Some of us shrink at the idea of even touching a piece of raw bacon, but have no qualms about eating it once it's crisped up and sizzling. Now imagine that your bacon didn't enter your kitchen prettily shrink-wrapped on a styrofoam tray, but rather that it walked into your kitchen in the form of a living, breathing pig. You'd have to slaughter it with your own two hands, shave it down, disembowel it and butcher it before cooking it up for dinner. It'd basically look like a scene from "Dexter," but it's a very real part of preparing food that many of us -- chefs and home cooks alike -- are able to avoid.
It's easy enough to imagine yourself being brave enough to slaughter a pig if you've never seen it go down, but we're about to show you what it really looks like. Let's see if you're still feeling so courageous after viewing the photos below.
We've been conditioned to envision pigs being mechanically slaughtered, hundreds at a time, on the conveyor belt of a factory farm. This conveniently creates a disassociation that frees us to eat our BLTs without feeling any guilt. But there's an entire industry of professionals who humanely raise and slaughter animals for a living, in an intensely personal and responsible way that's to be admired.
One of those professionals is Adam Danforth, the author of a new book series that sets out to educate those interested in humanely slaughtering their own food. It's called "Butchering: The Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering" and there are two volumes: "Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat and Pork," and then an entire volume devoted to "Beef."
Danforth's book encourages backyard butchery and the movement away from the centralization of America's food system (think factory farms and mega supermarkets), self-empowering us to take matters into our own hands. The book and its detailed, step-by-step photos go deeply into every nuance of slaughtering an animal, from creating a stress-free environment while it's still alive, to preventing the spread of pathogens, collecting the proper tools for the job (i.e. bone saws) and making the most of every part of the animal.
Since pigs are the ultimate nose-to-tail, no-waste carcasses, we've decided to show you a few excerpts from the book that detail how to eviscerate a pig. Remember: You're only looking at the photos -- imagine if you came head-to-head with the task at hand. Vegetarians and the faint of heart, be wary: graphic images follow.
And THEN the butchering part begins, which is a whole different story.
Now we've got one question for you: If you had to do all this to get meat on the table, would you still eat it? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.
The above is excerpted from Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat, and Pork (c) Adam Danforth. Photography by (c) Keller + Keller Photography. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.