The Food Issue

Local Pig: Where butchering is a hands-on affair.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of folks travel off the beaten path to the

Local Pig

, a year-old charcuterie and meat shop in the industrial East Bottoms.

As customers order eggs, sausages and roasts, a popular hands-on, whole-hog butchering class gets under way. The class members (lots of burly guys and Sara Honan, the petite owner of the national award-winning

Broadway Café)

gather around the butcher-block table where the carcass of a Berkshire/Duroc cross from J.J. Green’s Bell Farms in Higginsville, Mo., has been laid to rest.

“Chose your weapon and let’s get going,” Local Pig owner Alex Pope (second from right) jokes.

Pope runs his hand over the generous fat cap on the 100-pound sides, proudly adding that the heritage hog was raised on an all-natural, hormone-free diet of corn and silage. “It’s like hogs used to be 50 years ago, before confinement operations,” he says.

Like a sculpture chiseled from stone, the first pieces to emerge from the hog are the primal cuts, hunks of meat that follow the natural lines of the animal’s appendages. Toward the end of the two-hour class, members begin to recognize more familiar consumer cuts such as pork chops, ribs or bacon.

New York chefs quoted in a recent New York Times story about Local Pig questioned the wisdom (and cringed at the potential liability) of handing a knife over to a consumer. Pope shrugs: “How else are people going to get a real feel for the art of butchering?”

Whole-hog butchering classes cost $100 and include 10 pounds of fresh pork to take home. The introduction to sausage-making class is $65, with sausages to go.