.....On Sunday I got a call from a cattle rancher: "I've got two pigs in the trap. You want them?" Often, there's no time to prepare the carcass, and the dead pig is thrown away. Butcher shops won't accept them because feral pigs may carry diseases. So I went out to Taylor, Texas, about 30 minutes from where I live, to collect them.
.....The rancher went up with his tractor around 2pm. Despite the noise, they remained fast asleep. He dispatched the first with a shot from a 22 to the ear. The second started to wake up, and it, too, was shot in the ear. I'm a strong supporter of hunting the feral pigs, whether with rifle, bow, or atlatl, but in my opinion, trapping and shooting is clearly kinder than hunting.
.....We dragged them out of the trap and bled them from the neck. Then we popped them into strong black plastic waste disposal bags (3mil thickness), tied off the bags, and put them in the trunk. By 3pm, they were atop flattened cardboard boxes on my picnic table.
.....I worked until 3am to turn the pair into 3 pound packets to put in the freezer. That's twelve hours of touching dead and dismembered varmints, with extra effort and resources to ensure it was safe, but the rewards are immense. Letting them go to waste is a shame!
.....Last week, I chopped some of the meat into chunks, browned them on high heat in a 3 quart pan with garlic, stewed them with celery, oregano and rosemary. It was delicious! Of course, I honestly can't tell you how much of my perception is colored by the fact that pork this lean is $6 a pound and I had to work hard to acquire this, but I think the meat flavor is far superior to that of the pork at the grocery store. So, in spite of all the extra hassle that you wouldn't have to go through if this was venison or bunrab, I'd say it's worth the extra effort.
Here's the extra precautions I took during butchering:
1. A roofless work area. The sun will destroy microbes but working in a shaded area leaves places of potential contamination that you are not going to immediately sterilize. Avoid butchering a feral pig carcass in your kitchen or garage.
2. Hand-cleaning station. This should be away from where fluids from butchering can spatter. It should have a big dispenser of hand sterilizer and two rolls of paper towels. After working, I slathered my forearms with the stuff, and wiped my face.
3. Non-latex gloves. Got any scratches? A hangnail? It's nearly impossible to not have small injuries on the hands, and this is a way for germs to get in. I put gloves on fast, getting sanitizer down in them.
4. Covering for mouth and nose. This can be a dust mask or just a kerchief worn over the nose like an old-time Western bank robber.The likelihood tiny spatters get in your face is extremely high. Even if all the pig is carrying is something that would give you flu-like symptoms, why get the flu if you don't have to? I also used goggles because blood spatters on the eyes is another way to contract disease.
5. No tanning the hide. (And no giving raw pieces such as ears and hooves to your dog, either.) There's no way to sterilize it without damaging the strength of the skin. Pig skin is so soft it's typically eaten, anyways. Pigs have a thick layer of strong hard fat under the skin so (except for the knees of the hind legs of an old old hog) they don't flesh well at all.
6. No reliance on salt as sole preservative. Salt the meat for seasoning, but freeze or refrigerate as soon as possible. Field-dressing it by heavily salting it is no longer considered safe enough. Notably, listeria is highly salt-tolerant and survives cold temperatures. It can grow in the water in a pack of hotdogs in your fridge.
7. Bleach wash. Add 3 teaspoons bleach to 3 quarts water in a pickle bucket. Put all meat chunks in this solution for 2 minutes. Use tongs to take them back out (you don't want bleach to get inside your gloves!). Rinse them with water (from a hose is fine). This doesn't clean the interior of the meat, it just cleans any exposed surfaces. Don't worry, it won't make the meat taste like bleach.
8. Use ziploc 'Freezer' bags for storage. Newspaper and sisal twine are certainly more "green" but they can't be sterilized on the outside, so they're potential pathways of contamination of everything else in your refrigerator or freezer.
9. Bleach rinse packages. After the meat is all packed, double-check that all the seals are closed. Using a wetted paper towel, wipe the packages down with a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 cup water. Let them stand 10 minutes. Then rinse them all off with cold water.
10. Cook thoroughly. I'll eat raw beef any day, but "rare" feral pork chop (pink in the middle) is not safe. Cook the hell out of it and you won't catch hell. Note that, unlike domestic pork, feral pork flavor gets BETTER with longterm high heat cooking.
You might feel funny treating your hunting butchering area like a CDC quarantine site and, alas, this is the farthest thing from "paleo" that I can imagine. But these aren't healthy natural wild animals, they're a domestic species that's gotten out of hand. This is the best compromise between being completely carefree (which is the same as careless), and being paranoid to the point of not consuming the meat at all.
Stay safe, stay healthy!
Feral pigs are an epidemic in Texas. It's very important that they be killed. Drought draws them to water sources, often the water supply kept filled for domestic livestock. This is putting local cattle and swine at risk. Feral pigs are carriers of many diseases that are fatal to cattle.
Trapping has been largely ineffective because the pigs are social animals, and if they see a herdmate caught, they are intelligent enough to recognize the same trap used elsewhere. A trap costs about $500. I think the best solution is hunting them.