We Wanted some Pork…

so we bought a whole pig. (Warning, this post has pictures of pork, some of which look quite pig-like)

We bought a pig in the past which worked out very well. We didn’t know how to cut it up though so we froze it, and then the guy at the meat market sliced it with his band saw, turning the entire pig into slices. This time we decided to learn how to cut up the pork ourselves.

My good friend Yaira has a brother who raises pigs. I contacted her thinking it would be weeks of waiting for pigs to get to the proper size, but she contacted me back in a hour to say the pork would arrive the next day at midday! So, at the appointed time, here she comes with her brother in a truck, and in the back is a trash can of ice containing a pig in four pieces. (you can order it whole, cut in half, or in quarters. You also get the feet and head. Joel didn’t want the head though, so I gave it to Yaira. Maybe next time we will tackle that.)

This pig was four months old and the meat weighed 120 pounds. It’s something to think a piglet is born and fed and cared for, and in only four months you have that much meat! We also learned that this farmer raises cows, chickens, fruits, and vegetables, all without chemicals and hormones and the animals are fed natural, healthy food. The pork is $2.50/lb, and the chickens are $1.50/lb. You can get cheaper prices but I’d rather get good quality organic meat and chicken, and support a friend and local farmer.

3/4 took up a good part of our fridge.

3/4 took up a good part of our fridge.

We put 3/4 of the meat in the fridge and proceeded to tackle the other quarter. Thank goodness for google and youtube, and some basic instruction from the farmer. We knew there would be a learning curve but now that we are done, we are very proud of ourselves.  And, instead of everything in slices, we have ribs, tenderloins, roasts, pork belly, and soup bones.

We learned that the tenderloin is found behind the ribs along the backbone. This is where you get pork chops, or you can have tenderloin and ribs. We chose the latter. Attached to the ribs is the pork belly that is used for bacon. We baked some of it with the ribs last night and it just might be the best part of the pig. It was SO good. The fat cooks out leaving very tender meat that is really delicious. Speaking of fat, this pig had much less fat overall than the other pigs we bought.

The legs are used for hams, but since we don’t plan to cure the meat and do whatever is needed for hams, we cut them into roasts and soup bones. The front legs are big but the back ones are huge. We have lots of roasts! Scraps are used for sausage but since we don’t know what we are doing, we probably included things in our cuts that are usually put aside. We ended up with only one quart container of scraps which are delicious just sauteed in the frying pan with a bit of salt and seasoning. (We have been making our own breakfast sausage with ground turkey from Pricesmart, much easier than grinding pork so we don’t need sausage meat).

We spent all Saturday afternoon on the front pieces, and then Sunday afternoon on the back pieces. By the time we were done we were very proud of ourselves. Each quarter went faster as we learned and gained confidence, and I think we have some excellent meat that will last us all year.

Sunday night we had ribs for dinner! On yes they were good, very good.


The freezer is quite full but probably in a month or two I’ll be putting in an order for chickens. He also drives his truck around selling fruits and vegetables but I’m too attached to our current produce guy to change anything.

We have experiences here we never would have had in the US. Meeting the farmer and cutting up your own meat is very different from a plastic wrapped package from the supermarket. I’m glad to be here for so many reasons.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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18 Responses to We Wanted some Pork…

  1. Robert & Helen. says:

    Kris. I have been in I’m-and exports of many type of foods for years. If one freeze meat, especially fish, it will loose tenderness en taste. We buy fresh pork chops and pork tenderloins. We vacuum pack them and they stay o.k. for 4 weeks in the fridge . More tasty and tender. Local tenderloin. Clean from any fat and muscles. Put a 2 mm layer of sea salt on it after putting some holes with a knife in it. Cover it and leave it outside the fridge during the night. Then clean it well with water and dry it with paper towels. Done and tender. Papaya added is o.k., but it will change somewhat the taste.

    large freshshrimps. Cooking the in water with salt. NO. The water will take the nature sea salt away and taste as well. I learned from an Egyptian fiend in Nigeria how to do it!!! They have huge shrimps (prawns) there. Just take a highe saucer, pur big oning slices on the bottom, 1 big lemon sliced in big pieces and black pepper. Prawns on top. Lit on and at half fire. Shaking now and then so that the onions do not stick. When they are red after 3-5 minutes. Done. Better taste as they are steamed in their own sea body water.

    We also like egg plant, first cooked a little bit. Then fill the halves with corned beef, Parmesan cheese on top and in the oven. Some garlic added.



  2. Anonymous says:

    Feliz Ano Nuevo, 2.50 a lb for the net weight, not the entire pig. Correct? Last year I bought a small pig (70+ lbs) a bit further south than David, it cost $35?
    Great post, love reading your stuff Kris.


    • $.50/lb for your pig? Wow, sounds like a good price. I’m not sure what net weight means but yes, this was the whole pig minus innards, hooves, and head.
      Thanks, glad you enjoy the blog. Feliz año nuevo también


  3. Anonymous says:

    Right on. This is the last part of the ‘hunt’ and the best part if you are a hunter gatherer!


  4. heidi lilla says:

    Feliz año ! interesting article, but you might want to invest into some good knives! i see that you don’t have a “deboner” which is a short, sturdy knife to carve out the bones. nor do you have a proper cutting knife! good knives are so important when you’re doing your own butchering. and don’t cut your meet with an electric saw.
    enjoy your meat.


    • No, we don’t have any proper tools, just what we already had on hand in the kitchen. One of our small knives when well sharpened though, did a good job. If we were going to do this very often we would have to invest in more tools. We cut the bones with the electric saw. Is that a bad idea? We didn’t cut the meat though. It was no good for that.


  5. Carole says:

    Must be real nice to have fresh pork, so much to do with it. Will last you awhile. You are always finding great subjects to talk about. The internet is a good source to find out how to do anything. I love using it for the videos they have on how to do things. Thanks for the info on Pork, really liked it Carole


    • Yes, we are going to have good pork for a long time. So true, thank goodness for the Internet and YouTube. You can find out how to do pretty much anything you can imagine!


  6. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Fresh anything is always better. Nena has “connections” all over town here for the good stuff. She is used to traveling market to market to get what she wants. Unfortunately, in a country of 300+ million folks, preserved foods is the only way to get everyone fed.
    I remember as a kid we would go to a pig farmer my dad knew and they would shoot, bleed, scald, and singe the carcass in record time. Then, depending on what the customer wanted, they would sell the whole pig or butcher to order. The meat was the best I ever tasted.
    The sopa de mondongo we had in Venezuela was excellent. Our boys loved it so we never told them what it was. Better they learn later after had a chance to taste it.
    Pernil is very popular around the holidays. Big family reunions sometimes need a couple and a half ton of rice (OK, that may be a little much). 🙂
    Buen Provecho!


    • That’s one of the good things about having Panamanian friends. Someone always knows someone who has what you want.
      Friends had a roof raising party for their workers and sopa de mondongo was served. I thought it was good though very salty for my taste. The gringo friends wouldn’t even try it. People here have learned to use every part of the animal which I think it much less wasteful and respectful to the animal who gave his life for your food.
      Pernil? I had to look that one up. I guess I shouldn’t have skinned and boned all of the pork, but we could still try the flavors in one of the roasts. Of course rice must be served. This is Panama.


      • Roger says:


        You are right. The mondongo with white rice and beers is a tradition in the construction industry in Panama when you are doing or raising the roof of any house project or even at high rise condos. I don’t know why, when it started and where it came from. But some contracting companies still do it.

        I don’t eat it. I have tried but my eyes win the battle first than my taste. But it shouldn’t be salty. It will depend on the person cooking. In some places they use little salt and people use salt in their dishes at their own taste.

        Regarding rice. It is amazing how rice became the main grain in Panamanians diet. We have this tradition like Asians. I also don’t know why and when it started. As most American natives countries our main grain should be corn or maize. I will try to investigate in our history about it.



        • My friends who were building a house heard about the tradition and had the party. It involved a lot of beer too and there were some happy, giddy workers by the end of the day. I think salt depends on who cooks. I have one friend who uses a lot so it’s hard for me to enjoy some of her food, but most others are fine for my low salt taste. And, just because you are Panamanian doesn’t mean you have to like every dish. You have obviously thrived on what you do like.
          I figured since so much rice is grown here, that is why it is eaten a lot. It’s a versatile food that can be eaten with almost anything or used in different ways, and it’s not very expensive per calorie.
          Happy New Year to you and yours 🙂


    • Roger says:

      Jim & Nena. Long time we did not talk!! I am not longer posting at BN anymore. So that is why we have lost contact. I am visiting now the other site CL where you can find a better and nicer people to talk with.

      Regarding food in Panama. Ask Nena about it. I leave it to women. They are best buyers than we. They know where, how, what and a the fair prices for food. My wife surprised me always when buying not only food but anything here in Panama.

      I eat by the eyes. It is a problem for me. Sometimes I think that I am a bad Panamanian because I don’t eat some dishes and food so popular served in Panama. I don’t eat mondongo, saus, etc, etc. I hear people talking about how delicious they are. Even foreign people but this Panamanian don’t like it. I have not even tried then but….well. I have survived.


      • jim and nena says:

        Hola Roger!
        Can you imagine Panama bargaining skill in the USA? If she got any better deals it would have to be theft! haha I learned to eat whatever is put before me. My mom could not cook anything, she was the youngest in a big family so she never learned. Luckily for me Nena is a great cook. The grands are always asking for lentils and beans, though. We may have already made them Panamanians (I hope so!)

        ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!


  7. Hola,
    That is a great post! Next time you put an order in for a pig and chickens we would love to get some as well.
    I will come down and help cut it up! I got plenty of knives!

    Feliz Ano Nuevo!


  8. Feliz Año Nuevo para ustedes tambien!

    We won’t be getting a pig anytime soon since we have so much pork in the freezer now. But, if you have a freezer I’m sure you could get one for yourselves. I’ll let you know when I order chickens and we can get some for you too.


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