Friday, April 6, 2012

The Farmer's Dilemma

Another blogger posted today about "Looking Meat in the Eye," in other words, eating those critters we raise.

We get asked that alot. "Do you eat your own animals?" (Yep.) "How do you butcher them?" (I don't. I hire someone.) "Isn't it hard?" (That's the point of this post.)

The first year we bought meat chickens, I was terrified. As we unloaded those cute little fuzzy yellow things into their new home, I thought, "There's no way our kids are going to let us butcher these." There were 25! I was completely ignorant about raising them, but I knew in spades that I wouldn't be able to keep 25 full-grown chickens until they died a natural death. I needn't have worried. 8 weeks later, those cute little fuzzy yellow things had grown into fat, waddling, stinky things that bit at us when we fed them. The kids tossed those puppies into the truck, saying, "Get these things outta here, Mom!" They were disappointed that we continued to grow them, year after year, but they have coped by leaving all the work to us.

Next up were turkeys. They, also, started out cute. They actually end up pretty cute, too, but we still managed to get them to the butcher.

Our first goat kids were cute as cute can be. We knew, going in, that female animals stay with us. (Our vet said, "That's why it's called a 'herd,' not a 'himd.'") Three little boys were born to ZeeBee. We sold one as, we hope, a pet. At least when they walked off they were talking about how much he was going to love them and they would love him, too. But the other two...Well, we did strike out there. Goat meat is not our favorite, and we don't eat much of it. But we have sold it to people who do, and who make no bones (no pun intended) about what they're going to do with the critters. And we hope they enjoy it.

When we bought our first beef calf, I was worried. We had a cow for a couple of years, and sold off her first calf to a family who used her for breeding until they finally butchered her. We love bovines. We haven't had one for a couple of years, and we're thinking about it again, partly because we miss seeing them in the pasture. But Jr. was our first bovine purchased for the purpose of filling the freezer. It helped that we named him Jr. Cheeseburger. We knew, right away, that his destiny was set in stone. But he was a good boy and it was a little tough to load him in the truck and take him to Eickman's. And, despite his goodness, he was big and brawny. He once chased Mary up a fence post. I heard her screaming and ran to find her perched in the corner of our pen, Jr. shaking his head at her. He thought he was playing, or begging for food, but he could have hurt (or worse) her, and she was scared. But...he was a good boy. Those were some of the best beef meals we've ever had.

Lambs? Stupid, flighty creatures that deserve to be roasted. Sorry, but true.

Pigs? One warm summer day, John and I were measuring our first pigs. We were plugging a collection of measurements into a formula, to figure out how much they weighed. I was writing and John was measuring. I was wearing shorts and knee-high rubber barn boots (it's a high-fashion look.) One of our piggers sniffed my leg, and, like a dog, took a nibble to see what I was. She grabbed my skin between layers of rubber, and I ended up with a honkin' bruise. I hollered and pushed her off. She sniffed around and then picked up my foot and shook it like a dog shakes a bone. Before she could let go, I climbed up and over the pen fence, saying, "John, I love you, but you're on your own!" I have been leery of our pigs ever since. They're omnivores, after all. That means they will eat veggies...and meat. People, in case you aren't as informed as I, are made of meat. Pigs will eat us, if given the chance. One of our vets once worried to me about an elderly, unsteady client who insisted on walking among his pigs. "I'm afraid of what someone's gonna find someday." I figure I'll get the pig to the butcher before she gets a chance at me. If that makes me cold-hearted, so be it.

I couldn't eat horsemeat. Or dog. Unless it was some time after TEOTWAWKI. Even then, it would stick in my throat as it went down. If that makes me squeamish, so be it.

So, there you have it. My manifesto on eating home-grown meat. Yes, for most critters, I can look them in the eye as I unload them at the butcher's. Although many of them can hurt, maim, or even kill me, I've cared for them humanely, fed them well, given them the free and open lifestyle they need to grow and thrive. Our critters do not grow in the confined, unnatural manner used to produce most commercially available meats. I prepare them carefully and frugally for meals for my family. So, I have no guilt about using them that way.

No comments: