Last year was the first year I bought meat animals from the Covina FFA program. I bought a lamb and a 1/4 pig, and shared the meat order among friends. The quality of both impressed us. Unfortunately, we split the lamb between too many people, so we ended up with part of a leg, some incredibly rich stew meat, a few tasty steaks, and the wonderful, juicy, remarkably flavorful meat was gone in no time. We had a similar problem with the pig, but worsened by the fact that the woman who was in charge of the order of the whole pig gave me the parts that she didn't want: I got ears, feet, all the lard (30 pounds!) from the animal, stew meat, and a few chops and some bacon. Once I split up the order with the people who had gone in on it, I was left almost solely with lard.
This year, I was not going to let that happen again, so E and I decided to keep almost all of the lamb—this year, it was only 59 pounds of meat total from the animal, and quite a bit of that is bone. The 179 pounds of pork we divided up among many friends. I tried to make sure that my friends understood that they'd receive a balance of premium cuts with more economical ones, and some "flavor meat" as well: lard, feet, neck bones, etc. It is the whole pig—we've got to eat all of it and every part has value. I bought the animals from the students who raised them, covering the cost of the animals, the animals' insurance and organic feed, the cost of the processor who takes them to butcher, plus a profit for the work of raising them kindly and well. At the butcher, I paid for the cutting of the meat to my order. After everything, the lamb cost $6.41/lb and the pig $3.50/lb.
Saturday, E and I loaded coolers into the back of Roberta, the 1968 Ford pickup that E has rehabilitated, and we drove out to Hottinger's Family Meats, the butcher with whom the school works, out in Chino. Going to Hottinger's is a special event, with the fresh cases and freezers stocked with not only pork, beef, lamb, and chicken, but also bison, elk, rabbit, and game birds. One freezer case is full of housemade sausages with recipes from the world over. We picked up our meat, some special sausages, mesquite for the grill, and two beef femurs for Indiana-the-dog.
I'm dreamy about the possibilities with the meat this year. Last year, with meat from another source, a friend and I made Italian sausage that was so good, we wanted to eat it every week, so we did, and it disappeared quickly. Yes, that is on the list this year. Also on the list: lamb merguez. Tamales made with with homegrown corn and this luscious lard. Milk-brined pork chops, lovely roasts, gorgeous stocks. Warming stews. I'm going to try may hand at smoking the pork belly for homemade bacon. It is going to be a good year of meat.