If you haven't ordered a side of pork it likely seems pretty confusing and daunting. Even if you have ordered them it is still pretty confusing. I'll try my best to explain it, but here is the important thing to remember ... If you have the freezer space it is a cheaper way to buy pork and it gives you the ability to have it cut up exactly the way you want. (How much space do you need? Roughly 1.5 'banana boxes')
The most confusing part is how the price is quoted. There is live weight, hanging weight, and finished or 'cut' weight.
Live weight is just what it sounds like - the weight of the pig when it is still running around. 'Hanging' weight is the weight of the pig after the first step of butchering has taken place. It is the weight of the pig without the head and entrails. Sometimes its without the skin, sometimes with, depending on the butcher. Most butchers and farmers (me included) will quote a price based on hanging weight. This is because the next step, finished weight, depends on how the customer wants it cut up. Finished weight is the final weight of all the cut up pieces. This can vary depending on how much fat there is and how many cuts are boned out or ground.
An average side from one of our pigs will weigh about 100 pounds 'hanging'. We charge $3/lb hanging, so the total price for the side of pork, before it is cut up, will be roughly $300. Depending how you get it cut up you can expect about 70 lbs of finished pork from that side. ($300 / 70lbs = $4.28/lb).
Butchering cost is on top of what we charge, and there are a couple of different options. In both cases the butcher charges based on hanging weight. If you want sausages or smoked product this is an additional charge again.
Option 1. We can take your pig to Fergusons Abbatoir in Pictou. This is an inspected facility, and is where we take all of the pigs and beef that we sell 'cuts' from. In Nova Scotia, any processed (i.e. cut up) meat needs to be butchered and cut up at a provincially inspected facility; pork and beef sold 'by the side' does not need to go through an inspected facility. Harold does a really great job, and will charge $0.70 / lb for cutting plus $15/side for the kill. All finished product is in vacuum sealed packaging. If you want to have sausages or smoking done at an inspected facility such as The Pork Shop then it needs to go through an inspected butcher first.
For this option, because we are bringing 'our' pigs there as well, we will pick it up from Fergusons and the Pork Shop and delivery it to you. We pay the butcher bills, then collect from you when we deliver the product.
One thing to remember, if you want sausages done, is that there is a minimum batch size of about 15 pounds. This means that it is really only feasible to get one type of sausage made, otherwise you will end up losing a lot of other good cuts that will need to be made into sausage. Having sausage made or smoking (bacon or ham) adds about another $1.50-$2/lb.
If you didn't get any sausages or smoking done, the total cost for this option, based on the example above, would be about $375 for 70 lbs of pork, or $5.35 / lb.
Option 2. The second option is to have the pig butchered by Fougeres in Havre Boucher. In this case the pig is butchered here on the farm by them, then taken to their shop to be cut up. They only charge $0.40 / lb plus $30 per side for the kill, but do not offer vacuum packing (the cuts are on the Styrofoam trays, similar to the grocery store). Also, they skin the pig rather than scrape it, so the hanging weight that you pay based on will be less but you will get the same amount of finished pork.
In this option you are responsible for contacting the butcher to discuss how you want it cut up, and picking up the finished meat in Havre Boucher.
Using the example above, this option would cost you about $336, or $4.80/lb.
Option 3. If you know another butcher you would prefer to use, or you are one yourself, you can have the bit butchered by Fougeres, then pick up the whole side in Havre Boucher. In this case the charge would be just $30 for the kill.
What cuts can you get? I'm not going to begin to try and explain that one. Instead I'll let Sugar Mountain Farm do it ... this is the best explanation I have come across.
Hope this helps. It is a bit daunting the first time you buy a side, but it is a cheaper option, and you get to specify exactly what you want.