is a small-scale outdoor enclosure for raising pigs
. It is sometimes referred to as a pigpen
, pig parlor
, or pig-cote
. Pigsties are generally fenced areas of bare dirt and/or mud. Both "sty" and "pigpen" are used as derogatory descriptions of dirty, messy areas. There are three contributing reasons that pigs, generally clean animals, create such a living environment:
- Pigs are voracious eaters and will eat all the plants in the enclosure until there is nothing left to control erosion.
- The pig is a rooting animal and will dig for food in the enclosure, further disturbing the soil.
- Pigs have no sweat glands which means that they must be provided with water or mud in which they can control their own body temperature.
A large-scale enclosure for raising pigs is generally called a hog lot. Unlike a sty which would be found on a mixed farm, a hog lot is usually a dedicated facility. One famous pigsty is The Pigsty in Yorkshire.
Family farm hog pen
The family hog pen
was a small-scale system of pig farming which is vastly different from the modern American hog farm
. Modern intensive hog farms in the United States have an average of about 2,000 hogs
, and large farms raise tens of thousands of hogs. Hog pens were found on family farms
of the early 1900’s, although backyard pig farming may still occur. In this article the words “hogs” and “pigs
” are used interchangeably.
Family hog pens enclosed just a few hogs to provide year-round meat for the table. Prior to refrigeration, some family farms depended on pigs as a primary source of meat and shortening (lard) for year-round food. Farms which had tenant families might have several hog pens.
The hog pen
Farming pigs outdoors poses a number of problems but the small scale of family farming made it possible to manage these problems. In particular, hogs suffer 'heat stress' in high temperatures and have no sweat
glands to naturally cool themselves. To cool themselves hogs require access to water or a 'wallow
', which is an area of mud. Although pigs avoid their own excrement, without access to water or mud, pigs are forced to wallow in their own excrement. Mud also serves to protect pink pigs from sunburn and heat stress, although more pigmented varieties were used on the family farm. Alternatively, shade may be provided for the animals.
Many family farm hog pens were improvised enclosures made of any material that is handy and free. The size of the pen is often kept small to conserve building material and effort.
Slopping the Hogs
Historically, these farms fed hogs grain, fruit and vegetables that are not fit for sale or family use. Overage produce from the farmer’s market and table and restaurant scraps were often diet elements as well. This practice of 'swill feeding' (feeding table scraps) is considered a disease risk today and is banned in many countries. Hogs were also fed “slops” made from middlings or corn meal stirred with milk and water.
Historically, hogs were also allowed to forage in gardens and orchards after the harvest was over. Such foraging can cause erosion and runoff, but the small scale of these operations allowed this to occur.
Hog killing time
Historically, hog killing was done on cold days. One method of hog killing is to cut their throats and let them bleed to death. Alternatively, the hog may have been shot first and then the throat cut.
After killing, the animals were scalded and their skin scraped bare with sharp knives. They were then eviscerated (gutted) and strung up on an A-frame scaffold by inserting a strong sharp stick through the tendons of their rear legs. The carcasses were allowed to chill overnight, ready for butchering the following day.
Butchering the carcass
Very sharp knives and a cleaver
are required for butchering. Butchering was a trade passed from father to son. The carcass was cut into hams
, shoulders, bacon
sides, pork bellys
, ham hocks, loins, pork chops, and other cuts of lesser importance.
The lard is rendered, and the chitlins stripped. Lard is made by heating fragments of fat in a large iron pot over a wood fire until it is reduced to simmering grease which congeals when cooled. Lard is then stored in five-gallon lard tins with tin covers.
The intestines are then stripped by drawing them through a clenched fist. The intestines are washed, cut into short pieces, and fried to make chitlins.
The "pièce de résistance" is the pork loin which is often eaten the first night. For days after fresh sage-flavored sausage graces the breakfast table.
The smoke house
The smoke house is essential for the preservation and long term storage of hams, shoulders, bacon sides, and pork bellies. Salt is rubbed thoroughly into each piece of meat and all surfaces are covered. Some formulas included lots of black pepper. The meat was hung on racks and hooks in the smokehouse; and later smoked. Fragrant hardwood, such as hickory
, or cherry
is allowed to smolder slowly in a pit below the hanging meat. This gives added flavor and color to the meat as well as serving to dry cure the pork.