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Pig Safety 101 - Part One

Posted by Chef Perry Perkins on

    Pig Safety 101
    Part One

    ~Chef Perry Perkins~

    Okay, okay…food safety isn’t sexy…but it is important. With whole hogs, not only can you get people sick, you can get a LOT of people sick. A lot of friends and family, to boot.

    The Risks

    Here in my home state of Washington, the Department of Health recently reported that at least a third of it’s reported salmonella* cases appear to be linked to eating pork. Worse, they report that “several cases were whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events.”

    The two biggest culprits appear to be either pork being served under-cooked, or that’s been kept at unsafe temperatures for too long after cooking.

    Salmonellosis, which is what you get from the Salmonella infection, can cause severe “bathroom issues,” fever, chills, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Even serious bloodstream infections can occur.

    E. coli (Escherichia coli) are a type of bacteria that thrive in many animals—particularly livestock such as cattle, pigs, sheep, lamb and poultry. This nasty little bug can result in severe illness and even potential kidney failure. E. coli can be contracted in meat processing and storage factories (and at home) due to improper handling of meat, improper sanitation.

    Luckily, it’s pretty easy to throw a great party, and send you guests home with nothing more than a full belly, and some great memories...

    Basic Food-Safety Practices

    Food safety isn’t rocket science (trust me, I have to get certified every year.) Basically, you have two major rules to keep in mind:

    1. Bacteria can’t live in an unhospitable environment.
    2. The meat thermometer is your best friend.

    Get Good Meat

    Buy your whole pig from a licensed, reliable source, like a certified farm or a butcher shop. Do a little digging and find out what their last few years of ratings have been from the health department. Read customer reviews to get an overall idea of their quality.

    Even a USDA stamp can’t prove that your pig has been kept at the safe temperature, or in sanitary conditions, so don’t be afraid to ask for a tour of their facilities.

    If they’ve got something to hide, that’s probably all you need to know.

    Getting it Home

    If your whole pig isn’t frozen when you pick it up and take home, depending on how far you have to drive, and the outside temperature, you’re probably going to need something to carry it in.

    At best, it’ll probably be handed to you in a big plastic bag.

    A good-sized marine cooler will usually do the trick.

    If you don’t have one (or don’t want to buy one), you can do a pretty good MacGyver, with a couple of big cardboard boxes, some duct table, and a couple of garbage bags.

    Throw a couple of bags of ice in the bottom, and a couple of more on top of the pig, and you’ll be good to go.

    In part two, we’ll take a look at the best safety tips for cooking, serving, and storing that pig!


    ~Chef Perry

    As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.

    Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.

    His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”

    You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at

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