You can purchase pork belly at butcher shops, pig farms, grocery stores, chain stores, and online stores. Buying meat from these sources can be tricky if you don’t know what to ask for and look for. You’ll need to know the best sources to get the meat and the type of meat to prioritize.
I’ve been buying pork belly for as long as I can remember, and I’ve bought pork from all of these sources. So, I’m expertly positioned to tell you all I’ve noticed over the years. Continue reading to find out where to buy pork belly.
Best Sources to Buy Pork Belly
Let’s discuss the five best places to find pork belly.
1. Butcher Shop
Your local butcher is the most likely place to buy pork belly. Butchers are more likely to have a whole pig—or at least most of the hog. Then they’ll cut the pig into different sections. Note that the butcher might only show the most popular cuts on display, so make sure you ask for the cut you’re looking for.
To avoid any disappointment, make sure you talk to the butcher about the option of purchasing a sliced belly cut ahead of time. This way, the butcher can reserve a cut for you.
2. Grocery Stores
Your neighborhood store might have what you’re looking for. A valuable tip is to check the store’s freezer. This is because the meat is not always on display, like popular cuts such as pork ribs. So ask the person behind the counter if they sell pig belly. It always helps to ask.
3. Chain Stores
Pig belly is becoming more popular in chain stores. This is because many stores try to cater to the cravings of customers by offering more options.
In my experience, Costco and Sam’s Club are two of the best places to look. Another thing to keep in mind is that you are unlikely to find a whole pork belly cut here. It is usually sliced into smaller bits before being sold.
4. Pig Farm
If you can’t find pork belly at a butcher shop or store, I suggest searching at a local farm. Make sure you look for small farms around your area that sell heritage pork.
Heritage pigs are fatter, resulting in tender and more flavorful meat. This is something you’ll want if you plan on smoking your pig belly. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t find heritage pig meat. You can also buy fat and healthy pig breeds. If you buy meat from small farms, you can be sure you’re getting fresh meat, which tastes better than store-bought pork.
Bear in mind that if you buy pork from a farm, the meat might not be cleaned or trimmed as it would typically be at the butcher or the store because the farmer may not have the time and tools to do so. As a result, you may need to do some additional prep work before cooking the pork belly.
5. Online Stores
Another good place to find pork is online stores. I understand that purchasing meat from online options might seem odd, but it is becoming increasingly common among meat lovers. The best part about buying meat online is that you have so many options at your fingertips.
So, you don’t have to physically go out to buy the meat; you can simply order the meat and wait for your order to arrive. Make sure you always buy from reputable online stores to guarantee you’re buying the best meat.
Also, ensure you check the product’s description and appearance to verify you’re picking quality pork. It is also a good idea to compare prices to ensure that you are getting the best deal. If you need the pork by a specific date, try to place your order as soon as possible because the competition online can be fierce.
Factors to Consider When Buying Pork Belly
In this section, we’ll discuss four factors you need to take note of before purchasing pork belly.
You might not know it, but it is crucial to consider how the hogs were treated prior to slaughter. Purchasing the meat from local sources is a good way of ensuring that the pigs are raised properly. Simply research the pig farms and butcher shops nearby and ask relevant questions about how the pigs were raised and their breed.
Another option is to visit a website that provides in-depth descriptions of the source of the pork. You can contact the seller for the information you’re looking for.
Buying meat that was raised properly has more impact than you might think. From experience, pigs that were well-treated and hormone-free tend to be healthier and more flavorful.
The price of the whole belly ranges from $3 to $6 per pound. Ultimately, the amount you spend on the pork depends on the quantity you plan to buy. Don’t be scared to buy large quantities of meat and spend more if you’re buying pork for making bacon. When you start making your own bacon, you’ll notice that it’s cheaper than buying already-made bacon.
If you buy pork from a reputable source, you might be able to find out what breed you’re getting. I suggest prioritizing the heritage pig breed. Heritage breeds are grown differently and pasture-raised, which gives the meat a unique and better flavor. You’ll definitely notice a difference in taste if you eat heritage pork belly and regular pork side by side.
Some examples of heritage breeds include Tamworth, Kurobota, Iberico, Berkshire, and Duroc. These breeds are becoming more popular, so start buying them and don’t be left behind.
You’ll need to decide how you want to prepare the pork once you’ve bought it. If you want to make homemade bacon, you’ll have to cure the meat first. Curing involves processing your meat in a solution of salt and other ingredients to extend its shelf life. This process infuses the meat with the robust, salty flavor we associate with bacon.
You can decide to dry-cure the meat, which involves rubbing the meat with salt and leaving it to sit in a moisture-proof bag. Alternatively, you can also submerge the pork in a brine of salt and other ingredients. Either method works, but I prefer wet curing because the meat comes out a bit more tender.
Keep in mind that curing the pork will take some time, sometimes up to a week. So check the meat regularly and prepare to smoke the meat at a low temperature of 175 to 225 degrees. That said, if you don’t plan on preparing homemade bacon and want to smoke the meat and make pork belly burnt ends, you don’t need to cure the meat; simply season it and cook it!
What is Pork Belly?
Pork belly is cut from the underside of the pig. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that this cut has a high-fat content. Pork belly has a rich, meaty flavor because of its high-fat content, and cooking it at a low temperature allows the meat’s fat to slowly render under the low heat. Pay close attention when preparing pork bellies. If you overcook the meat, the fat will totally render out of the meat, leaving it dry and chewy. On the other end, undercooking the meat will be unsafe.
How to Choose Pork Belly?
Here are some tips to help you select the best cuts of pork bellies when you are buying at a shop.
- Ensure the meat’s fat appears silky white; anything less indicates that the meat is of poor quality. In addition, look for a pork belly with a thin fat layer. The fat will render as the meat cooks, making it more tender.
- I recommend purchasing a boneless pork belly for the best value. Boneless cuts cook faster and require less work to prepare. However, if you want the meat to be more tender, choose pork cut with the bone intact. Boneless cuts are especially easy to prepare when making bacon compared to bone-in cuts.
- The presence of meat streaks is a vital sign to look for in whole bellies. I recommend choosing pork with thick layers of flesh. The meat should also be bright red. A brighter color signifies that the meat is fresh.
Now that you know where to buy pork belly, choose your preferred option and make a purchase. Remember to prioritize fresh pork, especially heritage pork belly, over store-bought frozen pork. You’ll enjoy a more flavorful and tender cut if you make this decision.