In the Bay Area, classes to make cheese, keep bees, and raise livestock are a dime a dozen, but classes on how to buy a whole animal, have it butchered, and share it are rare. The Institute of Urban Homesteading (IUH) in Oakland aims to change that by spreading the wealth, and the pig, in its new class The Whole Pig: Community Pig Buy and Butchery.
The Whole Pig is part of a new series of classes, or “meat parties,” which seeks to demystify the process of purchasing whole animals, such as pig and lamb, wholesale. The three-hour class, led by professional cook and Berkeley homesteader Seth Peterson, will give students the knowledge to negotiate with farmers and butchers. Students will have the chance to watch and participate in the butchering of a whole pig into loins, chops, and other usable cuts. Traditional ways of preserving and using all parts of the pig will be discussed. Best of all, participants can take home at least ten pounds of naturally raised pig for themselves. Those who are interested can also take a field trip to the pig farm — DG-Langley, a small farm in Nicasio, California — to see how the pig was raised.
“We thought it would be fun because it's something you don't get to see very much, and because as an urban person you're already buying your meat prepackaged,” said IUH founder Ruby Blume.
According to Blume, the class is an intermediary step between butchering the pig yourself and subscribing to a meat CSA where they take care of cutting up the meat, wrapping it up, and freezing it for you. “Meat CSAs are, price per pound, much more expensive. The wonderful thing about a meat share is you get a better deal on higher quality meat,” Blume explained.
“The cost [of the meat] is the same as at the supermarket but the quality is better,” said instructor Seth Peterson. “You can also purchase from and support smaller farms — smaller than, say, Riverdog Farm — that aren’t necessarily going to make it through the winter.”
Learning to butcher a pig is also expensive and takes more time. Places like the Fatted Calf charge as much as $200 for a three-hour hands-on experience breaking down a pig. This class, on the other hand, is quite affordable — $55 for the share of meat, plus the cost of the class, which is between $35 and $65 on a sliding scale.
“The hard part is not cutting up the pig; the hard part is doing it. The hard part is getting a bunch of people together to just do it,” Peterson said. “Many hands make for light work.”
The class is part of a growing trend of buying sustainably raised food directly from producers and cutting out the middle man. “There are a lot of farmers' markets where you can buy produce directly from the farmer — it’s only just now getting to meat,” said Blume.
The first class will be held August 13 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Peterson hopes to hold a whole lamb class in the future as well. Be sure to look at the IUH website
for new classes to be added.