I’ve been asked more than once if I’m really going to eat any of the animals we have or will raise. It’s an interesting question.
Last fall my daughter Annika, my mom and I drove to southern Virginia to visit SVU, one of the schools on Annika’s college-list. The trip was fun, the area amazing, the foliage beautiful and the school fantastic. While stopping for a bathroom break Annika and I observed a big truck waiting at a red light. It had lots of wire cages stacked one on the other reaching high, and in these open to whatever-the-weather-is-for-the-day were turkeys crammed in. It was cold outside and these poor creatures did not have any shelter for the winds when the truck was moving, nor did they have any room to move.
The turkeys were all laying at the bottom of the cages, no doubt cold, windblown and scared out of their minds.
We are getting close to Thanksgiving again, and these trucks are not an unusual sight. I hope you will consider buying this year’s turkey from a local farmer. They need your support, and you deserve a really great alternative to the common store bought meat.
I love this picture!! It is true that a picture says more than a thousand words. This is Kim and her daughter Natalie. Together they own and operate Ironstone Farm in Pottstown, PA where they raise pastured happy turkeys, chicken, cattle and pigs. Click here for a link to their website.
Commercial meat chickens live a short miserable life as well. When in the process of getting the feathers off (after they are killed) they are dunked in scalding water. The water they are dunked in is so dirty and gross, full of feces and grime. No wonder we have to basically overcook our chicken to make sure we don’t get salmonella. Check they labels of the chicken you buy.. most of it states “no more than x% of water added”. I do wonder about the quality of the meat. A friend who has in-laws in the poultry business told me it actually takes longer sanitizing the building where the birds are kept and raised (they are usually ready to be processed after 6-8 weeks) than it takes to raise them.
While getting ready for our pigs, I researched different housing options and how to best shelter mom and piglets when farrowing (having babies). I mostly found ads and articles about farrowing crates. These crates are not much bigger than the sow, they are so narrow that she can’t turn around in them. She can lay down or stand up, and in order to decrease the 30% mortality rate for the piglets (no wonder), there are bars between the sow and her piglets so all the babies nurse though bars. Mom can’t even turn to check on them. The pictures I saw were awful. The commercial sows spend most of their short lives in these small confined areas so that they will be easier to manage. The piglets are taken from mom sometimes as early as 3 weeks so she can get pregnant with the next litter fast. When I saw the pictures I studied their eyes and were struck by how desperate and sad they all looked. Pigs are the fifth smartest mammal in the world which means they are smarter than a dog. When we hear about dogs being treated like this we react. Click here for a link to an article by the humane society regarding farrowing crates. I do encourage you to read it.
The difference in how those pigs looked and ours is amazing. My pigs run and jump. They PLAY. They nestle in close to each other when napping. They are social and sweet and tough all at the same time. They are curious, they come running when they see us. They beg for treats (and get them). They dig big holes in the ground, they wallow in mud baths and wander amongst the trees- which they often use as a scratching post.
This is Peppa Pig and her first litter of piglets. They have fresh air, mud and green grass. Just what a pig loves.
I have spoken to many who have chosen to become vegetarians and vegans as a result of how the commercially raised livestock is treated. I respect them for their will power, but their path is not mine. I like meat, so now that I’m aware of it, I’m changing how I buy it instead. Last year’s turkey came from Kim, and it was delicious.
I recently spoke to the butcher about having our first pigs sent to market. Is it easy to do? Absolutely not. My pigs have names. They have different personalities and since we don’t have many, so we know each and every one. I know they have had the best lives we could give them, and they are healthy and happy. They are not stressed, they breathe fresh air and not the toxic fumes of manure that causes them to get pneumonia (which then gets treated with antibiotics). I feel that being sad to see them go is a fitting tribute to their life, they deserve to be mourned as a thank you for their sacrifice. I can live in peace with my conscience knowing I’m eating “happy” meat. After all, it is said that we are what we eat!