Big Willy, the spotted hog from Hudson, Iowa, who achieved fame in February as the main character in a Washington Post series on the American pork industry, was barbecued and eaten yesterday on the farm where he grew up.
Born last October on Steve Moseley's hog farm in northeastern Iowa, Big Willy was the son of a pure bred Duroc boar and a crossbred sow. He died on Monday morning at the Gilbertville Locker, about 15 miles from Hudson, when Clem Delagardelle, a butcher, shot him in the head with a .22 caliber rifle.
Big Willy was a healthy, 260-pound hog who appeared calm and contented on the day of his death. He dressed out at 169 pounds and his butcher said he was neither fat or skinny. His carcass was barbecued yesterday as the main course in a party to celebrate the hog's life and death.
"What better way to enjoy Big Willy than to invite a bunch of friends over and eat him," said farmer Moseley, who invited 50 people to the pig roast.
Invitations to the affair were sent to members of Moseley's church, his card club, his potluck club and to pork producers in the community. The invitations carried a photograph of Big Willy and described the animal as "Hog of the Hour."
Before the Post series appeared in Washington and a number of other newspapers, including several in the Midwest, Big Willy was to have died at the Rath Packing Plant in nearby Waterloo, like the 1,100 other hogs raised on the Moseley farm. There, Big Willy would have met a man called the "pig sticker" and become one of 13 hogs killed every working minute at the plant.
Instead, the hog's fame prolonged his life for two weeks and afforded him the opportunity to be custom butchered.
The death of Big Willy caused considerable concern on the Moseley farm.
"We kind of had mixed emotions [about killing him], said Moseley, 36, who had never before given much thought to the death of his hogs. "At least driving him over to Gilbertville is a lot better than sending him to Raths."
Big Willy was a long, sleek, meat-type hog typical of the lean hogs developed over the last 20 years in the United States. He grew up on cement floors in a narrow building called a "hog confinement system," where he gained weight at the rate of 2-1/2 pounds a day while eating a scientifically mixed swine ration.
"Had he been sold to a packing plant, I'm sure he would have been graded number 1 [by federal meat inspectors]. That was our feeling all along -- he was a good hog," said Moseley.
Big Willy was barbecued yesterday in a portable hog roaster that Moseley borrowed from a farmer in nearby Evansdale. He was served with homemade bread, homemade ice cream, assorted dishes brought by guests and with beer.