In this post I'll talk about the butchering process, and there is a pictures of meat hanging in a refrigerator. If the thought makes you squirm then I suggest you skip this post and move on to the next one where all you will see is chops, roasts and so on :-)
We were very lucky to have a good mobile butcher agree to come and do the processing on the farm for us. Although when he saw how We really didn't want to send the piggies to the abattoir - primarily because it's stressful for them and they had spend a lovely few months running, digging and chilling out in the paddock, but also because there's always the chance that the pig you get back from the abattoir isn't the one you send. As these pigs are for our own consumption it's fine to just do them on farm.
For a few days pre processing day we'd been feeding the pigs in a smaller enclosure so they were comfortable there. Once the butcher was ready we put some food out for them as usual and they got on with their favourite past time...eating. That's another great thing about on-farm. You don't have to starve the animals and stress them out that way. So basically they are eating away and the butcher shot pig 1 (brain shot) and it falls over dead. Then he slits the jugular to let the blood bleed out before the autonomic system shuts down. There is a bit of flopping/twitching reflex when this happens, a bit like with chickens but on a slightly larger scale. But no noise.
Meanwhile pig 2 is oblivious, and doesn't even stop chewing for a second. In fact a minute or so later he is still so focussed on food that when we move the food barrel to line him up so to speak, he steps over the body of pig 1, still eating, without any hesitation. I think that was the point when I really made peace with the whole process for want of a better term. This was the good death I'd really been hoping for for my piggies, and I'm really appreciative of the butcher's skills in achieving this. I'd been doing quite a bit of mental hand-wringing that day and wasn't sure if I could/would watch, but I'm really glad I did because having been through and watched this process I actually feel much better about the whole thing. I'm quite proud of myself for seeing the process through from start to finish, and I'm very glad I did.
Seeing pig 2 so unfazed by pig 1's demise, and how quick it was, no stress, no fuss, just eating and in the same second gone really cemented for me this is the way it should be if at all possible. I hope I'm lucky enough to have such a quick and stress-free death...although I'd rather be eating chocolate cake :-).
The butcher then spend the next few hours scalding / scrubbing / gutting and hanging the carcasses in his mobile fridge, where they hung for 6 days until butchering day. Stay tuned for more on that in part 2.