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Pig Processing

KuneKune Pig Processing at Home? Tips, Tricks, and Advice

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What Is Pig Processing at Home and Why Choose KuneKune Pigs?

What Are KuneKune Pigs?

KuneKune (pronounced Koo-nee Koo-nee) pigs are a small-sized, hairy, heritage breed pig (Sus scrofa domesticus), known for their docile temperament, grazing abilities and excellent meat quality. Originating from New Zealand, KuneKune Pigs are characterized by their short snouts, plump bodies, and an array of coat colors and patterns. These pigs are well-suited for small-scale farming and home processing due to their manageable size, friendly disposition, and efficient feed conversion.

KuneKune Sows typically reach a mature weight of 120-200 lbs (54-90 kg), while males eventually reach 200-300 pounds (90-136kg) making them smaller than most commercial pig breeds. This smaller size allows for easier handling and processing at home, without compromising meat yield or quality. KuneKune pigs are also known for their hardiness and ability to thrive on a variety of feeds, including pasture grazing, which contributes to the flavorful and tender nature of their meat.

kunekune pig on grass

Why Process KuneKune Pigs at Home?

KuneKune Pig Processing at home offers several benefits, including superior meat quality, ethical animal treatment, and the satisfaction of being involved in every step of the process.

  1. Meat Quality: By processing KuneKune pigs at home, you have control over the animal’s diet, living conditions, and stress levels, all of which contribute to the quality of the meat. Home-processed KuneKune pork is known for its tenderness, marbling, and rich flavor profile.
  2. Ethical Considerations: Processing pigs at home allows you to ensure the animal is treated humanely throughout its life and during the slaughter process.
  3. Self-Sufficiency: Home processing promotes a sense of self-sufficiency and connection to your food source. By being involved in every aspect of the process, from raising the pig to butchering and preserving the meat, you gain a deeper appreciation for the animal and the effort required to produce high-quality pork.
  4. Cost Savings: While the initial investment in equipment and supplies may be higher, processing pigs at home can be more cost-effective in the long run, especially if you plan to process multiple animals over time.

In the following section, we will discuss the optimal age and weight for processing, factors to consider when selecting a pig, and the essential equipment needed for home processing.

How Do You Prepare to Process KuneKune Pigs?

When Is the Right Time to Butcher KuneKune Pigs?

The ideal time to butcher KuneKune pigs is when they reach between 12 to 14 months of age and weigh approximately 175 to 250 pounds(79.38 kg – 113.4 kg). At this stage, the pigs have reached sufficient maturity to produce high-quality meat with excellent marbling and flavor. Processing pigs at the appropriate age and weight ensures optimal meat yield and texture, as older or excessively large pigs may produce tougher, less desirable meat.

It is essential to monitor the pig’s growth and development throughout its life to determine the best time for processing. Factors such as genetics, diet, and living conditions can influence growth rates, so it is crucial to assess each pig individually.

What Should You Consider When Choosing a KuneKune Pig for Butchering?

When selecting a KuneKune pig for home processing, consider factors such as health, breed purity, and conformation. Choose a pig that appears healthy, with clear eyes, smooth skin, and no signs of illness or injury. Registered KuneKune pigs are preferred for their consistent meat quality and characteristic flavor profile.

Conformation, or the pig’s body structure, is another crucial factor to consider. Look for a pig with a well-proportioned, compact body, strong legs, and good muscling. Avoid pigs with structural defects or those that appear excessively lean or overweight, as these factors can negatively impact meat quality and yield.

What Equipment Do You Need for Home Processing of KuneKune Pigs?

To process a KuneKune pig at home, you will need a range of equipment, including knives, a gambrel or hoist, a scalding tank, and a meat saw. Essential tools include:

  1. Knives: A selection of sharp, high-quality knives, including a skinning knife, boning knife, and butcher knife, is necessary for various stages of the butchering process.
  2. Gambrel or Hoist: A gambrel or hoist is used to hang the pig carcass during bleeding, skinning, and evisceration, allowing for easier access to all parts of the animal.
  3. Scalding Tank: A large, heated container is needed for scalding the pig to remove hair and prepare the skin for scraping.
  4. Meat Saw: A meat saw is essential for splitting the carcass and making precise cuts through bone.
at home Pig Processing tools

Additional equipment may include a meat grinder, sausage stuffer, and vacuum sealer for further processing and preserving the meat.

With the right equipment, and timing, you are now ready to begin the actual processing of your KuneKune pig. The next section will guide you through the steps involved in humanely dispatching the pig and the key butchering stages.

What Are the Steps in Processing a KuneKune Pig at Home?

How Do You Humanely Dispatch a KuneKune Pig?

To safely and humanely dispatch a KuneKune pig, the most common method is to use a firearm. Aiming for a spot slightly above and between the eyes, directing the shot towards the spine. This method ensures a quick and painless death, minimizing any suffering for the animal. Before dispatching, ensure the pig is calm and comfortable, and always follow proper firearm safety protocols.

I have experience dispatching pigs utilizing multiple different caliber sizes and different firearms. In my experience a 410 is the safest and most humane caliber.

Alternatively, some prefer to use a captive bolt stunner, which delivers a powerful blow to the pig’s forehead, rendering it immediately unconscious. This method requires precise placement and may not be suitable for all home processing setups.

What are the Steps in Butchering a KuneKune Pig?

The steps for butchering a KuneKune pig include bleeding, scalding, hair removal, evisceration, and splitting the carcass.

  1. Bleeding: After dispatching, hang the pig by its hind legs using a gambrel or hoist. Make an incision in the neck to sever the jugular vein and carotid artery, allowing the blood to drain completely.
  2. Scalding: Immerse the carcass in a scalding tank filled with water heated to approximately 145-150°F (63-66°C) for 3-6 minutes. This process helps loosen the hair and prepares the skin for scraping.
  3. Hair Removal: Remove the pig from the scalding tank and scrape off the hair using a bell scraper or knife. Take care not to damage the skin during this process.
  4. Evisceration: Make an incision along the belly, from the breastbone to the rectum. Remove the internal organs, including the stomach, intestines, liver, and heart. Take care not to puncture any organs, as this can contaminate the meat.
  5. Splitting the Carcass: Use a meat saw to split the carcass in half along the spine, starting from the tail end and working towards the head. This step makes it easier to handle and process the meat further.

Please note you can also skin the pig, however in my experience scalding and scraping has always had better end results than skinning. It is a process that once you get used to it, you appreciate it.

After completing these initial butchering steps, the KuneKune pig carcass is ready for hanging, aging, and further processing into specific cuts and products.

With the carcass properly prepared, the next section will explore the techniques used for butchering and processing KuneKune meat, including hanging times, breakdown methods, and the unique flavor profile of KuneKune pork.

Techniques Used for Butchering and Processing KuneKune Meat

How Long Should a KuneKune Pig Hang Before Butchering?

Ideally, a KuneKune pig carcass should hang in a cool, dry environment for 24 to 48 hours before butchering. This hanging time allows the muscles to relax and the meat to develop a more tender texture and enhanced flavor.

  • The best hanging temperature is between 34-40°F (1-4°C)
  • With a relative humidity of 85-90%

If you don’t have access to a suitable hanging space, you can alternatively quarter the carcass and store it in a refrigerator for a similar period.

Proper hanging is crucial for achieving the best possible meat quality, as it allows the natural enzymes in the meat to break down tough muscle fibers and connective tissues. This process, known as dry aging, also helps concentrate the flavors in the meat, resulting in a more complex and satisfying taste.

How Should You Break Down a KuneKune Pig for Various Cuts?

Breaking down a KuneKune pig involves dividing the carcass into primary cuts, such as the shoulder, loin, belly, ribs, and ham, followed by further processing into smaller, individual cuts.

  1. Shoulder: Remove the shoulder by cutting between the 4th and 5th rib, then separate the picnic shoulder from the Boston butt.
  2. Loin: Cut the loin away from the belly, following the natural curve of the ribcage. Divide the loin into smaller sections, such as pork chops or roasts.
  3. Belly: Trim the belly to create a rectangular shape, then cure and smoke it to make bacon.
  4. Ribs: Separate the spare ribs from the belly, and divide the rack into individual ribs or leave them whole for barbecuing.
  5. Ham: Remove the ham from the carcass by cutting through the pelvic bone. Cure and smoke the ham whole, or divide it into smaller cuts like ham steaks or roasts.

When breaking down a KuneKune pig, it’s essential to use sharp knives and follow the natural seams between muscles to minimize waste and ensure clean, attractive cuts.

What Does KuneKune Pork Taste Like and How Can It Be Used in Cooking?

KuneKune pork, recognized for its succulent and tender profile, boasts a well-marbled composition that combines both lean and fatty elements, ensuring each bite is juicy. The pork’s unique, sweet, and robust flavor, often hinting at nutty or earthy tones, stems from the pigs’ varied diet and gradual growth. This makes it an excellent choice for charcuterie, enhancing any platter with its distinctive taste.

This unique flavor profile makes KuneKune pork a versatile ingredient in various culinary applications. It can be grilled, roasted, braised, or slow-cooked to create a wide range of dishes. Some popular KuneKune pork recipes include:

  1. Slow-roasted KuneKune pork shoulder with crispy skin
  2. Grilled KuneKune pork chops with apple and sage sauce
  3. KuneKune bacon-wrapped tenderloin with roasted vegetables
  4. Smoked KuneKune ham with honey and mustard glaze

The exceptional taste and quality of KuneKune pork make it a sought-after ingredient for home cooks and chefs alike. As you process your own KuneKune pig, it’s crucial to handle the meat properly to ensure food safety and maintain its outstanding flavor and texture. The next section will discuss best practices for maintaining food safety during home processing.

Best Practices to Ensure Food Safety When Processing Meat at Home?

What Are Basic Meat Inspection and Grading Techniques at Home?

When processing meat at home, it’s important to inspect the carcass and individual cuts for any signs of spoilage or contamination. Perform a visual examination, looking for any discoloration, odors, or abnormalities in the meat’s appearance. Additionally, use your sense of touch to check for any unusual textures or signs of excessive moisture or sliminess, which could indicate bacterial growth.

If you notice any concerning signs during the inspection, it’s best to discard the affected parts or the entire carcass to avoid potential foodborne illnesses. Proper storage and handling techniques, such as maintaining appropriate temperatures and avoiding cross-contamination, can help prevent spoilage and ensure the meat’s safety for consumption.

While formal grading systems are typically used in commercial settings, home processors can assess meat quality based on factors like color, marbling, and texture. A deep, rich red color and even distribution of white fat marbling throughout the meat are generally indicators of high-quality pork. The texture should be firm and dry, without any signs of excessive moisture or mushiness.

Remember, food safety should always be the top priority when processing meat at home. If you have any doubts about the quality or safety of the meat, it’s better to err on the side of caution and discard it.

How Can You Maintain Sanitary Conditions and Prevent Contamination?

Maintaining a clean and sanitary environment is crucial when processing meat at home to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and ensure food safety. Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Clean and sanitize all surfaces, equipment, and utensils before and after use. Use food-grade sanitizers or a solution of bleach and water to disinfect work areas thoroughly.
  2. Practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially after handling raw meat. Wear clean clothing and an apron to prevent cross-contamination.
  3. Keep raw meat separated from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards, knives, and other equipment to avoid transferring bacteria from raw meat to other foods.
  4. Maintain appropriate temperatures. Keep raw meat refrigerated or frozen until ready for processing. Once processed, ensure that the meat is cooled or frozen promptly to prevent bacterial growth.
  5. Use clean water sources. If using water for rinsing or cleaning, ensure it comes from a safe, potable source to avoid introducing contaminants.
  6. Properly dispose of waste. Discard any inedible parts, trimmings, or spoiled meat in a sealed container or bag to prevent attracting pests or contaminating other areas.

By following these sanitary practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensure that the meat you process at home is safe for consumption.

The next section will cover the best methods for packaging and preserving your home-processed pork to maintain its quality and safety.

What Are the Best Methods for Storing and Preserving KuneKune Meat?

How Should You Package and Store KuneKune Pork?

Proper packaging and storage is essential for maintaining the quality and safety of your home-processed KuneKune pork. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Use food-grade packaging materials. Vacuum-sealed bags, freezer paper, or airtight plastic containers are ideal for storing pork cuts and ground meat. Avoid using regular plastic bags or wraps, as they can allow air and moisture to seep in, leading to freezer burn or spoilage.
  2. Label and date your packages. Clearly label each package with the contents and the date of packaging. This will help you keep track of when the meat was processed and ensure that you consume it within a safe timeframe.
  3. Refrigerate or freeze promptly. Fresh pork cuts should be refrigerated at or below 40°F (4°C) and consumed within 3-5 days. For longer storage, freeze the pork at 0°F (-18°C) or below. Properly packaged frozen pork can last up to 6-12 months in the freezer.
  4. Maintain consistent temperatures. Avoid exposing the packaged pork to fluctuating temperatures, as this can cause moisture to accumulate and promote bacterial growth. Keep your refrigerator and freezer at the appropriate temperatures and minimize the number of times you open and close the doors.
  5. Thaw frozen pork safely. When ready to use, thaw frozen pork in the refrigerator, in a cold water bath (changing the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Never thaw pork at room temperature, as this can create an environment for bacteria to multiply rapidly.

By following these packaging and storage guidelines, you can ensure that your KuneKune pork retains its freshness, flavor, and safety for longer periods.

Which Preservation Techniques Work Best for KuneKune Pork?

In addition to proper packaging and storage, various preservation techniques can extend the shelf life of your KuneKune pork. Here are some popular methods:

Certainly, continuing with the preservation techniques:

  1. Curing and smoking: Curing pork with salt, nitrites, and other curing agents can inhibit bacterial growth and enhance flavor. Smoking the cured pork adds another layer of preservation and imparts a delicious smoky taste. These techniques are commonly used for making bacon, ham, and other smoked pork products.
  2. Freezing: As mentioned earlier, freezing is an effective way to preserve pork for several months. However, it’s important to follow proper freezing procedures and packaging to prevent freezer burn and maintain quality.
  3. Canning: Canning pork in jars or cans creates an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that prevents spoilage. This method requires precise temperature control and pressure during the canning process to ensure food safety.
  4. Drying or dehydrating: Removing moisture from pork through drying or dehydrating can extend its shelf life significantly. This technique is often used for making jerky or dried pork products.
  5. Larding or confit: Preserving pork in its own rendered fat, a process known as larding or confit, can protect the meat from air exposure and extend its storage life.

The choice of preservation method will depend on the desired end product, available equipment, and personal preferences. Always follow tested recipes and guidelines to ensure the safety and quality of your preserved KuneKune pork.

By combining proper packaging, storage, and preservation techniques, you can enjoy the rich flavors of your home-processed KuneKune pork for an extended period while maintaining its freshness and safety.

7 Main Points to Remember About KuneKune Pig Processing

1. KuneKune pigs are a unique heritage breed known for their docile temperament, excellent meat quality, and adaptability to various living conditions.

2. The ideal time to butcher KuneKune pigs is when they reach 12 to 14 months of age and weigh approximately 175 to 250 lbs (79.38 kg – 113.4 kg).

3. Essential equipment for home kunekune pig processing includes sharp knives, a gambrel or hoist, a scalding tank, and a meat saw.

4. Proper techniques, such as humane dispatching, exsanguination, scalding, dehairing, evisceration, and carcass splitting, are crucial for safe and efficient processing.

5. Breaking down the carcass into primary cuts like the shoulder, loin, belly, ribs, and ham requires knowledge of anatomical landmarks and proper cutting methods.

6. KuneKune pork has a distinctive, rich flavor and tender texture, making it a versatile ingredient for various culinary applications.

7. Maintaining food safety through proper inspection, grading, sanitation, packaging, and preservation techniques is essential when processing meat at home.

By following these key points and best practices, you can ensure a successful and rewarding experience when processing KuneKune pigs at home, from start to finish.

If you have access to the necessary resources and are willing to invest the time and effort, KuneKune pig processing at home can be a rewarding and empowering experience. It not only provides you with exceptional pork products but also fosters a closer connection to your food source and a greater appreciation for the entire process.

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