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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/707

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625
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE COMMON HOG.

of roots and the seed of oaks, chestnuts, beech and other trees, is sufficient to give a very good idea of the quality—or want of it—of the meat. In this country such stuff would fail to find a market, unless it were for the conversion into the lowest priced sausages in some of our large towns, where the poverty is so great that anything in the form of meat is looked upon as a treat, to be enjoyed only occasionally.

Within a quarter of a century of the present time, pig breeders were supposed to breed and feed their pigs for particular markets. The little sucking pig of 8 or 10 lb., which was looked upon as an ideal dish in the cold weather, was only obtainable when the usual depression in the value of pigs came round, after the three or four years of enhanced value of pigs. Then many litters of pigs of about three or four weeks old would be slaughtered and despatched to the large or centres of population, where they would realize some 6s. or 7s. each, thus paying the breeder far better than they would have done if kept longer. This slaughter of the innocents and of the breeding sows is followed for a few months, when the shortage of pigs becomes noticeable, and every one who had recently cleared out of his stock of pigs is equally as anxious to become the possessor of some of those which the more thoughtful neighbour had continued to breed. The natural result follows: the price of pigs is rushed up, the weanlings become of three or four times as much value, and the supply of roasting suckers becomes a thing of the past for perhaps three or four years. The period varies, as other factors, such as the general state of trade and purchasing powers of the masses, have a strong influence on the value of pork and pigs. The necessity for the consideration of the market for which the fat pig is intended is not now as noticeable as it was some years since, when the pigs required for conversion into bacon were considered to be unsuitable unless they turned the scale at 400 or 500 lb. at least. Now the fat pig of about 150 lb. dead weight is exactly what is sought by the bacon curer and the meat purveyor in the southern half of England, whilst a somewhat heavier pig is still in more general demand in the northern counties.

Unwholesome Pork.—There is little doubt that in the olden times, under entirely different sanitary conditions, the flesh of the common hog was at times diseased. The parasite Trichina spiralis, was by no means unknown in this country; whilst in Germany and other countries, where the eating of raw pork in the form of ham and sausages is common, cases of this disease are still reported. The presence of this parasite in the human body is most painful, and generally results in the death of the sufferer. Mere salting, smoking, or subjecting to a moderate heat will not kill the parasite in infected meat; thorough and complete cooking alone is sufficient to render the meat innocuous. Fortunately no recent instances of trichinosis have been recorded in this country. Diseased pork, which in olden times went