We Bought the Whole Pig

To eat! We don’t need a pet pig, but we do need more pork in the freezer.

When you buy a pig here it comes cleaned, no hair or innards. You can also have the feet and head but we decided he didn’t need to bring those. You have a choice. Do you want it in two pieces or four? After that you are on your own.

This is a front quarter. I had just cut the skin in preparation for removing it.

The first time we bought a pig and it showed up in four pieces, we had no idea what to do. We ended up freezing it, and that farmer made arrangements for us to go to a meat shop where they cut the entire frozen pig into slices.

Last year we bought a pig from Yaira’s brother (my good friend and Spanish teacher Yaira). He pointed out some of the parts and suggested how to start taking it apart. Between that and YouTube, we did it! We learned how to get tenderloin, ribs, roasts, soup bones, everything. We were very very proud of ourselves.

This year is easier since we have done it before, but it’s  still a lot of work. We have half taken apart and we will finish the other half tomorrow. I fried up some of the scraps for a late lunch and they were really good!

Bags of roasts are in the freezer. When they are frozen I’ll bag and label them properly. If you just toss them together in a bag before freezing though  you get a pork iceberg that is hard to separate.

Yay, soup bones. Now that we have a dog they are appreciated not only for our soup, but her food, and she has a great bone for chewing on later.

I like buying from Yaira’s brother. He raises everything without chemicals or hormones, and his pigs have much less fat than the ones I first bought from another farmer. It’s also like buying from a family member. He sells chickens too, very good ones. He also goes around town in his truck selling fruits and vegetables from his farm but we are attached to our regular veggie guy so we haven’t tried those.

I’m trying to remember what the chickens cost. $2.50/pound? It varies a bit depending on his expenses. I know you can get them cheaper in the supermarket but free range organic chickens are worth it to me. The pig was 80 pounds, $2.00/pound. I think it’s just as much in the supermarket but I can’t say for sure since we haven’t bought pork there in years.

It is beyond me how surgeons work on people’s bodies! Pigs are built a lot like people, and seeing how hard it is to get at the knee and hip joints, and remembering how many people I cared for after their knee and hip replacements, it gives me even more respect for the ability to do that and the many other surgeries that are done every day.

I have had so many experiences here that I never would have in the USA. I have killed and cleaned chickens too. I think there is something very fundamental about realizing where your food comes from and preparing it with your own hands. I appreciate this pig, and the many chickens and fish who gave their lives to feed us.

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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14 Responses to We Bought the Whole Pig

  1. Cecil says:

    You might think about buying a couple of piglets in the 50 to 60 pound range. We can an hunt wild hogs here in Indiana as a pest species. I usually shoot one or two of the piglets. Very tender. They are much easier to butcher than a full grown hog. A full grown hog is too much for me to handle out if in the field. Here is Indiana I buy a whole hog and split it with a coworker. Its not completely organic but close. It comes cut to order, hams, tenderloin, chops, thick cut bacon for just under $2.00 a pound. We have lots of hog farms in Indiana. Also if you bake the lard makes the best pies.
    Keep up the good work. I read all of your postings. Retiring this year and plan to spend about 6 months a year in either Costa Rica where my daughter and her family moved to 5 years ago. Panama is running close in second place for obvious reasons.


    • This pig was 80 pounds, so not too much bigger. I know they can get a lot bigger but that’s too much for me too, and I’m sure not as tender. You can get pigs for $1.50/lb, maybe less if you know the right people but I can afford this quality, and am happy to support this family.
      Thanks, glad you enjoy the blog. I like Costa Rica, beautiful country! I think Panama is better for living, obviously since we are here but I’m glad to be close enough to Costa Rica to visit easily.


  2. Donald Mack says:

    I have been going to Kentucky for the past 8 years to my cousins to hunt deer every year because with in a mile of his house every year I have gotten one less then an hour into the hunt we have always bagged one a piece and hunting what you eat makes you more aware of what goes into your body and plus its so much nicer to know where your meat comes from, so I too know what its like in appreciation, please keep the blogging I read every new post when it comes up so thank you for all the info ill be there in Panama in March so looking forward to checking out the band and the whole country


    • It goes both ways. You have enough respect for the deer to not waste it, and you also know where you’re meat came from.
      As you know I may not be here in March but if we can find a substitute bass player they can play while I’m gone.


  3. chugwa says:

    Another great write up, we might have to get you and Joel to come and show us the ropes with separating a pig once we move


  4. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Memories! As a school kid, I went with my dad to a pig farm to help kill, bleed, scald, and gut hogs. The people buying hogs would show up and help with the process, most were other farmers from the area but there were some “city folk” there, as well. It is an all day process in the mud, in the cold (Midwest USA), but that is just how it is done. Learning how and where your next meal comes from makes one really appreciate farmers and ranchers.
    My brother in Illinois still hunts and processes deer for meat. Illinois always has an over population of deer so the resource is producing faster than being depleted. And the meat is amazing as they graze on corn much of the time. Farmers allow hunting just to reduce the crop damage. Since he hunts with a crossbow, farmers are more likely to allow hunting than with a rifle.


    • I understand how it’s done but I’ve never done the farmers part. It does sound like a lot of work, and you are working with an animal that weighs a lot too. Why did they kill pigs in cold weather? Is that when they happen to get to the proper size?
      Joel’s son likes to hunt deer in Kansas and he shared meat with us. Yes it is very good.


      • jim and nena says:

        They are full grown by fall or winter, but I think the major reason for cold weather butchering was keeping the freshly killed meat cold. Just like deer hunting, you need to hang and gut the animal as soon as is possible to prevent the meat from spoiling. Mother Nature provides the refrigeration.


  5. oldsalt1942 says:

    My dad was a chef and, of course, had all kinds of wholesale contacts in the food business. When we closed the restaurant at the end of the summer he’d go to Boston and fetch home a side of beef, a couple of pigs and a half-dozen 20 lb turkeys. He’d butcher the beef and the pigs into the various cuts and halve the turkeys. With a family consisting of five hungry lads doing this was a necessity. We also had a large walk-in pantry stocked with all kinds of canned goods as well. We ate well all winter long.


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