Old Newspaper Articles from Capper’s Farmer December 1929: Pig Farming Practices, Plans for Building a Septic Tank, and an International Trucks Advertisement

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A photo of William H. Jordan's farmhouse that appeared in the December 1929 issue of Capper's Farmer with the article "He's Butchering 400 Hogs" by George A. Montgomery.

He’s Butchering 400 Hogs

By George A. Montgomery

Two hundred and fifty hogs were raised and butchered by William H. Jordan on his farm in Louisa County, Iowa, in 1928. He shipped the meat by parcel post to customers in more than 30 states. He’d rather have what the butchering end of the farm business clears him than the gross income from the 223 acres he operates if the hogs were sold on foot at the regular market price.

He began butchering homegrown hogs in 1924. The number slaughtered each year since has doubled that of the year before. This fall, Jordan had more than 400 hogs in the field husking corn and manufacturing meat to supply his customers.

The market for 62,060 pounds of hog in 1928 was not found by underselling butcher shops and other retail meat dealers. Jordan gets 5 to 10 cents a pound more for his sausage than the retail butcher, and consumers bear the transportation charges and pay for containers in which the meat is shipped.

Jordan left his father’s butcher shop and enrolled at the University of Iowa. After a year, he married and settled on a farm a few miles from the town in which the butcher shop was located.

The way to make money on an Iowa farm was to raise hogs, Jordan had heard. From 1913 to 1924, he raised and marketed 300 to 700 a year. In the meantime, the butcher business had become too strenuous for the elder Jordan, who was nearly 80 years old, and he had sold the shop.

In the time he’d spent in his father’s shop, young Jordan had learned to make good sausage. “Why don’t you butcher some of your hogs and give us a chance to buy some sausage like your father used to sell?” the neighbors asked.

So, Jordan killed two hogs, took the meat to town on a Saturday afternoon, and sold it out of a wagon.

“I filled a tub with sausage, and took along hams, shoulders, spare ribs, tenderloins, pigs’ feet, and liver,” said Jordan. “The rig was backed up to the sidewalk on a busy corner, and I did a good business. For three years, I butchered once a week, and sold the meat and sausage on the street corner in the town where the butcher shop had been. By 1927, people in other towns began asking for meat, so we expanded, butchering from 3,000 to 3,600 pounds of meat a week.

Jordan decided to spend a little money advertising his sausage.

“Orders didn’t come fast at first,” he said, “but I was not disappointed. I was satisfied that we had a sausage that was better than the common run of fresh sausage, and in my advertising, I had set the price from 5 to 10 cents a pound higher than the butcher shops. In addition, we required customers to pay parcel post charges and the cost of containers. Orders came slowly at first, but steadily. We waited anxiously to learn whether those who had sent in their first order for 5 pounds would come back for more. Soon, letters began to arrive. One of the first we got came from a man in Galveston, Texas.

“Just received the 5 pounds of sausage,” the man wrote in his letter. “I had to fry some of it right away. It is the best sausage I have tasted since I left the farm 20 years ago, and I pride myself that I know good sausage when I taste it. At your price, I feel good sausage can be indulged in throughout the cold weather.” Later, another letter from the same customer showed that he used more than 50 pounds of Jordan’s sausage before the winter ended. He began re-ordering with the first cold weather in the fall of 1928.

One order came from an official of an Illinois wholesale lumber company. Later, dozens of orders from employees of the company were received. A woman in a Chicago suburb ordered 5 pounds for herself, and later ordered 5 pounds sent to each of five friends. The woman and four of the friends have sent numerous repeat orders.

“These letters show that satisfied customers are the best assets any business can have,” said Jordan. “Half of our customers send us only one order, but more than half of our meat is sold to people to whom enthusiastic customers have recommended it.”

A big list of regular customers has been built up. Many put in a standing order for so many pounds of sausage to be shipped each week. Some sausage customers take other products regularly, permitting Jordan to supply variety by putting in spare ribs one week, backbone another, and liver, heart, tenderloin, ham roast, shoulder, or whatever he may choose the next.

“Such standing orders permit us to keep the proper balance in disposing of our producers,” said Jordan. “We never have had a surplus of anything but lard. When we stopped butchering last spring, we had 2 tons of lard left. But we sold it. When we started, we thought we would have trouble in disposing of certain types of pork products. Liver and pigs’ feet are two things we thought would be a drug on our market. We’ve had to stop advertising liver, and we ought to stop advertising pigs’ feet, because we always are behind with orders.

“When I have sold lard to a few more customers, I will not have any trouble in disposing of all I make. I have shipped lard to El Paso, Texas, and it arrived in good condition. The buyer liked it so well that he has reordered. There is a secret in making good lard. We take special care to see that no rind ever goes into the rendering kettle. We are careful not to get it too hot, and we guarantee that there will be no settlings.

“Last season, we made 50 percent of the shoulders and 10 percent of the hams into sausage. It doesn’t pay to grind hams, but we had such heavy orders for sausage that we had to use hams part of the time. We could not very well add to the number of hogs we were killing, because we got to where we were butchering 165-pound pigs. We’d rather not butcher a hog until he weights 275 to 300 pounds.”

Jordan is making economical use of the by-products. Blood and cracklings are fed to hogs as a substitute for tankage, and he is preparing to grind the bones and sell them as chicken feed. Scrapple is made from bones that have been trimmed for sausage and from parts of the carcass not sold as meat or sausage.

All but one package sent by mail has reached its destination in good condition. No meat has spoiled in transit.

Pigs are farrowed every week during the spring, summer, and early fall months in order to have them ready for butchering when they’re the proper size. Gilts are used for brood sows. As soon as they have weaned the litter of pigs, they are fattened and butchered.

Last season, Jordan began butchering in October, and slaughtered the last of his hogs in March. Butchering at this season of the year interferes little with farm work. Seventy-five of the 100 acres of corn is hogged off, leaving little corn husking to do, and butchering is out of the way in the spring, in time to start the farm work.

In addition to butchering his own hogs, Jordan butchers for some neighbors. He charges 1 cent a pound live weight for the hogs butchered.

A Septic Tank for $30

By E.W. Lehmann

Septic tanks are neither difficult nor expensive to build. That is what Frederick W. Boebel, DuPage County, Illinois, discovered. Installation of a complete plumbing system in the farm home makes necessary a septic tank for safe disposal of the waste water and sewage. To discharge sewage on the surface of the ground, into a ditch, or into a small stream, is both unsightly and dangerous. Typhoid fever has too often been traced to a polluted water supply due to careless disposal of human wastes.

“I would never be without one again,” said Mr. Boebel, who enlisted the aid of the county agent in constructing his septic tank. The plan used was supplied by the Farm Mechanics department of the University of Illinois. It is important to build a tank of adequate size. Small tanks do not function satisfactorily, and the accumulation of material is much more rapid than in a larger size. Boebel built his tank to take care of seven or eight people. It is a two-chamber tank. The first chamber, into which the sewage is discharged, is 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 5 feet deep. The second chamber is the same width and depth as the first chamber, but only 3 feet long.

It is easy to construct forms, but the lumber is a big item in the total cost of materials for a tank. Mr. Boebel was lucky. The local farm bureau built a set of forms for use in the community. He paid a rental fee of $5 on the forms.

The cost of a septic tank depends considerably on local conditions. On some farms, it is less than others.

The following bill is representative and is the exact amounts paid by Mr. Boebel for the materials used in his tank: 22 sacks of cement, $14.30; 3 yards of gravel, $6; 22 pieces of rod reinforcement, 3⁄8 inches in diameter and 3½ feet long for top slabs, $2; lumber (one cypress piece 2 inches by 10 inches, 14 feet long; 2 cypress pieces 2 inches by 4 inches, 12 feet long; 4 cypress pieces, 1 inch by 4 inches, 8 feet long; and 12 laths), $1.64; one 4-inch and one 8-inch vitrified sewer tile, $1; and the rent on forms, $5, for a total of $29.94. In addition, there was 1 gallon of old crankcase oil for greasing the forms, for which there was no charge.

This does not include sewer tile from the house to the tank, nor the discharge drain tile from the tank. The cost of labor is relatively small, since the installation was made with the help on the farm.

Selection of a satisfactory location is the first step in putting in a septic tank. Adequate drainage from the house to the tank, and drainage from the tank are essential. To build a tank the size of Boebel’s, stake out the excavation 10 feet, 2 inches long and 3 feet, 10 inches wide. The exact depth to excavate will be determined by the location of the outlet and inlet tile. To give proper depth, the bottom of the excavation should be at least 4 feet, 8 inches below the bottom of the inlet tile and 4 feet, 4 inches below the bottom of the outlet tile.

Use the best materials available for the concrete, and make it as water-tight as possible. Boebel found a small concrete mixing machine, a labor saver, but the labor required to mix the materials by hand is not a big item.

It is well to construct the top of a septic tank of small concrete slabs so they may be removed for inspection or cleaning out the tank. The top may be put under the ground, or the walls may be extended and the top be placed level with the ground surface. Strengthen the slabs by using some reinforcing, and place a 1⁄8-inch tile in one slab for inspection when the concrete is poured. The contents of the tank may be inspected thru the tile.

For further information on this subject, write to your agricultural college or get in touch with the agricultural agent in your county.

Plans for constructing a tank like Mr. Boebel’s are available. Ask for Plan No. C-196-1 and enclose 10 cents. Address Building Editor, Capper’s Farmer, Topeka, Kansas.