Monday, May 30, 2011

Pigs for butcher

I am not a crazed animal rights activist or even 100% vegetarian. Yeh yeh, meat is tasty, I get it. We have to kill animals to get the meat, got that too. I mean, what is Memorial day without a grill out? And what is a grill out without ribs, or steak and BBQ chicken? All I'm trying to say is why not allow whatever animal you're eating to live a somewhat normal life before it's killed and butchered?

If you eat pigs, you should at least treat them well; seems kind of logical and basic to me. I choose not to eat pork or any meat unless I know where it came from and the basics of the life it lived. What a lot of people don't know is that pigs are smart animals and if properly cared for are clean and good-natured often making for wonderful pets. It is easy as an American with so many food options to put out of our mind's the actual process of raising livestock and butchering it. Ignorance is bliss and until about 5 years ago I was happy with being ignorant. I can't recall what woke me up to the truth of industrial farming. Those creepy pictures PETA puts out never effected me, reading Charlotte's Web really only made me hungry for a pork sandwich and I never shed one tear for Bambi's dad. Maybe it was browsing the grocers meat section and thinking $2.50 for an entire pack of chicken legs and thighs, that's like 5 chickens, how is that even possible!? Something didn't seem right with that scenario...

Whatever it was, once you see the reality of industrial farm to plate its disgusting, its horrifying and I cannot believe it's legal.  I'm not against grilling a steak on a nice summer day and my particular weakness is pork in any form; whether it be chicharrĂ³n, bacon, pulled pork or spicy chorizo sausage. There is no denying pork's tastiness. But every American has a vote: It is with their fork. Every time you purchase industrial farmed meat you are casting your vote that it is OK how their livestock is raised. If everyone refused to eat meat that was not sustainably farmed, then the industry would be forced to change.

Would you place 50 puppies in a 20 x 20 cemet floored pen with just food and water and 'grow' them until they are around 3-4 months old to butcher? Or how about your beloved cats? Would it be fair to place 100 cats in an enclosed pen until they are fat enough to dress out with little to no sunlight and very little human interaction? So why do we allow this to happen to cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other livestock? My favorite argument to this: "because they are tasty." Well, for a few dollars more you can purchase meat that has been sustainably farmed and support an industry that respects the livestock it raises. The product of sustainable farming is also more nutritious, better tasting and overall better for the workers and the environment in which it was raised. And best of all, you can have that 12oz NY Strip steak guilt free and with much less of a risk of e coli contamination or harmful bacteria.

Basic pig shelter with a large fenced area
Choosing to raise your own livestock can save you money and also give you the benefit of raising the animals how you think they should be treated; that is if you have the room and the time for such an endeavor. Alternatively, any local meat markets offer sustainably raised livestock if you ask and Whole Foods and Trader Joe's of course carry a wide selection and are willing to educate you on what they offer. In my opinion it is best to meet a local farmer and purchase directly from them - this allows you to see the conditions first hand that the livestock was raised, gives you a personal connection with the farmer and will also generate local business while potentially saving you money. Buying local reduces the carbon footprint by removing most of the cost and effort of transportation, packaging and processing.
Basic pig shelter in the woods

Over the weekend my husband and dad built my mom a pig pen and she had 2 piglets delivered from a local farmer that she will raise and butcher in the fall. My parents are also concerned about the environment in which their food comes from and have been wanting to start a small backyard farm for a while now. We helped build her a coop and gave her 6 hens earlier this year so she could begin collecting eggs, the next most natural step was for her was to get pigs. Better her than me right now, I need an example so I can see if I have what it takes to raise and butcher an animal. It's so easy to forget that that is how food arrives in grocery stores and restaurants: Oh yeh, you actually have to kill and process an animal in order to eat it - surprise, there is no magic!
Only little for now!

Hampshire/Duroc cross piglets. Pretty cute!

Just this year my husband and I invested in 7 hens (well, now 6 since 'Big Bertha' actually turned out to be a rooster, re-named as 'The Bishop Don Juan') so that we could enjoy free range organic eggs year round. I have considered purchasing 2 pigs to butcher in fall for profit and our own consumption, but to be honest, I just don't know if I can kill a pig I raised and watched grow from an adorable piglet. 

I feel like when the time comes to take one of the pigs lives, as long as I remember how much more respectful the life of my pig was than the life of one that was raised inhumanely and I just ignore that fact and buy off the store shelf, then I will have the courage to do the job that needs to be done and hopefully I will ultimately feel really good about the entire process and what I have learned. It won't hurt that those 2 pigs will also be damn tasty.

Make your vote count.


Brianna said...

I totally get what you're saying. As omnivores it is obvious that we will end up slaughtering and eating another animal, and as humans civilized we started raising these animals rather than having to constantly hunt. It wasn't until money and greed became more important that we started treating our animals badly in favor of production.

Since we moved to our house a few months ago, I am already caring for 4 month-old chicks and would like to get a milking goat by next Spring. Once little goaty clears up our back area (lots of blackberry bushes and cat tails) we can look at getting some pigs. I know that my husband is neutral about it all -- as long he sees the benefits -- but having the fresh meat, dairy, and eggs is SO crucial to health and wellness. There is nothing produced (other than from another's home farm) nowadays that compares!

simple life ain't easy said...

Thanks for the comment Brianna. Let me know how the goat thing goes! I'm really considering one as well, maybe just a little Pygmy that wouldn't mind if I take some milk now and again for cheese, soap and maybe to make some caramel! It is really rewarding knowing how well your own 'food' is being treated.

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