Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I butchered an entire pig. For nearly five months, my boyfriend Greg and I have been raising three pigs. On a chilly November weekend, that seems like such a time ago, we made the trip up to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to pick up our piglets from a small farm in Lyndonville. Piglets may be the wrong word. We arrived at the farm, a collection of greenhouses, old equipment, and rolling pastures, set
against already snow covered hills in the near distance, to find three small pigs each weighing in at around 100 pounds. We were greeted by farmer Tom, a round-faced, short man who was built like an ox. He started up a clean, new looking tractor and we followed him past the dilapidated farmhouse out into the pig pasture.
Looking back, it seems like a miracle that our 1992 pickup with three pigs in the bed made it the 100 plus miles south back to our homestead. Weather it is due to our overwhelming to do list, or simple bad judgement, I don’t know, but unprepared farming seems to be the only kind we do these days, and this day was no exception.
Fast forward to today, and our little hundred pound pigs are now 300 pounds each, and have been fed almost exclusively food waste. Only two or three times have we bought a bag of grain to get us through a scrap shortage.
I won’t sugar coat it, driving around to local restaurants and bakeries to pick scraps has certainly gotten old, to put it nicely. And for the past week or two I have repeatedly sworn to myself that never again will I raise pigs, how could it possibly be worth this? But my mind changed yesterday as we filled the freezer with beautiful pork chops, pork sirloins, roasts, and sausage while bacon and ham piled high, waiting to be smoked.
Yesterday was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had. Watching the freezer fill up with meat that we had raised, loved, slaughtered, and butchered ourselves. When it was time for the slaughter, we were able to make sure it was humane and respectful. I firmly believe that death is part of life, and to put this out of our minds is a mistake. Slaughtering an animal is never something you learn to like, or even get used to, but it is part of life’s natural process. It is my belief that in choosing to eat meat, I have an obligation to know where my food came from, and a responsibility to the animal who will feed me, to be a part of the journey from farm to table.