We don’t name our chickens. Customers, guests in our farm-stay, and interns are taken aback to find we name our pigs. And we continue talking about those pigs by name when death works its transformation and our pigs are rendered into anonymous and indefinite pork. Are we better farmers for doing so? Are we better people? I don’t know.
But I do know that I prefer to have a real relationship with my meat whenever possible. I do know I prepare each carcass thoroughly: rendering fat and using it in other cooking, feeding gristle and ligaments to the pets, simmering tips and bones and bits into stocks, and using every scrap of flesh in general. It may not be easier to eat an individual one has known and often, in the case of the pigs, loved; but I would rather be an informed, engaged omnivore than a mass-market omnivore.
Less and less of our meat comes from foam trays encased in plastic wrap. More and more of our meat comes from here on the farm, or the butcher shop which processes our pigs. We’re eating many fewer chickens every year. The flesh of the commercial stuff is an odd color, and texture, and the flavor is wholly leached from it. Those boughten chickens don’t taste right once one has begun eating pastured chickens. We’re considering getting into broiler chickens soon. We like and understand their nature, which I summarize as Acquisitive, Opportunistic and Avaricious. And knowing them, I would rather raise and eat my own than trust to the methods of the giant agribusiness producers.
Our beef comes from small herds grazing the adjoining zip codes. We pick it up at the meat locker. That beef is local, and it is pastured. The fat from those steers doesn’t film one’s mouth. And that fat melts differently when cooked than what is for sale in the mainstream grocery stores. The beef tastes different, yes. But the difference is a terroir thing. That particular steer stood on a specific piece of ground and converted unique proportions of growing plants into flesh. The flavor and texture of the meat of the bovine in question are testament to its lifestyle.
Our fish mostly come from the pond behind the barn. We eat bass and blue gill fairly frequently in the summer. We’re buying salmon and some tuna (less and less, really). There are other sources of most of the nutrients bio-available in ocean going fish. I aim to track them down. I like shrinking the farm’s carbon footprint by having less food from the ocean, any ocean. And I dislike eating anything so unsustainably fished and farmed as those two are.
We’re saying good-bye to Lance today. This blog post is by way of acknowledging our longstanding debt of friendship and educational opportunity which met and melded in Lance. He’s orthopedically challenged, as like all pigs he’s continued growing every day he’s alive. He’s lonely without his pasture-mates, but doesn’t want the company of any other members of our herd. It’s his time, though he will be missed.