Pork Butt – A Meat Cut Highlight

Pork Butt – A Meat Cut Highlight

Finding the perfect cut for your favorite pork recipe can be a challenge when there are so many options. Our pastured pork is a huge hit here at John Henry’s whether you are roasting, grilling or smoking we have the ideal cut for you. We thought we would clear up some confusion today by talking about one of the most popular cuts we offer, our pork butt/shoulder.

First off, lets discuss the pork shoulder or Boston butt as they are sometimes called. This popular cut of meat comes from the upper shoulder of the front leg of the pig. This cut often contains the blade bone and is very well marbled with fat. As you can see on the graph above the Boston butt does not come from the rear of the animal at all.  We did a little research as to how the pork butt/ Boston butt got its name and it is quite interesting. In pre-revolutionary times, New England butchers would put certain cuts of meat in barrels for storage and transport. These barrels were referred to as a “butt”. This cut became wildly popular in Boston and therefore has been called the Boston butt by many.

We have always referred to this cut of meat as a pork butt which is a marriage of the 2 terms pork shoulder and Boston butt.  We remove the skin from the entire upper section of the shoulder when we are preparing it for our customers. The shoulder can be cut into roasts ranging from 2-10 lbs or it can be cut into thin slices for pork steaks, or strips for country-style ribs.

Because of the ratio of fat and meat this cut is a favorite among those who participate in barbeque competitions. This cut is nearly always used because it can either be cooked low and slow or hot and fast. The bones and fat keep the meat from drying out no matter which cooking method you use.


As we move further down the pork shoulder we come to a section that is often referred to as the picnic shoulder. This cut often contains more muscle and less fat because it is used more as the pigs are rutting around in the pasture. We don’t typically sell this specific cut of meat fresh because it does need to be cooked correctly and there hasn’t been very much of a demand for it. We do however remove the skin and de-bone this section and send it to be smoked.  This cut then becomes our cottage hams or they are also referred to as picnic hams because it is from the picnic shoulder of the pig. These small boneless hams are great to use for sandwiches, cutting up chunks for eggs or omelets, or to slice and enjoy as a snack.

We love learning the history behind the different meat cuts and their names. Some are surprising like the Boston butt and some are just interesting like the picnic ham. We can’t help but wonder, why did they start calling the lower pork shoulder a picnic shoulder?

We hope you enjoyed this blog post about this popular cut. We would love to hear your feedback if you have tried one of the great recipes above or if you have a family favorite recipe your prefer to make.


Meet Remi!
What is REALLY in the Chicken You are Eating?