On a snowy Saturday January morning, the Field Farm Table butcher shop in Ferndale hosted a hog breakdown class. We watched Matt Romine, chef and expert butcher, perfectly deconstruct a 195-pound heritage hog. What else is a girl to do on a winter weekend in Michigan? I texted my teenage boys a picture of this enormous animal on the table with the knives and hacksaw captioned, “this is what mom does for fun on a Saturday morning.” Somehow, I got no response—I think I’m starting to scare them.
As Chef Matt walked us through a four-hour butchery lesson discussing the cuts, where different parts come from and the ideal way to prepare each cut, I realized there is remarkable little waste of anything—meat, bones or fat. The science geek in me was fascinated by the anatomy lesson and the culinarian in me couldn’t wait to get home to prepare dinner.
Every participant took home about 15 to 20 pounds of almost every part of the hog. We each received small cuts of: pork belly, pork porterhouse, leg fillet, jowl, sirloin tip, boneless pork chop, boneless picnic ham, pork coppa, tomahawk chop, ground pork and bones for stock. One participant took home the brains (which are only the size of two golf balls) and another took all the skin to make chicharrones. I decided to pass on both those items.
My first culinary adventure with the pork was simply seasoning 4 or 5 pieces with salt, pepper and dried thyme and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I heated my grill to medium and grilled each piece to perfection. Different cuts took slightly longer due to their thickness but generally cooked up in less then 10 minutes. Served with some grilled vegetables and pasta to create a quick and delicious meal.
I think people are a little surprised when they find out I’m a dietitian and participated in a butchery class. It is actually a very natural fit. Buying and consuming animals from a smaller, more local farm is healthier for our bodies and our planet. Farm Field Table uses the entire animal—meaning little waste—and often can direct you to a cut that is more economical. A shorter supply chain (i.e. local farm) decreases the toll on the environment.
By eating less industrialized meat, paying a little more for local meat, using all of the animal and knowing where it comes from, we will have a healthy people and healthy planet.
—Pam Aughe, R.D.
Note: We had a bit of leftover grilled pork after dinner and prepared pork fried rice the next day. Nothing goes to waste.