REFLECTIONS ON SLAUGHTER // the local food report

These days, we don't often interact with the animals we eat. This week on the Local Food Report, I talked with three people who've raised pigs, then gone on to slaughter and finally butcher the animals. Their stories were similar in logistics and in sentiment. As one put it, Killing your own is gut wrenching. But raising them is outstanding. I hope you'll give it a listen.

There are a number of wonderful essays that reflect on livestock slaughter, and I wanted to share links to two of those here. It is something most of us don't have to think about often, but something I think we should. 

The first piece is by E.B. White. "The scheme of buying a spring pig in blossom time, feeding it through summer and fall, and butchering it when the solid cold weather arrives [...] is a tragedy enacted on most farms with perfect fidelity to the original script," he writes. "The murder, being premeditated, is in the first degree but is quick and skillful, and the smoked bacon and ham provide a ceremonial ending whose fitness is seldom questioned." He goes on to write about a pig who didn't followed the script—who instead got sick. It's a beautiful essay, and well worth reading. You can read the full text here.

The next piece is by New York Times journalist Marnie Hanel. It's on a woman named Camas Davis—the same woman Steve Junker mentions in this week's radio piece putting together YouTube videos on how to butcher a pig. The focus of the article is a class she teaches for high school kids where they meet, help slaughter, and finally butcher a pig. Davis says, "I don't feel guilty, and I don't feel bad. It is a pure and intense experience, but it is the most complicated experience you can have in terms of living and dying." You can read the whole article here.

I'd love to hear more from those of you who've had a related experience. I gutted and plucked a wild turkey once, and the thing that struck me most was that the animal was still warm. This shouldn't have been surprising, but it was. It made it feel closer to life somehow. 

And to anyone sick of talking meat, hang on. We'll be on to veggies and stew soon. Thanks for stopping by, everyone.


Unknown said...

I too raise pigs, on a small farm in western Mass. I started from nothing 2 years ago; goats too, also for meat. The original impetus was organicly-raised meat at a price my family could afford. But as I've grown more proficient, so has my purpose - to provide healthy meat inexpensively to my neighbors as well; revive the extinct "local farm" economy (extinct at least as far as livestock goes). And so I have my animals processed at a local family-run slaughterhouse, where they receive the USDA inspection required to be sold commercially. It costs me more per pound, but allows me several freedoms in return. And spreads the "local farming" dollar a little further. I think everyone with enough land should start doing this.

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