Going Whole Hog: Sustainability and Using the Whole Animal

Recently our kitchens got two whole pigs and our line cooks got a lesson in whole animal butchery. Breaking down a whole animal is a great way for our kitchen staff to reconnect with where our food comes from, and it really puts things into perspective. Most of our meats come pre-cut into primals, or larger cuts from from specific regions on the animal. Our cooks will clean up any tough connective tissue and portion out single servings for events. It’s not often we get to be involved in the process from start to finish, so this was a real treat for us!

The greatest lesson we learned from the process is planning to use every last bit, from tip to tail. When working with primals, you only use the cuts you needs. When breaking down the whole hog, you have to have a plan for every bone and steak that is produced. Our responsibilities as chefs is to treat all of our food with respect. It can be difficult to imagine meat in a package as something that was once living and breathing, but when you’re staring the animal in the eye there’s absolutely no denying it. The best way we can treat these pigs with respect is by ensuring absolutely nothing goes to waste.


Author: Elizabeth Drolet

Elizabeth holds a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry and worked in the lab at the University of Iowa for two years before deciding to pursue a culinary career. Elizabeth graduated from New England Culinary Institute of Vermont, and has worked in restaurants such as The Kitchen in Boulder before joining the Spice Family as the production sous chef and kitchen manager. Her favorite recipes involve a few star ingredients and unexpected combinations.