*sigh* I wrangled long and hard over my decision not to purchase a freezer earlier this year. My main reasons were that I wanted to save energy and to force myself to preserve food in other ways, like root cellaring.
Then the folks I slaughtered chickens with asked if I’d like to split a hog with them – pasture-raised and apple-fed by a neighbor and due to be processed within the week. The price seemed astoundingly cheap: about $2/lb, I calculated, after processing and smoking. For pasture-raised happy pig. Shoot – we pay $5/lb for the cheap happy sausage and $8/lb for bacon. I scrambled to figure out approximately how much meat is in a pig, and how much of what cuts.
And I realized suddenly, you can’t root cellar a pig. Oh, you can smoke and cure some of it – but what we really love is sausage, and I just don’t have the skills or desire to dry-cure and eat half a pig’s worth of pepperoni. So all my calculations before were really just taking veggies into account and not the fact that I could never get half a hog, a lamb, or a deer without a standalone freezer. Suddenly, it seemed perfectly logical to buy. Read on…
I bought the smallest chest freezer available in my area (5.5 cubic feet). It’s not Energy Star, but it uses less electricity than the smallest Energy Star freezer available (which was in the 15cf range). It supposedly uses less than 1 kwh/day. We got it a a local appliance dealer, who cut us a really nice bargain between the freezer and the radio I bought at the same time. It actually ended up being cheaper than buying at a big box store.
Ok, so what does half a hog look like? We had it cut into:
- Ham – 14lb
- Bacon – 6.5lb
- 2 huge ham hocks (2.5 lb each)
- Chops – 16lb
- Spare ribs – 2.5lb
- Sausage – 12lb
- Neck bones – 1.5lb
I’d not taken the difference in “hanging weight” and “processed weight” adequately into account – this is only about 57 lb of meat total, from a hanging weight of about 100lb. So the price is closer to $4/lb…but still a very good deal, I think.
Buying by the side is a little like buying into a CSA – you get what you get, and you have to figure out how to use bits that you might not normally buy. For example, we love pork tenderloin, but there are only 2 of those per pig. And 16lb of pork chops, which we almost never buy. We are, in fact, sharing this half with a neighbor, and he’s taking almost all the ham, because I don’t think I could use 14lb of ham before said pig flew across my back yard.
This all fits handily, with room to spare, in a 5.5 cubic foot freezer. And we’re giving a lot of it to a neighbor…so much that I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake and we could’ve just put our quarter hog into the freezer in the kitchen. Maybe…but nothing else would’ve fit in there for months while we whittled away at the sausage.
So I’m cautiously optimistic about the freezer. I put 3 quarts of chicken stock in there to keep the pork company – man, I’ve gotten hooked on good homemade stock lately – and bought 6lb of the last broccoli of the season at the market to freeze, as well.
I hope it ends up being a good decision in the long run. I get really torn when it feels like I’m “buying to save.”