A pig on the hoof is a far cry from cooked pork on your plate. Live weight transitions to hanging weight, then cut weight and finally to cooked yield. At each stage in the process, a little bit comes out, leaving you with only a small portion of the pig’s original size.
Calculating your yield before you harvest a pig is a bit like counting your eggs before they’re hatched. But unlike eggs, which will either hatch or not when their time comes, the time to harvest a pig is up to the farmer. How do you determine when to process a pig?
Determining when to process a pig has a lot to do with age, feed conversion, and your personal preference.
How big an animal do you really want to handle? How much ham do you really need? I can’t answer those questions, but I can help you figure out how much pork you have in your pasture on the hoof (no scale required).
How to Weigh a Pig with A String
The first step is to figure out how much your pig weighs now. A local Vermont farmer the next town over figured out a remarkably accurate way to weigh a pig with a string. The string method uses the length of the pig from the head (just between the ears) to the base of the tail and the girth of the pig right (behind the front legs) to estimate the total live weight.
For measurements taken in inches, the equation is as follows:
Live Weight = (Length x Girth^2) / 400
We’ve used this method with several of our pigs and found it to be remarkably accurate.
Let us imagine we used that method, and the result was a 250 lb live pig.
Live Weight Compared to Hanging Weight of a Pig
How does live weight compare to hanging weight of a freshly processed pig?
Once the blood and viscera are removed, our 250 lb pig would lose about 70 lbs of viscera and blood in the transition from live weight to 180 lbs hot hanging weight (freshly processed). That’s an initial loss of 28% of the initial weight.
The pig carcass loses another 3% during chilling due to additional moisture loss, taking us down to roughly 175 lbs chilled hanging weight.
Hanging Weight Compared to Cut Weight
How much is the pork carcass going to yield in marketable cuts?
The chilled hanging weight still includes the head, trotters, tongue and other oddments which are generally not sold as commercial cuts. They’re all still useful, but their market price is near zero.
Removing the oddments takes you down to roughly 125 lbs cut weight or 50% of your initial live weight.
Cut Weight Compared to Cooked Weight for Pork
Cooking will take your final yield down still further. Per the USDA, cooked pork yields somewhere between 74 and 96% of the cut weight, depending on the cut and cooking method.
On average, cooked meat will yield 80% of the cut weight. (The big exception is bacon, which yields roughly 30%.) That takes your cut weight of 125 lbs down to 100 lbs cooked yield on your plate.
Calculating the Weight of a Pig after Processing
So what if you processed your pig, and you know your total yield, but you’re curious how much that pig weighed on the hoof?
Using this process, we can extrapolate backward from cut weight to find out the approximate live weight of an animal. One of our home processed pigs yielded roughly 175 lbs of cut weight, which means her other weights were as follows:
Hot Hanging Weight: 252 lbs
Chilled Hanging Weight: 244 lbs
Cut Weight: 175 lbs
Cooked Yield: 140 lbs
Our 350 lb home harvested pig on the hoof landed on the plate at a total of 140 lbs.
I am considering different methods of raising self-reliance in a rural part of Uganda. The people are basically un-educated, malnourished and children are abandoned because parents cannot afford to feed them or sometimes killed and the officials do not have anything to offer them.
Anyways, one thing that I considered is learning how to raise pigs and teach them. The idea is something like buy two pigs, mate them and train the first person to care for the pigs. After 8 weeks two of of the piglets would be given to another needy person, who is taught how to care for the pigs and the original owner keeps the rest. Undesirable parts are given to people in the community to consume. Of course there is the issue of in-breeding…but based on this article, I am not sure if this is a cost-effective model for very poor people. What are your thoughts
Pigs require a pretty incredible amount of feed, and I don’t think they’d be a good option when calories are already in short supply. A better option would be goats, where they convert foods that humans can’t digest (ie. grass, tree leaves, etc) into meat and milk. There’s a lovely children’s book about using goats for just this purpose in rural Africa that I found in a free pile and my daughter loves called Beatrice’s Goat.
I read Ashley’s article about rabbits!
I think this would be great for your area, especially if you’re doing it for children this seems to be pretty fail proof up to some point. And lesser overhead investment.
With the rising costs of poultry in the meat industry fluctuating as often as it does, how much profit would an average size pig carcass bank?