"Awe! They're so cute! I can't believe you're going to kill them!!"
If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say that, I'd be as rich as Midas. Then maybe I wouldn't need to raise my own food. I would stand as Patron to my farm friends and buy all they could produce. For better, or worse, however, I'm neither rich, nor poor, but I've had enough with the high prices and insidious practices of American Factory Farming. So this year, we raised our own pigs on our smallholding; Winter'Rest Farm.
Incredibly, there are folks who never stop to think about where any of their food comes from. Perhaps it just magically appears on the store shelves? Distracting themselves with the number at the bottom of their final receipt, these folks blithely wander into the profit machine week in, and week out to stock the fridge and pantry with goods trucked in from all corners of the nation, and globe.
I'm not judging anyone or being critical. I am dogmatic about Living and Letting Live. Each to his or her own.- that kind of thing. But for me, it was time to step off the path of blind and distracted consumption, and blaze my own trail. Last week, after many months of carefully pasture raising and caring for our 3 heirloom pigs, the butcher arrived at the farm to quickly dispatch them and move the carcasses to the small, local slaughterhouse for processing. These 3 pigs never once had an illness that required the wholesale administration of prophylactic antibiotics. They were allowed to grow at their own pace, without the spurring from artificial hormones. They ran in the breezy sun, rooted in the dirt, splashed in their mudhole, played with the water hose on hot days, and slept peacefully under the stars in a hay-filled summer-house that my husband built from sturdy tractor pallets. The kind of natural porcine life that U.S. factory farms deny to millions of American hogs.
The day the butcher came was a tough one. I was filled with anxiety and sadness. But at the same time, I was grateful for these feelings. Immersed completely in the agricultural process that brought food to my family's table, I wasn't able to deny that my burger patty, rack of ribs, or drumsticks were once part of a living creature. I felt a sense of achievement and pride about the clean, open way my pigs were raised. There was no clandestine tractor-trailer hauling dozens of pale-pink identi-hogs down the midnight highway. No secret slaughterhouse where the workers are so immune to the job they're doing they don't stop to think about what's really happening. I was simply one American citizen that chose to recognize, and honor the source of my food.
Last night, our butcher delivered our meat, neatly packed and labeled, in clear vacuum bags. This morning I enjoyed my first taste of thick-cut bacon, lightly smoked and salted. I was surprised at the generous amount of meat on each strip, and the easy, efficient way the fat rendered off. Today's grocery bacon has become nothing more than a condiment. So thin and brittle it shatters if handled improperly, what we recognize as bacon these days is hardly more than a mouthful at best. Our farm-raised bacon was substantial and had the texture of a larger cut of meat- easily adaptable to sandwich making, or use as main-course protein.
The sad truth is that we've gotten so far away from the source of our food, that we don't even realize where it comes from. Countless folks believe that farm animals should be pets, and some even believe pets should be people. The cycle has gotten so convoluted that even policy-makers are becoming involved and are swayed by Hollywood-esque doctrine invented to assuage our guilt about killing and eating the animals that are part of an eons-old Homo Sapien diet. Many deal with this guilt by becoming vegetarians. Some take the practice to extremes by adopting a vegan lifestyle. I have no problem with this; many of my dearest friends- and even my sister- are vegetarians. But I believe its time to unveil the real facts about factory farms, and begin supporting the small farmer so we can all start looking our food in the eye again, and saying thank you.