Livestock “Auction” Market


To market, to market to buy a fat pig (or two, or three)… I don’t think I have ever been to a livestock market, and with our recent need to identify more and more sources of traditionally raised pigs for the ZUBUCHON experiment, we decided to plan a half-day trip to the Mantalongon Livestock Auction Market in Barili, Cebu. Not to be confused with the other Mantalongon market, which is predominantly a vegetable trading center roughly 2.5 hours south of Cebu, this livestock market was about 1.25 hours away, and relatively near the town chicharon town of Carcar. This post is about the trade and sale of live animals predominantly for the purpose of feeding people. If that bothers you, then simply DO NOT read the rest of this post. I will delete any comments that I deem inappropriate. Just so that’s crystal clear before you click on “read post.”


The livestock market takes place only on Thursdays, and while we arrived at about 6:30am, I think the peak of the trading action occurs around 7am or so. Livestock from near and far arrive either on tethers led on foot by owners or hired hands, or on vans, trucks and jeepneys. It’s a pretty wild sight and an open grounds area is filled with vehicles, animals, people and a whole lot of POOP. :( Chickens, goats, pigs, carabaos and cows are all up for sale, and while I sort of expected an auction style arrangement with an auctioneer selling off lots of animals, in fact it is more like a huge open market with buyers and sellers milling around the animals striking their own deals.


I spotted these three little pigs in the back of a van that seemed less stressed than other animals being brought to market in crowded vans. So I quickly started negotiations with the owner and even before they were unloaded, I had purchased one of the three pigs for a lechon lunch the next day. At roughly 15 kilos live weight, the piggie was perhaps 6 weeks old, and much smaller than the ones we usually make into lechon.


This rather huge pig, a male or “barako” snorted up alongside me while I was bargaining for the young piggie, and frankly, he was one fat papa! Many insist that male pigs, particularly older ones, have an off-flavor to their meat, so we have ONLY been purchasing female pigs for lechons. I can’t imagine what happens to all the male pigs, either they are cooked young or there a whole lot of male meat for sale in some markets… And how would one explain the treatment of wild boar (presumably males) as a delicacy and its strong flavor as desirable??? Hmmm….


With so many pigs in the field, one rapidly realizes that there are differences… some certainly look happier than others, some are heavier for their age and size, while others look like they were on a South Beach Diet. It was a bit upsetting to see so many herded into this auction area, and when they were purchased, led off to the buyers vehicle to almost certain death, if not fattening before death. But I eat meat, so I deal with that.


I’m sure if you come to the market often enough, you would figure out who seems to have the best livestock on offer. And you get to know the individuals and ask how big their piggeries are, if the pigs are raised in their back yards, among a dozen other pigs, or only 2-3 at a time. There aren’t many folks here that come from large professional piggeries… this is a market for the rural folks, with several city buyers. In many cases, ladies of all ages bring one of two young pigs to market, selling them at say 2-3 weeks, for others to fatten for a month or two. These ladies often take the proceeds of selling one or two of their piglets to the market down the road to buy rice, vegetables, canned goods, etc. that will last them until the next piglet is sold…


This market is akin to what one might call the “wild west” and outsiders are not common here. Why, after all, would a tourist from cebu venture all this way to watch thousands of kilos of porky’s change hands? But we weren’t just there as tourists, we purchased several pigs that day…


The smaller piglets are kept in pens that looked like large produce baskets. These were the cutest cleanest ones in the market.


I was rather tempted to buy one of these, not to fatten, but to cook as a true lechon de leche. But these were rather pricey for their size, and the meat cost per kilo was much more expensive than buying a 24-30 kilo pig. And admittedly, their clean, cute, faces helped to spare them from the barbecue this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I know these pigs and other livestock are raised specifically to feed humans, and for the most part, I suspect they have led much more natural lives compared to their cousins in large commercial piggeries, poultries, goateries(?) and cattle operations, but there is still that slight tinge of guilt.


From the pigs, which seemed to comprise the vast majority of livestock changing hands, I also spent some time in the goat section. Here goats seemed to sold in little herds or congregations of the beasts…


And I know most goats are fine with jumping, leaping and generally kicking around their environs, but even I was a bit surprised how they were “thrown” into a truckload filled with goats. I just took the photo to record the event, not to make a judgment call on how the goats were being treated…


There were several calves on offer, older, tougher looking cows and bulls and a smattering of carabaos… At least now I know where to go if I ever decided to try my hand at a whole roasted calf…


And I must explain the photo above. I had not planned to go to a livestock market when I went to Cebu on a business trip. The day we left for the market, I realized I only had a pair of off-white jeans (my other pants were business slacks) and had no choice but to wear them to market. But in a bit of Pigman karma, probably for having roasted so many of their relatives, and despite taking great care during the first five minutes at the market, I got POOPED on by a pig in a passing truck! YUCK is right. But that was okay, I would understand if it was intentional. It doesn’t look bad in the photo above, but a big chunk of poop dropped down into the cuff of my pant leg, and it smelled vile all the way home… :)


So what do the vendors, buyers, traders and visitors eat when they have cut their deals? Roast pig, of course. It looked great, but the skin wasn’t crisp at all… :)


65 Responses

  1. Pig poop is yucky, especially when you can’t change clothes right away.

    I remember a time when my parents took us to Tarlac to visit some relatives and I tagged along with my cousins to the slaughter house. Let’s just say this little piggy cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.

    For some reason, this post brings back memories of eating a whole roast piglet at Kamayan restaurant. I miss that place and I wonder if it still exist.

  2. “Many insist that male pigs, particularly older ones, have an off-flavor to their meat, so we have ONLY been purchasing female pigs for lechons. I can’t imagine what happens to all the male pigs, either they are cooked young or there a whole lot of male meat for sale in some markets…”

    Yes MM, they do have an off-flavor if they keep their “jewels”. The male pigs are castrated at a young age and then fattened for market.

  3. I recently consumed pork that had an off flavor that I think was boar taint. Some people are said to be more sensitive than others but it was quite an unpleasant taste. Early castration seems to get rid of this problem.

  4. MM, I have a suggestion. Why not experiment raising a pig organically (free range in your empty lot, fed with wholesome food, not just food scraps from humans) I bet that would take your Zubuchon up several notches still… And I’m sure a lot of people are also interested in buying pork from humanely raised pigs for their own consumption, me included =)

  5. I can already think of lechon de leche, menudo, igado, dinuguan, and so many more. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen and eat a freshly butcher pig.

  6. Is there a similar “livestock market” in Manila? It would be wonderful to go to one.

  7. I read in one of your earlier entries that you were watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall; remember his docu on the wild boar “Genghis Meets His Maker” and the animal and kitchen gadgets auction sales he’d been to? Although I’m no longer eating pork, I can say it is still my favourite meat and goat meat is a treat that I really miss.

  8. The little pigs are so cute. They look so luoy. Hehehe. I’ve never had lechon de leche before. I feel guilty eating it. I can’t eat things that look cute. Haha. But Carcar chicharon is yummy.

  9. Question for TOK from Saudi Arabia: I just thought of this as I was reading your comment. Do you get to buy/eat pork at all in Saudi Arabia? For that matter, what about other areas in the Middle East like Dubai?

  10. Hi NYCMama, let me share a little thing i know while we wait for TOK to reply. As what i’ve heard from my countless relatives who are OFWs in Dubai, the emirates enjoys a little bit of “freedom” as compared to other middle eastern countries. They can freely buy,cook and eat as much pork as they want. There are also some parts of Saudi Arabia where you can do that but in most part of the country they are mostly traditional islamic and pork is forbidden.

  11. chip, we have in fact, done that. For Mr. Bourdain, the pigs were bought a couple of weeks early, set in pens, and only fed chicos and other fresh fruit and roughage. Personally, I couldn’t taste the difference in the meat, but that was only 1-2 weeks of good food, no commercial feed. Since the lot is in the city and has neighbors, I think we would get into trouble if we organically raised more than 1 or 2 pigs… :) However, in concept, I totally agree that feeding them non-commercial feeds and just good fruits and veggies must hopefully result in a better product. If we assume that raising them organic costs PHP100 more per day for say 80-100 days then the additional cost of such a pig would be PHP8,000-10,000. One would have to pay somewhere between 3-5x the price of feed fed pigs, so if a normal lechon would cost some P4,000, the free-range, fruit-fed lechon would be PHP15,000+! Wow, talk about having a premium version of ZUBUCHON! Hmmm….

    As for pork in the Middle East, I have only spent a couple of weeks in Riyadh, while working as a consultant, and there was no pork anywhere on the menus.

  12. hi MM. i attended the organic farming seminar of gil here in cebu and was inspired to raise organic pigs/chickens/goats here and make our small farm organic. we also asked our hands to check out the market above for other possible animals to raise. however, the challenge of converting current raising style to organic (that includes convincing our hired hands!) is a lot of work. i can’t just start with the pigs or the chickens, i have to do it with the whole farm… but as gil says, “we don’t really have a choice but to go organic… that is, if we want to be sustainable.” wish me luck.

  13. Great post, MM. There’s so much I don’t know about my own province that I’m learning from you. Still on the sale on pork in the Middle East: when swine flu (?) broke out I was surprised to read in the news that hundreds of thousands of pigs were culled in Egypt, which I imagined was very Muslim. :-)

  14. Ah, MM’s adventures off the beaten track in pursuit of gustatory delights. Hopefully you were able to build rapport with some vendors during this trip, so you’ll have a trusted “suki” on your next visit.

  15. Hi MM, just to answer cumin, according to CNN, they say they were mainly raised to eat the food leftovers of the Egyptians.

  16. Agrilink2009 going on now if you’d like to learn about genetics etc :) Oct 8-10, World Trade Center. High end auction market of sorts…Oh INAHGEN in 2010 will have an auction, but those are not fatteners but breeders.

  17. Hi MM. I know of only one Mantalongon for the fresh produce and the animal auction. I did not realize they are separate and distant from the other. Yes, the market day is also Thursday. The Mantalongon I know is close to Barili, my hometown. Those piglets are sooo cuuute. Sorry about your poopy pants.

  18. MM here in UAE, you will not see any restaurant with pork dishes in there menu. There are pork and pork product for sale (in Spinney’s) but for only personal consumption.

  19. I used to visit the base in doha if i wish to consume pork, they are forbidden here and not known even….I once have a bad incidence about this pig thing when i got vacation with my family recently..I bought one pig to be butchered for the christmas feast but my kids opposed us to carry out the killing! they thought that its a PET as they are cute (they actually saw live pig only in the philippines) so we left the pig tettered on the mango tree and resort to chickens instead…What a nightmare…

    You are much luckier here in UAE, You can found pork in many supermarkets in any emirate such as spinneys,choithram, lulu and many more hypermarkets and they are quite cheap even cheaper than our country. We cant blame other regions here anyway as its not part of their tradition. I have seen pig farms too in morocco and tunisia but they are BOAR type and not really pleasant to eat, taste is too trivial….

  20. NYC Mama from US: sad to say we don’t have here in KSA (esp. here in our area, Khafji) but in UAE (and other open city) i heard from our kabayan, there are stores you can buy Pork (pero secret lang) hahaha!

  21. Re: pigs in Egypt, there was an article that highlighted the problems facing Cairo because of the Egyptian government’s decision to kill all the pigs there a few months ago. The pigs are raised by the Christians living in the city, they are used to eat the organic refuse of the city’s residents. Because all the pigs are now gone, Cairo is facing a huge waste management problem, and there’s a lot of trash not being removed.

    The piglets in their basket look adorable. My first reaction was “Babe!” hehehehe

  22. Hi MarketMan,
    I have a suggestion for improving the nutritional quality of the pigs you raise although it may not be economically viable. Let them eat plant leaves and bugs and worms. This will probably raise the amount and proportion of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to the omega-6 fatty acids. Towards this same end, you can feed them wild fish remains. It would also help if they are exposed to some extent to the midday sun so that they can produce vitamin d and store it in their fat. One way to do it, of course, is to let them graze on pasture. More omega-3 and vitamin d will improve the cardiovascular health of the people who consume these pigs.

  23. Hi Mr MM!

    “Castrating male piglets”

    Male piglets are castrated in the first couple weeks of life. This is quite an event with some old folks from our baranggay joining in for a morning of coffee and “jewels” off-ing. (hehehe) But never really asked why. Now I know!

    My dad would sometimes pick a healthy one from the farrow, spared from castration(lucky pig). He will raise this to be another “barako” to father the next generation and the previous one to be retired. (He keeps calling each one – “Pogi”). These “lucky pigs” get to eat the best feed and get the most care. Sometimes “Tatay” will get them overripe fruits. Retiring them entails a “fiesta”. I can confirm these well cared of pigs are better tasting than the regular grain-fed ones.

    Thanks for sharing this post

  24. waaa those piglets in the basket are sooo cute…but yeah pig poop is yuck and the smell wafts quite a distance (a neighbor in our subdivision in antipolo actually raised some until we raised hell and high water over it)

    and i hope Zubuchon is available in January when I come home! :D

    Gener and Tok…not all Emirates…Sharjah, in lieu of being allied with KSA more is more strict than the other 6 emirates, and doesn’t sell pork or anything not halal…I can only speak for Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman that can sell pork in a special section in supermarkets and small groceries

  25. I probably will buy the goat for kaldereta, kilawin, and papaitan.
    “This little pig went to market” its a nursery rhymes.

  26. MM, apparently feeding them guavas makes a big difference in taste. We used to have free range pigs that fed on guavas (they were let loose in a lot with wild guavas and they ate the fruit that have fallen from the tree) but they were still given regular feed to augment their diet. I guess that way the cost of feeding them didn’t skyrocket =) but that also meant they were not raised 100% organically.

  27. Pigs, if given a chance to travel, would go to Saudi Arabia and dance in the streets to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”

  28. I have never been to a live auction before. This is a great post and such an eye opener. I understand that this is for human consumption but I guess many more animals are treated worse. It is something that we aren’t aware of as many of us buys meat that has already been chopped up or in wrapped in plastic.

  29. I am lucky to be able to purchase pork (fresh, plus smoked bacon, guanciale, and ham…all with no nitrates added) from a local farmer who raises heritage-breed pigs on pasture. His pork is miles better than supermarket pork from factory-raised pigs. No brining necessary for his pork, it is full flavoured and extraordinarily succulent. His pigs eat fresh green stuff, get all the leftover whey from a local organic cheesemaker (talk about happy pigs!), and come fall they are moved to the farmer’s oak woods where they eat acorns. Additionally, they live in family groups and are free to do piggy things like dig and sunbathe and play, which is an important issue at least to me.

    I am looking forward to his new hams this year which will be from acorn-fed cross-breds that are half Spanish bred and half Tamworth.

  30. @Kurzhaar, does this farmer sell his stuff online? I’m interested in his hams if they are for sale.

  31. I soooooooo envy you Kurzhaar….having accesss to the most flavourful. succulent ham! Too bad, I cannot import from your local farmer! ….Lucky you, TED! I can only dream about it. I guess I have have to settle for second best! Hey, let`s compare notes, Ted! I am going to do it both ways….yours and MC`s lola`s way!

  32. Ted, no, he does not ship (that’s not part of the “eating local” ethic he espouses). He sells at a local farmers’ market and by word-of-mouth. Long-term clients (I am one) seem to have a preferred status. :) I buy pork, chicken, and turkey from him (all heritage breeds). His meats are not cheap but I do not eat much meat (maybe once or twice a week), so can afford to be choosy about the meat I do eat.

    Ted and bettyq, you can check for farmers near you and/or who will ship. My recommendation is to support your local farms wherever possible. Local demand builds local supply, and keeps the money in the community. If you don’t find a product locally, talk to your farmers, talk to your independent grocers…you may well be able to build up a demand. There are also CSAs that include both meat and vegetables/fruits in their customers’ boxes. I was a long-time member of the biggest CSA in Southern California, which is something I miss now as there is no CSA near me that does not involve having to drive to pick up a box of produce.

    I have also heard good things about hams from Surry Farms in VA:

  33. Thanks for the tip, Kurzhaar. I just found a local pig farmer in Abbotsford…raises his pig organically, on vegetable diet and freely grazes on sawdust! As you said, his piggies doesn’t come cheap. But i figured my family cannot eat the $ and make them full!

    All you guys in Lower Mainland who want to order your Christmas Hams….Gelderman Farms in Abbotsford, B.C…..and no, I am not related in any way to them nor do I work for them!

    Ted: here is a solution to your fridge space problem….Go on Craigslist and buy the cheapest fridge but still in good working condition. Koreans have separate kimchi fridges you know! And since your siblings will eat what you make, put the fridge in their garage!

  34. bettyq, glad you found a potential source of good pork. If the meat’s good, then your custom will help keep that farmer producing more. Let us know how that turns out!

    I have a chest freezer which is very useful as I often buy items that freeze well in bulk (meat, bread). They don’t cost too much to run and can make economic sense if you cut down on driving and such.

  35. What an interesting post … But, no, this is one place that will not be on my list of places to visit, as I wouldn’t be able to eat lechon after having seen those faces! Those piggies in the basket are so cuuute! … Will definitely try Zubuchon when I come visit! I’ve made my best friend promise that it will be my very first meal straight from the airport!

  36. I used to love lechon de leche but after seeing those cute little pigs, I think I will have trouble eating one again.

  37. I have become increasing convinced that if you eat meat of any sort, you should be cognizant of the fact that an animal died for your meal. That’s not to gross anyone out, but to emphasize that you ought to not take meat for granted. There is an environmental cost to eating meat, and of course the cost to the animal concerned! If all omnivorous people valued meat more highly, we would have meat that was more humanely raised (and would accept that the price of meat would be higher than what I suspect a lot of people pay unthinkingly), and we would probably be less wasteful of meat–and cook the meat we do eat with more care. I don’t have issues myself with eating meat–even “cute” young piglets–but I don’t take it lightly either.

    Just food for thought.

  38. kurzhaar, I agree with your thoughts, hence my recent (over the past two years) personal desire to see where the meat, fish, fowl, etc. is coming from. But a bit of a blind spot for veal chops. :) But in general, I think those who understand where their food comes from appreciate it far more.

  39. Marketman, you just need to visit a veal factory to change your mind…especially as there are existing alternatives (humanely raised veal). :)

    Ironically (or perhaps not) it took the experience of hunting to make me realize the value of meat on the table. When you have that hands-on experience, it can leave you gobsmacked for quite a while. It is only too easy when one purchases tidy packages of meat at a supermarket (as I used to) to forget the true costs of providing that meat. I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian, I do enjoy the occasional meat-based meal too much, but I definitely approach meat differently nowadays.

  40. MM,

    Male piglets are castrated so that it can be raised and the aftertaste is not present. I’ve been a part of a few of these “operations” when we had a small pig farm. I hated cleaning the pigpens.

  41. Cleaning pigpen is tricky and you have to follow some steps, first remove the solid pooh by shovel then spray the area with pressurized hose! it will remove up to the cleanest corner..I have seen one pig farm in spain using pig pooh as fuel! they do some conversion turning pooh to gas and they have free gas for the farm workers the whole year!.

  42. Here’s one tourist that would enjoy a morning at the livestock market. I used to own a “hobby farm” and raised my own meat. I still enjoy watching the animals.

    I once helped my neighbor castrate about 50 shoats one morning. Neither of us wanted the “oysters” (stupid us) so they were fed back to the pigs! Now that’s YUCK!

    My BIL used to have a piggery in Danao, but he couldn’t make any money between the help ripping him off and diseases. He has switched to goats now and cross breeds Lokal with a big Australian buck.

  43. boars have really bad odors-most male animals do, maybe that’s why those intended to be eaten are castrated and the good sperm carrying males are kept as boars.BUT when these boars are old, they still find their way in the meatshops..

    MM, have you tried doing lechon on wild pigs?I mean the native black ones, i think the meat to fat ratio is a lot better and the taste is superb. or how about growing or fattening pigs on a wholesome diet(not the regular milled pig meal-fattener/booster) before roasting?:)

  44. Is there an equivalent Livestock Auction Market near Metro Manila ? I’m experimenting with native bred pigs fed on vegetable (kangkong, excess vegetables, etc) and i need to check the available breeds. I’m also keen to exchange notes with organic growers of chicken, goats and of course pigs. My farm is based in Binangonan although I live and work out of singapore. Hope you can assist.

  45. MM, sorry to pick up a month old thread. ramon, you might be interested in investigating sister isyang’s farm in quezon. you should be able to google her. i met a guy there who raises pigs using the natural farming method. i think he consults with farms across the country. the pens do not smell and the pigs are quite happy, i think.

  46. Hi Mr. MM i love your blog, it just makes me so hungry, i really can’t wait to visit again in the Philippines. OMG!!! i love the lechon,it’s so so good…


  47. Please spare the cute little ones. Maybe this is why I prefer regular lechon over lechon de leche…



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