Posted by: A Part of the Solution | April 6, 2011

Respect for Life

About one quarter of the food available in the US is thrown out every year. How much wasted food are we talking about? Numbers vary, from about 30 million tons to more than 45 million tons. We’re actually throwing out more food than food packaging. Talk about a wretched excess.

Here on the farm, we don’t throw food away. We have too many outlets for any little scrap, crumb or leaf we’re not going to eat ourselves. Chickens and pigs, like dogs and people are scavenger/foragers–omnivorous in a word. What goes to the compost pile is promptly worked over by the chickens. What’s separated out to the slop bucket goes to the pigs as a treat, as do egg shells (to keep their hooves firm and shiny). Fat, skin and gristle from cooked meat goes to the cats and the dog.

The animals we raise to become meat are treated with the utmost respect and concern for their well-being and happiness, yes happiness. We want our pigs and chickens to live a life as close to ideal as possible. We want them to have light, air, exercise, and access to a food stream as it occurs in nature–varying with the seasons and the weather. We want them not just to fulfill their biological imperative, but to revel in it.

We name our livestock. We are affectionate with our livestock. We spend time with them to ensure we know enough about their usual habits and characters that we are also able to discern when they may not be feeling their best. And then we kill them. This is not quite the oxymoron it may seem at first glance.

I don’t want to eat meat coming from animals abused, confined, overcrowded and fed an unnatural diet. I don’t want to eat meat which grew up feeding exclusively on GMOs. I don’t want to eat meat which was raised and slaughtered in batches of five hundred and up. I don’t want to support the meat packaging monopolies which have a stranglehold on the American livestock industry. And I don’t.

When our animals go to slaughter, I make a point of asking for as much of the carcass to come back as they’ll consent to let me have. While I have a fairly broad palate, my real motivation in asking for those organs, slabs of fat and innards is much more basic. We go to too much trouble with each and every individual (and they are individuals, though not the chickens–who seem to have a ‘flock’ mentality which they prefer to individuation), to intentionally waste any of what their death may provide to us. It would be the hallmark of a lack of respect for the animals who become our food not to consume every possible ort and iota of their flesh.

I’m not all the way to head-cheese yet; but that time will come (and sooner rather than later). If you decide to try a hog, steer, goat or lamb share from a family farm–think carefully about how much of  the carcass you purchase you’re ready to use, or learn to use. Show some respect, please.

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