I made a trek to Peoria Packing’s Butcher Shop today to buy lots of pig fat and to have some belly and shoulder ground for chorizo. A trip to PP (insert piggy tail here) does an excellent job of shocking one out of one’s shopping complacency. What a far away concept styrofoam trays and shrink-wrap is to the open freezer layout of PP’s interior. Tables and vats teem with ears, neck bones, hooves, kidneys, bellies, chicken feet, mounds of ground meat, dried pig skin, and whole pig heads with squinty eyes. It is a wonder of wonder in a culture that practically mandates disallowance of awareness of the origin of meat we eat. Skin, hair, teeth, neck bones, feet, &c. are all startling reminders that yes indeed, the juicy sirloin, the succulent chicken breast, the finely marbled belly were all once integral parts of a living, breathing organism not astronomically different from ourselves.
My pork belly stil had hair and teats intact. Teats most especially are jarring to many and as such one would never find nipples on any pork purchases at any sanitized grocery store. Unlike the ears or the snouts, the teats come from an intimate, rarely glimpsed and almost never tactually encountered unmentionable part of the pig.
I certainly believe it is vitally important to source meat from ethical and sustainable purveyors, but along with this, I firmly believe in putting the whole pig, cow, chicken, duck, goat, &c. back into our eating and shopping vocabulary. The more we eat and shop head to tail, the more likely it is unsustainable factory farms will find their current (sadly synecdochic) practices that reduce an animal to one part (e.g. chicken to breast meat) and often totally mutilate other “problematic” parts (e.g. pig tails) unsustainable profit-wise.
As I cut away the skin from the rich and fatty belly, I paid more heed to this pig than I often do my cubicle mates. But as this pig is fully to thank for the delightful lard I rendered from its legacy, I think it’s only fitting.