I personally made the pigs into pork.
The pigs had become beautifully fattened and muscled by the time the calendar flipped to October and I knew the end was near for our pigs. As I waited for a cold streak in the weather forecast, I learned and prepared all that I practically could about slaughter, butchering and charcuterie through books, youtube, podcasts and visualization. I cleaned tables and containers and knives. I bought butchers twine. I set up a hoist and a meat hanging area. I marketed and sold 1/6th pig variety bundles. And everyday I went down to the pigs, fed them, talked to them, rubbed their backs and bellies. It was a weird feeling, no doubt.
People said not to get attached, not to name them, that we would be sad to kill them. They were right about the last one – that it would be sad to kill them – but I think wrong about the first two. The butcher hog is on this Earth for 6 or 8 months. These two – Gertie and Ginger – were loved and literally adored throughout their time here. And now, when I eat that pork, I know what it is. And is that not the best way it could be? Is it better to eat a nameless pig from Iowa that was produced as a widget of industrial agriculture? To support an undignified system in order to gain a degree of separation from what meat really is? Or is it better to give a pig the best pig life it could live, to sing hello to it every morning from across the field, to bring it apples and kale, to give it trees and sunshine and to let it express its nature in a way that brings the pig and the farmer joy? You obviously know what I think.
Future pigs will be loved and adored, too, but probably won’t create the same angst as processing day approaches. For pig processing at Farmcraft, this first experience will be the pinnacle of stress and anxiety, and it was still a very cool and worthwhile chapter of craft and labor. We plan to continue to sell animal shares and process on-farm. Custom processing is an awesome craft and it is the best of all worlds – the customer can have a connection with the people and the place. They can have full control over how their meat is processed and packaged. The animals live their lives, right to the very end, in their favorite environment. They are turned into delicious sustenance by the people that value them most and want to produce, sell and share the highest and best products possible. Animal husbandry and custom processing are crafts we will continue to practice and hone at Farmcraft, and our friends and customers will be the beneficiaries of true integrity meat.
Our 1/6th pig variety bundles included chops, roasts, ribs, soup bones, smoked ham, smoked bacon, plain ground sausage, breakfast sausage and Italian sausage. What a labor of love to make all of these products. It was entirely worthwhile. And it is delicious and nutritious. Seriously, it is full of flavor that you can’t buy at the store. The meat is dark red, juicy and succulent. The fat is soft and melty, higher in healthy Omega 3 fats and lower in Omega 6 due to their outdoor environment and foraged diet. I am proud to say that this year at Farmcraft we produced (and will continue to produce) some of the best food a person can get.
I’ve made my peace with Farmcraft animal husbandry and butchering, and I am beyond happy to provide integrity meats to my friends and community. If a person is having a hard time with the closeness to the animal, here is a short true story: That pig or chicken likes you. It’s friendly. And it’s your friend. You are going to kill it and eat it. How sad!? But guess what? If you lay down and take a nap with it, you’ll wake up to it nibbling on you. Too deep a slumber, and that pig would gladly eat you entirely. That’s just what life is.