Ag 101: A Cut Above the Rest

Pork Trivia: Can you tell me where the Boston Butt is located on a pig?  (It’s a trick question, because it’s not located where it sounds like it might be)!

Can you tell me what part of the pig would be best for use in soups?

Today I’m learning (and you can join me) all about the cuts of meat from hogs – where each is from found and maybe an idea or two for you the next time you are at the butcher requesting a cut of pork.

All of the cuts of a pig can be eaten (and can be delicious!).  Unfortunately, if you buy a whole hog you cannot call your local butcher and ask to have the hog cut into all pork chops or all bacon.  One pig produces only two tenderloins and only a limited amount of bacon.  Supply of certain cuts is limited, yet the entire hog can be eaten.

Essentially the top portions of the hog are the most prized—Boston shoulder, tenderloin, and sirloin. Most people enjoy the middle of the hog, as well.  Those cuts are the roasts, spare ribs, baby back ribs, bacon and ham.  But the lower cuts aren’t near as popular. Not in the United States anyway. These less appealing cuts include the jowls, hocks, feet and ears.

The high-on-the-hog cuts are the sirloin, tenderloin loin, roast, loin chops, country style High endribs, center loin and the Boston butt (aka Boston shoulder).  These cuts of pork tend to be more expensive because they are tender and result in fewer cuts of meat.  The Boston shoulder is often ground into sausage or made into roast cubes or pulled pork.  The loin is cut into pork chops, loin roast and tenderloins.

The middle-of-the-hog cuts are mid-range in cost.  Through curing, brining or smoking this portion of the hog can end up as a premium product and cost more.  Such items are prosciutto, bacon, hams and sausages.  What are the middle cuts of theMiddle end pig?  They are the ham, picnic shoulder roast, pork belly, ribs, sausage, baby back ribs, and ground pork.  Ham can be bone-in, boneless, ham steaks or ham cubes. Pork shoulder is sold as a bone-in roast or made into pulled pork.  The side can is made into, bacon, sausage or pancetta.  The three main types of ribs are spare ribs, baby back ribs and country style.. Most sausage uses meat from the ham, picnic shoulder and pork belly.  Just about everyone has enjoyed a dish from the middle-of-the-hog!

What’s left?  The low-on-the-hog cuts.  These cuts are ones many people might raise an eyebrow to eating and yet they are Low Endjust as tasty.  They are the hocks, jowls and neck bones.  Hocks have a surprising amount of meat to them and can be made into sausage or roasted.  Hocks are good smoked and are great for adding flavor to stews and soups.  The jowl is the cheek of the hog.  It is a lot like bacon and is often smoked.  Jowl is can also be made into sausage.  The last of the lower cuts are the neck bones.  Butchers may also call this cut the base of the Boston butt.  Neck bones are great for stews, ground or slow cooker roasted.

There are a few other odds and ends. Trotters are pig feet.  Different fats can be used for moistening roasts or baking pies and pastries. The heart, liver, tongue, ears, brains, chitlins and skin can all be cooked up and eaten as well.  Although these parts of the hog are rarely requested, they can be used in an array of dishes and to some are considered a delicacy.

This week I challenge you to eat a new part of the pig that you haven’t tried! Maybe try this delicious chitlins recipe. There is so much more than just the tenderloin, roast or ribs.  Be adventurous!


One thought on “Ag 101: A Cut Above the Rest

  1. Pingback: What’s Cookin’? Winter Brussels Sprouts | Iowa Agriculture Literacy

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