Pig Butcher

It’s been six long months and the passing of time was made known by our pig butcher this week!

We got three weaner pigs the week that we moved to our farm.  They were cute, almost cuddly and sweet.  I’ve been reading a LOT about farming, especially farming in the Provincial region from the turn of the century.  Back in those days, no matter what else a farmer was doing, he kept a pig.  The pig ate all of the scrap from the house and dug up the garden space.  These pigs were revered because they are delicious, and some part of the animal found its way into virtually every meal for many months.

I’d like to think that our farming method mirrors that.  We believe in the co-dependence of many small projects on a farm.  The pigs fit so well into that vision.  Firstly, they were put in a future garden spot.  Not only did they till up the land for me, but they ate all the roots from the grasses growing in that spot.  It can now be a garden and then be planted back to a cover crop in following years.  They also provided fertilizer for the space in the ultimate in recycling.  The pigs partook of what we deemed the “pig bucket.”  We collected every scrap of liquid every kitchen scrap, every bit of left over food and fed it out.  They got at least a bucket every day from the kitchen, sometimes more.  These lucky little porkers ate all the windfall apples, pears and figs.  We moved right as the fruit began to fall and what we couldn’t make use of, the pigs consumed voraciously.  Most luckily, the pigs got raw milk, clabber and whey.  These are all benefits of milking two lovely cows and making cheese.  Since I make lots and lots of cheese, the pigs got gallons upon gallons of whey goodness.  In fact, they’ve only been gone for 48 hours and already I have 5 gallons of whey sitting around while I figure out who to feed it to.

In the end, they were big and they were eating a lot.  Their carcasses finished very well, and it was a pleasure to see the fruit of all my labor.

I strongly believe in the sanctity of life.  Some might not think that that statement goes hand in hand with someone who eats meat, but that is not so.  We grew the pigs and respected them.  They had a good life and now they are sacrificing for us.  The way for me to honor that sacrifice is to not make waste.  As the mobile butcher was working away getting down to the carcass of the animal, I was busy rounding up five gallon buckets.  Every time they cut a piece of the animal off and walked to throw it in the rubbish heap, I got their attention and pointed to a bucket.  And so it went on until they had seen that every bit of the animal was staying on the farm to be used.

This goes right along with the French tradition which is in fact my inspiration.  The tradition of keeping every bit of the pig and making use of it is the basis of respect for that animal, it’s also thrifty and not to mention delicious.  I’ve spent the last two days cleaning guts, cutting apart organs, dehairing, rendering lard, etc.  The recipes I’ve read that include these lesser used body parts all drool over the fact that these are in fact some of the most delicious parts of the animal.  I don’t doubt it considering that in many cases it takes DAYS to create them.  The melding of the fat and collagen into a beautiful sauce has me drooling now.  I think that with all the love and work that I have put into saving and using all of the animal means that I’m going to have some pleasurable meals in my future.

It was a pleasure to raise these pigs.  There will be more of them here at Cast Iron Farm, that’s for sure.

Life and Death

When people come out to the farm, it looks like so much fun.  Usually the sun is shining and all the animals are at their charming best.  I love to show people around and enjoy our beautiful farm.  Lots of people have that as the idea of what farming is like.  They don’t consider having to get up before the sun and go out to milk the cow in 16 degree weather.  Or having to go out and move several tons of hay to keep it from getting wet.  Or the devastation of when the pigs get out and find something to eat that they should not.  And especially, illness or the death of an animal is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind, even if the death is a purposeful harvest.

This past week, I had a 6 month old goat kid get injured to the point that it looked like he was not going to recover.  I made the hard decision that we were going to butcher him here on the farm.  The backlash that I got from this decision was quite surprising.  Almost everyone that heard about it had a shocked reaction as though I was doing something inhumane, vile and disgusting.  It surprises me over and over again that people react in this way.

I did the correct thing.  The goat was not going to recover, we put it down and we made use of the animal.  I do no like to waste life.  To me, that is the highest form of respect that I could give to an animal that is giving it’s life for me and my family.

This just shows the lack of connection that exists between the general population and their food.  Meat comes wrapped up in nice little packages at the grocery store.  Most people don’t even know that the meat was a living breathing animal.  Nor do they realize what part of the animal what they are buying comes from, much less which animal.

I assure you that an animal killed and processed on my property is killed as humanely and with as much respect as can be given.  I can also assure you that that is not the case in the big-time packing plants.  The meat we eat comes from animals that were once living and have given their lives to nourish us.

Death is an inevitable part of life for all of us.  As livestock farmers, death visits more frequently than some of us would like, but I for one spend a great deal of time ensuring that life is not wasted.