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Know Your Cuts of Pork from Snout to Tail

Posted by Julia Smith on

The pig is a marvellous animal. Every part of it can be eaten and every part is delicious. But far too many people only think "bacon" when they think about pork. Bacon makes up only 6% of a pig. So in order to "meat responsibly," as we say, for every pound of bacon you eat, you need to eat 17 pounds of other cuts. So here's a quick guide to eating a whole pig from snout-to-tail:

Head

jowls | cheeks | ears | snout

The jowls are the biggest cut of meat on the head. They are fatty and delicious and can be used to make an italian smoked meat called "guanciale" which is similar to bacon but fattier. The cheeks are a small cut located above the jowl that is generally put into trim to make ground/sausages. The jowl can also be ground. The ears and snout are great smoked to be used for making rich broths & stocks or as a treat for spoiled dogs. The ears can also be confited or cooked sousvide and deep fried. The whole head can be used to make head cheese, a toothsome terrine that is well worth the effort!


"Guanciale" or Jowl Bacon

Shoulder

boston butt | picnic

The top shoulder section (aka Boston Butt) is usually butchered into neck steaks, stew meat & roasts but can also be made into trim to be used in ground or sausages. The meat is beautifully marbled and because of the high quality fat on our pigs, this makes for some of the most flavourful meat. We recommend the steaks. They are our most popular cut! The bottom shoulder section is known as the Picnic. It is tougher than the upper section and is best used for roasts, to make pulled pork, stew meat or ground.


Neck Steaks

Loin

loin | tenderloin | baby back ribs | back fat

The loin is a tender muscle that can be cut into steaks (bone-out), chops (bone-in), roasts, or we can use the whole muscle to make Canadian Back Bacon. Baby back ribs come from this section too but if you want bone in chops, you can't have back ribs. The tenderloin is also located in this section and is the most tender cut on the whole animal. It is very lean so you must be careful not to overcook it. Best to wrap it in bacon just to be safe ;) There is a lovely double band of fat running along to top of the loin section. The top layer is usually removed and used for sausage making or rendered to make lard. 


Pork Chops

Belly

belly | spareribs

This is where your traditional bacon comes from. It can also be cooked as a roast. The bottom section of the rib cage can be cut for spareribs or boned out and the meat used for ground.


Belly Bacon

Leg

This is the muscle most commonly used to make ham or ground but it also works well as roasts and can even be cut into bone in leg steaks. Because this muscle works very hard, it is always best cooked slowly. Makes great pulled pork!


Smoked Boneless Ham

Hocks & Trotters

The hock is part of the leg above the "knee" or "elbow." The trotter is the bottom part including the hoof. They doesn't have a lot of meat on it but they are flavour bombs for making broth, stews and especially ham & split pea soup. They contain a lot of collagen so are a natural thickening agent. We like to smoke them for extra flavour.  


Pork Broth Ramen

Bones, Offal & #2 Trim

Pork bones can be used to make delicious bone broth and are a staple for ramen dishes. The offal (organ meat) can be eaten on it's own, used to make pate, ground and/or made into pet food along with the gristley bits of meat with connective tissue & tendons and tough bits of trim left over after aging. 

Tail

And here we come to "the end." The tail, much like the hocks & trotters is the start of an amazing soup or stew or a great treat for a spoiled dog.

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