Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yes -- That is a Dead Pig, and No -- You Should Not Be Offended!

Yes, you are seeing what you think you are seeing: that is me on the kill floor with one of my pigs. And I am definitely giving a thumbs up! This is an exciting point in the process of raising animals. You could certainly look at this photo and think, "Gross! Dead pig!" Think, however, about what this picture means to me: it is the conclusion of months of hard work to raise healthy animals, and it is the start of the process that means my family will be well-fed this year. One of the reasons that I always use the word "slaughter" instead of "harvest" is because I absolutely feel that raising & processing food is a noble endeavor. Yes, it is messy, but it is ethical. I will not shy away from the truth of this, and I think the public would feel better about food production if they understood the process. Consumers are smart -- open the doors and educate them! So, yes, this is my way of bringing you face to face (literally) with hog slaughter . . . because I think you are smart enough to be interested and to learn!

Let me introduce you to my pigs. I got them a few months ago when they were a little over 100 pounds, and since then I have purchased A LOT of hog feed for them! (They were also amazing at cleaning up leftovers from the kitchen!) The female was curious and often romped in the yard. Sometimes these romps were Goatherd-approved . . . and other times they were not. Ever awoken at 1:00am because your puppies are going ballistic, only to discover that your pig has busted out part of the barn wall & escaped? Not fun! The male was extraordinarily lazy. He would lay around all day, and only get up when he saw me approach with food. He would waddle a few steps over to the feed, take a handful of bites, and then lay down with his head in the bowl to continue eating!

I have fond memories of these pigs. They received great care and attention. They grew very large (250-300 pounds) and could be difficult at times. Their destiny was to feed my family. In the days leading up to the intended slaughter date, I will admit that I was sorry our time together was drawing to a close. I knew, however, that I did not have the facilities to keep them for an extended amount of time, I did not have the extra money to feed extremely large pigs, and the natural circle of life dictated their role on the food chain. It is very important to me that animals are treated well in life and shown respect in death. Each time I have raised pigs, however, I forget just how hard it is to load them in a trailer from my barn. Thus, by the time I struggle and struggle to get them to the slaughterhouse, I am ready to say goodbye!

I owe a great deal of thanks to my friends Angie & TEC, who assisted me by offering their trailer for transport. My adopted son/student assistant Big Al served as my trusty right hand during the slaughter process. My amazing baby brother was right there with his gun to quickly dispatch the pigs. I am very appreciative that my step-father allowed me to utilize his facility for the butchering. I truly have a great farm family supporting me!

I am often asked about the slaughter process. As mentioned, we used a gunshot to the head to stun the pigs. My brother did this, then Big Al stepped in quickly to bleed the pigs. He used a very sharp knife to sever both the caratoid and jugular in one rapid stroke. This immediately shut down the neuro-sensory system, and the pigs bled out in a very short period of time. As the farmer who adored these hogs, I am comfortable with this process. It is quick, it is humane, and it is sanitary. Once the pigs bled out, they were placed in cradles to be skinned. I will post some more photos, as I believe that people are truly interested in how their food is prepared!

I love raising animals and I adore eating meat! I am proud to be a butcher, and this work has only increased my respect for life. If we accept that death is a reality and show respect for the process of dying, I believe that we will become more cognizant of the value of life. Life is beautiful, and death is a part of that journey. Farmers endeavor to raise their animals well, and provide humane slaughter options to produce the products we use. Learning more about food production is a good thing for our consumers!

No comments:

Post a Comment