process.

When we got the pig in he was already split in half. This disappointed our teacher because he had hoped for us students to take the band saw and split him down the middle. We all managed to get a lot of sawing in so I don’t feel that we missed out too much on that experience. With the encouraging advice of “just go for it and figure it out as you go along” and a guide book of butchery our teacher gave us permission to dismember Porky.
I guess I should mention that we were not completely thrown into this without guidance. Before this class we had a discussion about the 5 primal cuts found in a pig. A primal cut are the larger cuts made that are then fabricated or broken down into smaller more recognizable portions. These primal cuts are the Boston butt, Picnic shoulder, Loin, Belly and Ham. Here is a picture:

Pig Diagram

The Boston butt is meaty and tender with lean meat. It is used primarily in smoking and barbequing. The picnic shoulder is also used in similar methods but has more bone because it includes the leg. This leg or “hock” is smoked and added to dishes, like greens, for flavor. The belly (called side in the picture) is very fatty and that is where bacon and spare ribs are found. The loin contains the back ribs and pork tenderloin. The ribs are usually barbequed and the tenderloin can be roasted or sautéed. The fresh ham is the butt which is confusing because the front end is called the Boston butt. This is where your honey-baked ham or cured ham is made from.

It was very interesting to see the whole (200 pound) animal where my bacon or pork chops come from at Schnucks. It made me appreciate my food a little bit more and also the convenience that we have of being able to buy already cut up meat. It wasn’t impossible but butchering the pig was a hard and long process. It has given me perspective and the realization that my food is not just something that comes in a Styrofoam plastic wrapped case.

The pig's head
He wasn’t so bad. Definitely easy on the eyes!

Theresa carves her pig

Off with his head!

Theresa Reynolds is a Junior in Nutrition & Dietetics

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One Response to “Bring on the Pig!”

  1. gretch February 15, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    haha this is awesome! Reminds me of roasting pigs over an open flame as a kid at my grandparents farm… not an easy endeavor!

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