JASPER — Jasper High School students loaded the dead body and headed back to class.
Its neck still dripped with blood when they returned to school grounds, where the corpse was cut, stuffed, grilled and more.
No, the roughly 250 kids who participated in the dissection and preparation of the meat throughout Monday and Tuesday aren’t criminals or cannibals. Led by agricultural teacher Andrew Helming, the kids were instead learning all about hogs by actually digging inside one.
“I’ve had students here who don’t realize meat comes from an actual animal,” Helming said. “I think it’s important that they know it comes from an actual animal.”
The hog was purchased by the school from a local farm.
Students from a variety of science, culinary and medical classes stopped by Helming’s workshop classroom to join him in cutting and dissecting the 250-pound animal. The butchering exercise perfectly fits the curriculum for Helming’s Advanced Life Science: Animals class — a course that focuses on the anatomy and physiology of animals — but other classes from throughout the school were also invited to join.
A medical terms class, for example, joined the group when they discussed the various organs in the hog, and culinary classes joined throughout the day so students could witness the cutting process.
After bringing the hog to the high school, students watched and joined Helming in skinning the swine. Helming then gutted the pig and halved it before letting it hang overnight.
Work resumed Tuesday morning when participants who were armed with knives and saws broke down the halves into the different cuts. By the afternoon, kids were already grilling pork patties, linking sausages and boiling cracklings.
“It’s fun, but it’s kind of gross,” said Angel Brown, a junior ALS student.
Added classmate Hayley Williams: “There’s more to it than we think.”
Other students were already familiar with the procedure. Sophomore John Summerlot, for example, has been butchering hogs with his family for years. He said seeing the others’ squeamish reactions to the process was funny.
Something that stood out to him from the in-school experience was seeing Helming inflate the hog’s lungs by blowing down its windpipe.
Jasper High School junior Jakie Renteria felt the pig's innards during the lab. Jakie said that they felt like a balloon and she was surprised that they were warm.
“My family, we butcher three or four hogs each year,” Summerlot said. “But I just enjoy doing it, and I thought it was cool that I could do it as something during class.”
JHS culinary classes will use parts of the pig to make barbecue pulled pork, and the kids will also chef up the ribs. Bacon and sausage cooking also await.
Yesterday marked the second year for the exercise at the high school. Intro to Culinary Arts and Hospitality teacher Kyla Beier agreed with Helming that there is much value in the hands-on experience the past two days provided.
“A lot of kids have not a clue,” Beier said. “Some kids don’t even know that pork comes from a hog.”
Helming also explained there is value in understanding where different meat cuts come from on the hog because it better informs the cooking process. Both of his grandparents were farmers, and he said he’s been butchering hogs since he could remember.
Past hands-on ALS exercises include raising and butchering chickens, attempting to hatch chicks outside of their shells, as well as dissecting and frying bull testicles.