Tuesday, November 20, 2007

USDA Processing Frustration - No Canadian Bacon

As mentioned previously, I want to turn a bunch of hogs into cured products so that I can resell them. That's the best use for the hogs I've got.

If I want to retail the meat, I must do USDA processing. In a two hour radius, only one processing plant can make bacon for me. So I told them to kill the hogs and make bacon out of the backs, shoulders, loins, etc.

They don't "have a label" for Canadian bacon - that is, bacon made out of pork loin. That means they can't produce Canadian bacon and put a "USDA" stamp on it, which means I can't sell it legally. I would be an outlaw if I did - like these nice folks.

So I will have some butt bacon (part of shoulder bacon), bacon (belly) and jowl bacon - but if they produce bacon from the loin, I can't sell it. Same for the picnic - they can't cure and smoke the stuff, and stamp it USDA. This diagram might help, if you don't know the hog terms.

So I told them to turn the loins into roasts. The whole thing was so disheartening. I felt like telling them to just grind all the pigs up into sausage. Even if they just had a label, "pork", I and my customers wouldn't mind. Who cares about labels, anyway?

Part of the problem is that there is only one processor in this area that will make bacon. In an area with more processors, I'd just take the hogs to the one that would do what I wanted. Here I take what I can get.

Also, as these hogs are very fat, I asked them to pack the fat, so that I could resell it. They don't have a "fatback label", nor a "leaf lard" lavel - it is just labeled "pork fat". When I asked them to pack it into roughly 5 lb units, they said that that was going to cost me extra - perhaps a lot extra - like a dollar a pound extra. I asked them to segregate the fat - but as they aren't used to doing that, it will probably all wind up in one 50 lb container.

So I hope I can find someone who wants a lot of very high quality pork fat. Were I to break the fat out and repackage it myself, I'd be breaking the law. It isn't unreasonable to use pork fat in bulk in a restaurant - this guy told me he's getting rid of butter in his restaurant, and will just use Mangalitsa lard. It tastes better and is cheaper.

The whole situation is so frustrating.

Of course, this all gets back to the superiority of custom butchering. A good custom butcher will do things your way - and it is cheaper than USDA processing. And the animals don't have to leave the farm, which saves them stress.

Our favorite custom butcher is CNJ Custom Meats, of Clayton, Washington - Curt is a very smart, conscientious butcher. We want to sell as many hogs custom as possible, and have Curt butcher them.


www.stlbites.com said...

With all this reading of lard hogs lately, I had a dream last night about pork confit.

With so much fat it could easily be rendered off, and I bet it would be amazing.

Sorry you're having so many problems though.

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