Processing Wild Hog Meat On Your Own – Dos and Don’ts
Fresh, home-processed meat can't be beaten, and the savings are well worth the time and effort. Hunting and processing wild hog meat is a great way to stock your freezer for the winter. In some areas, hogs are a plentiful nuisance, so you're helping to cut down the population while providing meat for your family. Below, I'll give you step-by-step guidelines for how to safely and efficiently skin and butcher wild hogs for good eating throughout the winter.
Hunting is a rewarding sport, and it's even better when you have the skills needed to cleanly butcher your kill, whether at home or in the field. So, what's the best way to accomplish this? Opinions differ, but I've put together a solid guide to the most efficient techniques for skinning, gutting and butchering a wild hog.
What You'll Need Process Wild Hog Meat
- Sharp Knives: You'll want razor-edge knives in various sizes including a filet knife and a long, narrow-bladed knife for cutting around the anus.
- Electric Saw: Having a portable electric butcher saw will make the job much easier.
- Hacksaw: This will work for removing the head and separating the larger sections.
- Sharpening Stones: After every butchering session, you'll want to clean and disinfect your knives and then sharpen them for the next time.
- Latex Gloves: Thick latex gloves will protect you from pathogens while butchering, give you a better grip on the knife or saw, and provide some protection from hand cuts. (The best protection is to take your time and be careful with your cuts.)
Steel Hanging Frame:
- Steel Hanging Frame: For processing a hog at home, you'll need a steel frame strong enough to support a large animal.
Gambrel and Meat Hooks:
- Gambrel and Meat Hooks: A gambrel to attach the hind legs to the frame and extra meat hooks will allow you to do the butchering much more easily.
- Extra-Large Buckets: If you're processing at home, you'll need a large bucket to catch the blood when you slit the throat. The guts should also go into a bucket until you're ready to dispose of them. Finally, as you make the cuts from your hog, you'll want clean containers for the meat.
Grinder and Sausage Stuffer:
- Grinder and Sausage Stuffer: These tools are only necessary if you plan to make sausage from your pig.
Steps for Processing Your Wild Hog
For better taste and easier processing, look for wild hogs that are 60-120 pounds. Any larger and the meat may be tough. It's also hard to pick up and transport any pig larger than that. Before you begin the butchering, make sure you're wearing heavy-duty disposable latex gloves. Wild hogs carry parasites, so it's important to wear gloves for protection. Trichinosis, Swine Brucellosis and other diseases are common to the hogs. Gloves will also give you a better grip on your knife and help keep you from accidentally cutting yourself.
2. FIELD DRESSING
If you field dress your kill, bring sharply honed knives and wear eye protection along with the gloves. Cut the throat of the hog first to allow it to bleed out. Burn or bury the parts of the hog that you leave behind and the gloves you used for butchering. As with home butchering, disinfect all of your cutting tools and equipment with bleach and water when you get home. It's also important to have your coolers already set up and loaded with ice.
If you plan to roast the hog skin-on, immerse it in 160-degree water for 30 seconds and then scrape the hair off with a dull knife. If you don't have a container big enough to hold the entire animal, a bathtub works. To skin it, use a gambrel to hang it from a steel frame or sturdy tree branch. Ring the skin of the hind legs, and then slice down their length, working the skin from the animal by making additional cuts. For a male hog, cut away and roll back the genitals before you start on the belly.
Once you have a large piece of skin to pull, you can use your knife to lightly slash the ligaments underneath as you go, making the job easier. After you've got the skin inside out over the head, it's time to remove the head and hide with a hacksaw or portable electric saw. (For smaller hogs, it may be easier to work on a table.)
With the animal on its back or hanging from a frame, cut the belly skin open starting at the bottom of the abdomen. It will be loose enough to pull away from the hog, keeping you from piercing the intestines. Next, carefully cut open the membrane containing the entrails, also from the bottom to the top of the hog. Stick your hand up in the chest cavity to gently cut around the heart and free it, cut the esophagus loose, and then cut the membrane around the diaphragm.
Once the esophagus and diaphragm are freed from the hog, they can be used to pull out the entrails by rolling them out carefully from top to bottom. (Some people prefer to saw up the rib cage to expose the esophagus.) Once you've removed the guts, make cuts on either side of the anal cavity and pull it out along with the entrails. Be careful not to puncture the urine sack during the process.
5. BUTCHERING THE MEAT
A bone saw or electric saw will allow you to efficiently butcher the animal without excess effort or tearing of the meat. This is the order I prefer for butchering.
- Remove the rear legs (hams).
- Remove the front legs.
- Remove the sides for bacon.
- Cut the back straps and tenderloins free.
- Remove the ribs with a saw, leaving four inches on each side of the spinal cord for pork chops.
- Ice down the meat in a cooler or hang it in a meat locker if you have one.
- After 48-96 hours (2-4 days), the blood will be drained, and the meat will be past the rigor mortis stage and ready to cook. (Experienced processors recommend a longer chilling period.) If you're using a cooler to chill the meat, add more ice frequently.
- A 120-quart cooler will hold the meat from two small hogs or one larger one.
- After a hanging hog bleeds out into a bucket, replace the container with an empty one to catch the entrails.
- Some people prefer to age the gutted hog without butchering it first. If you don't have access to a meat locker, you can ice it in a large cooler. Pack the chest cavity with ice and cover the entire hog with a thick layer. Check and replace the ice frequently.
From Forest to Freezer
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that it will help you process your kills, whether in the field or at home. It's a satisfying feeling to be able to hunt for meat and get it to your freezer all by yourself. Once you've done it a few times, it becomes like second nature, and you'll save a lot of money by not having to pay processing fees. If you find this article useful, let me know in the comments, and feel free to share it with others. Good hunting!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat a wild hog?
Yes, wild hogs are delicious, but they also can carry a variety of diseases. So, it’s important to use care when processing wild hog meat. You want to wear gloves at all times and carefully remove the entrails without piercing the urine sack or the intestines. Once you’ve carefully butchered the hog, cook it fully to prevent contracting diseases like Swine Brucellosis or Trichinosis.
What does wild hog taste like?
While wild boar is related to a commercially raised pig, the two meats don’t taste the same. A wild hog will have a stronger flavor, more reminiscent of beef than pork. Its meat is also darker than pork because they don’t have a controlled diet, foraging in the forest for their food instead of waiting for the food trough to be filled every day. This makes them richer in vitamins and minerals, like iron, than regular pork.
What can you do with wild boar meat?
There are many ways to use your wild boar meat. You can cut the loin into steaks (similar to pork chops) and cook them on the grill. The belly can be turned into bacon, the shoulders can be braised like pork to make carnitas, or you can use the ground meat to make sausage, meatballs, or meatloaf. Treat wild boar just like pork, except make sure that you cook it properly to avoid common diseases.
What temperature should wild boar be cooked to?
If you trust that your wild boar meat does not carry any bacteria, it can be cooked to an internal temperature of 140 to 145 degrees F. If you’re not sure, it’s best to fully cook wild boar to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Does freezing wild game kill bacteria?
Many worms and bacteria that affect wild game are freezer resistant. That means that putting your meat in the freezer WILL NOT kill or eliminate bacteria from the meat. The best way to ensure that you will not become infected with bacteria is to use clean, safe, and sanitary butchering practices. That includes cleaning and sanitizing your knives, along with any butchering surfaces. Always store you meat at proper temperatures (below 40 degrees F) and transfer meat to the freezer before it goes bad. When in doubt, fully cook wild game to 165 degrees F to kill any bacteria or parasites.