Chef Chris Cosentino’s educational and inspirational tool for those who are interested in learning about and cooking with offal.
Meats Lab

USDA Hog Slaughter

This past january i went to Iowa for a meat seminar at Iowa State University Meat Labratories, and on the last day they were harvesting 4 hogs. As you can see in the photos this is done like precision clockwork, each person knows their job and it is done quickly and respectfully. All the while it is done under the close eye of a USDA inspector.

The process starts by the hog walking into the stun pen on its own.

live hog
Once the hog is in the pen, an electrode with 2 pads is placed behind there ears and there is a charge to stun the animal.

stun hog
The hog is then hung upside down over the blood
bucket and one quick incision is made to bleed the hog.

bleed hog
The hog is left whole and placed into the scalder to remove the fur. Notice the organs are still inside the carcass.

scald hog

The hog is then scraped with skinning knives to remove any fur that didn’t come off in the scalder.

scarp hog

The hog is then hoisted up and moved 2 feet over to have the hair from the feet and head removed by a torch. Next the head is removed.

scorch hog

Then the hog is eviserated by spliting the belly from the groin to the mid chest, being sure not to puncture any of the organs.

eviserating hog

Then the organs are placed on a table for the USDA inspector to view and approve for consumption.

hog innards

Finally the carcass is split in half by the huge spliter and then sent to another room to dry and be chilled.

spliting hog carcase

Leave a Comment (48)

  1. This is great that you blogged this with photos and all.

    One question, they “stun” the pig with the electrodes, but when exactly does the pig expire in this procedure…?

    Tim Holmes | | Reply
  2. Much lip service is paid to the idea that we should know where our food comes from, but you’re a brave soul to blog it with photos! How long does the process take from start to finish?

    Susan | | Reply
  3. Jeez, this is what happens when 4H membership declines.

    Pretty soon we have picture exposes of how supermarket chickens are cut up it pieces, how fish are cleaned, and how tomato sauce actually comes from … tomatoes.

    Bobby | | Reply
  4. For Tim Holmes…dude…what do you think the Blood Bucket is for? That’s how they kill it, bleed it out. After that, it’s just meat.

    MikeyT | | Reply
  5. I used to help my mom kill chickens and ducks as a child and we even kept pigs once, never again. As they smelled terrible and were hard to kill, the squirming and squeeling were just too much for us. I did however accompany my mom to friends houses/farms and witnessed a pig slaughter once or twice, they were gruesome. No thanks.

    Gia | | Reply
  6. Can you use the blood in cuisine easily? Or is it just disposed of? You mention how the organs are approved for use, but not what happens to the blood.
    In Tuscany I used to eat pig’s blood crepes. Sprinkled with Parmesan Cheese. An interesting one. Always wanted to try and repeat it, but it is REALLY hard to get a hold of the stuff here.

    Marco | | Reply
  7. I helped my parents kill two pigs last fall. We shot them twice in the head with our rifle (we learned that you draw a line from one ear to the opposite eye and again from the other ear and shoot them there). I have to admit they sure do move around after death. Trying to bleed them out after shooting them was a frightening experience, then getting them pulled up of the ground to drain the blood. I saved as much blood as I could, added some vinegar to stop coagulation and then used it to thicken several sauces I made to go with the pork. It was hard work, but educational (for a chef) and lots of fun seeing the entire process.

    We are doing it again this fall as well. My parents are picking up 2 Bershire piglets next monday.

    Ian | | Reply
  8. Good blog with photos for commerical slaughtering. I am wondering if there is another way of knocking the hog out before sticking and bleeding?

    L Dunn | | Reply
  9. Filipinos, not wanting to waste any component of a food source due to economic reasons, just being frugal, and growing up appreciating the flavor of a source of protein, tend to use every bit an animal’s or fowl’s part. Blood is used in a vinegar, garlic, pepper stew with meat & offal, usually intestines. See Wikepedia’s entry: Dinuguan

    “Dinuguan is a popular Filipino dish also known as pork blood stew or chocolate pudding. It is a savory stew of blood sausage and offal simmered in a rich, spicy gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar. The term dinuguan comes from the word dugo meaning “blood”. It is recognisably thick and dark, hence the Westernized term “chocolate pudding”. … It is often served with white rice.”

    Guia | | Reply
  10. The way of life of the small farmer who only has a pig or two (or any other livestock) for their own use is threatened by an insidious program where the USDA wants to track the whereabouts of EVERY single farm animal 24/7 and know within 24 hours when it is born and killed. This program also includes pet pigs kept in suburbia.
    Don’t believe me? Check out

    SUSAN | | Reply
  11. I have been know to frequent the local farm lots after 4H or FFA season is over, looking for a hog for the freezer. You will never ever buy pork in a market like that.

    If god did not want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?

    Chuck | | Reply
  12. @ SUSAN

    What you said about the USDA is completely false, you do not need to inform the USDA about you own livestock. The USDA is only there for Market meat, they just have to check for deseases in the animals guts and carcass, and assure that the proccessing area is up to a clean standard. As should be the fake of all other food industries. Kids have died from e. coili in apple juice because workers didn’t do their job cleaning and using GMP, so try again. No pets need to be logged.

    Justin | | Reply
  13. I work in a small pork plant, we skin them, but I prefer the rind on method, gives it something extra. Who needs footballs??

    Justin | | Reply
  14. I worked at a pork plant in Storm Lake Iowa about 16 years ago, but only for a short time. I got a real feel of the process. They shock the pigs and then slit their throat, letting them bleed to death. I washed and boxed the stomachs to be sent to Oscar Meyer for them to make bologna. I saw how they make sausages and hotdogs and still eat all of it today. In fact I just finished a bologna sandwich. Then they moved me to a position in which I was to position the hogs as they come out of the de-hairing machine so the guy next to me could hook the feet to hang up. It was quite the experince and wasn’t the best of smells either.

    Riley | | Reply
  15. Justin, it’s you who is incompletely informed. Susan is correct.

    As she indicated, USDA has been pushing a mandatory tagging system for all livestock in the U.S., including those kept as domestic pets. Perhaps you find this hard to believe? Well, educate yourself. Google the National Animal Identification System and wade in all the information you would ever want on this topic. Most recent word is that USDA is backing off from making it mandatory. Time will tell.

    Jane | | Reply
  16. Comment by Bobby — July 13, 2006 #****you are nothing but a total insensitive ass**** , Mark in MI

    Mark | | Reply
  17. In Goa – India we do this process manually and the blood is not allowed to spill out.It is warmed in salt and used as an adjuvant in a delicacy known as Sorpotel.

    Godfrey | | Reply
  18. Justin:
    by 2009 there will be tracking on all livestock (excluding horses, they are optional). it’s to prevent/follow diseases and outbreaks.
    animals and farms will need to be registered with a database, and the wherabouts of the animals recorded and sent in within 24 hours of relocation…

    Erica | | Reply

    AMANDA | | Reply
  20. I was told that a neighbor recently shot and slaughtered a pig in his backyard. Why are people so shocked about this?

    spaghetti | | Reply
  21. What about my client, he was arrested for slaughtering his pig. The charge cruelty to animals, currently awaiting trial.

    Valerie | | Reply
  22. Amanda – it’s called the first ammendment – if you don’t like it – don’t look. This is educational for those that have a passion for the culinary industry.

    G Demon | | Reply



    EDGAR BELTRAN | | Reply
  24. I used to work at a small meat processing plant and I couldnt help but notice how laid back of a job the usda inspecter had. He only came in on killing days and even then he just went around with his little stamp certifying all the meat. the bad part was that the plant was filthy and if i was the inspector it would have been shut down. I have butchered many animals outside on a picnic table and my setup is always cleaner than the processing plant. that said the usda is crap and everyone should work toward home butchering

    MarktheButcher | | Reply


    barrington | | Reply
  26. Everyone chill out. This has been going on for hundreds of years. Only difference now, is that we have fricken technology to show it to you on screen. Todays technology is a lot more frightening than slaughtering pigs. So sit back and relax, and be taken in.

    Big Lou | | Reply
  27. our father and our creator gave us these animals for food. If your life style doesn’t permit you to enjoy this blessing from the lord don’t slander us who love to partake in our right to rule over every animal big or small. our families have survived this far because of the blessing of meat. people who choose not to eat have reason of there own but I promise you would not be alive today to make the choice not to eat meat if your ancestors felt the same way. God bless every child of his

    dustin steim | | Reply
  28. I am amazed of the amount of people on this planet of ours who enjoy the cruel suffering of Animals. I don’t believe the methods of killing Animals today is humane in any sense of the word.

    It wuld be better for all if the Human race consumed less meat as this is clearly destoying our planet.

    I wish the tables were turned and the Animals bruetalised all the sick bastards that clearly enjoy pain and suffering.

    Animals are intelligient, some humans are not !!!

    Russ | | Reply
  29. Having been born and raised on a dairy farm I can tell those who oppose the use and eating of animals to listen up. Being a vegan is your choice…and its a fine one at that. I have no problem with YOUR choices….my daughter is vegan, and I respect and love her and her choices very much. BUT that being said….for years we raised AND slaughtered our own meat…pork, beef and chickens. Always humanely and with great respect to the animals well being. It was the ebb and flow of life. It was and still is MY choice…so please have some respect for it….as I show towards your CHOICE to be vegan.

    Jim | | Reply
  30. i think its funny how these people on here is so upset with the rights of the animals, and the process to keep them alive, but what for, its just another reason to give our rights too to animal, and yet to take our rights away from, as though there right to not eat the meat but yet wants everybody else to do as they do

    stacey | | Reply
  31. If you don’t like it…don’t look! It’s the food chain people. It’s what they are for! Deal with it!

    Tina | | Reply
  32. Harvesting these hogs is no different than picking an apple from the tree. It is what these animals are intended for. I have lived on a farm all my life, we butcher our own beef,swine and poultry. We gather our own eggs and drink milk that comes straight from the cow, non-pasteurized I might add. And nobody has ever gotten sick from any food born contamination. But look at all the people who have gotten sick and died from these big mega-farms that the government is watching over. Makes a person wonder why they think they can run everything.

    Ole MacDonald | | Reply
  33. If all the animal “rights” people had their way, I wouldn’t be breeding, housing, feeding. and protecting the animals I raise for food. They would never be born. And the ones that live in the wild? They would be eaten by other animals. Ever stop to ponder that you have no problem with animals eating animals, but you cry foul when people eat them.

    James | | Reply
  34. This summer i will be rasing a pig of my own for FFA then selling it to a farm, i’m pretty nervous for it but its the circle of life, Raise this animal and knowing his or her boding will be feed an human body is enough to know i am doing at least some good. For those few vegans out there…. we get it im all about animal rights too but i know when my opinon is unwanted i feel like you should learn how to fell the same way.

    Zoe | | Reply
  35. wow…i always knew how this worked and yes im a vegetarian. I’d rather die than be part of killing a poor innocent animal that never did any harm. I don’t have a problem if someone raised the pigs on their own, but to kill SO many just to make SO much that people become obese is…SICK. I find it disgusting to EAT another being, i mean your all like “oh no big deal” but just for a moment.. just one moment imagine if that was happening to you? You would be so terrified that you couldn’t even imagine. Don’t start saying “pigs dont know whats going on” because you know what. Maybe they do, maybe they just want to live. They weren’t put on this earth so we could get fat off them, be vegetarian it may not make that big of a difference in the world, but you’ll save at least one life. And if saving one life isn’t worth to stop eating something, well then, then i don’t want to be human. A life is a life, doesn’t matter what shape, form, or size it comes in. A life, is a life.

    sarah | | Reply
  36. 1st let me start by saying…. Sarah… Shut the hell up. 2nd. About the blood. I have used it many time as chum to bait out a fishing spot. It works good. But seems to draw the snakes in more then cow blood. It’s worth it for the fish. Thats right Sarah. I eat fish also. The same with beef and chicken. Oh boy I will jack a chicken leg up in a heart beat.

    Chris Miller | | Reply
  37. Jane,

    The NAIS is for livestock animails only not pets, it is Know a your premises ID, this is to insure that all animals, used in any production (i.e dairy, eggs, meat) are able to be tracked just for the purpose of disease, NOT Pets, the animals are not tagged or anything, you are giving an ID number that pratically anyone can look up, each location you have livestock you must have your premises registered, they do not care when they are born or they die, just want to keep an eye on if a outbreak would occuor nothing to deal with pets

    justin dilsaver | | Reply
  38. @ Sarah– I respect your right to be vegetarian or even a vegan if you wish. What I do not understand is why you would not respect others right to eat meat. I suspect you kill dozens of animals per day. If you don’t believe me, check the front of your car/windshield or the soles of your shoes. What seperates you and I is that you kill for your convience and do not use what you kill. I feel I am more respectful to the animal, as I would not kill it unless I was to consume it. Just a thought, as life is a matter of perspective.

    Shannon | | Reply