Sunday, June 8, 2008

Meat Delivery

We sent two sows out to be slaughtered on Tuesday and they returned on Friday as meat. We had been planning to slaughter and butcher at least one of them ourselves, but the timing was all wrong. I was more than game to get it done, but I could not slaughter and dress a 300 + pound pig by myself and Trent (who absolutely could do it himself) was not going to be available to help because he was too busy cutting and baling hay. Frankly, I was pretty disappointed that we had to send them out.

A big part of the reason why I have chosen to work on a farm is that I want to try to fully confront the implications of my craft and my appetite. So far, I think I've done a pretty good job of moving towards an apprehension of what happens along the chain of cause, effect and affect when I choose to cook or eat something. But I don't yet know what it is like to a) raise a large animal, b) kill it at close range, c) butcher it, d) cook it and e) eat it.

With the slaughter and return -in the form of meat- of our two Berkshire sows , I've experienced everything except b and partially c. I've broken down large animals into primal cuts but I have never bled out and gutted anything larger than a rabbit.

Apart from being slightly disappointed over not having had the opportunity to kill and butcher at least one of the sows, my feelings about what happened are characteristically complicated. The meat is superb and I'm very pleased at having had a hand in producing it. And while I would not describe myself as feeling sad that the sows are gone, I definitely feel their absence. If nothing else, they were two very big animals who made a lot of noise and now that noise is gone. And as Trent noted yesterday when I half-jokingly asked him if the piglets were upset that we sent away their mother(s), they are definitely less rambunctious now that they don't have two mammoth adults to stand between them us.

The quiet that replaces the sows has made me more aware than ever that the business of cooking and eating is very serious business.

I'm sure it's going to be even harder for me to look at one of those asinine food ads that encourage people to "think" about eating or overeating as entertainment without smelling those sows. And I'm even more sure that the people who run those idiotic "cooking" shows that treat cooking like a spectator-sport are either denial-artists or cynical liars. Cooking is not a sport, eating is not entertainment.

I suppose it is okay to occasionally pretend that these essential activities are something other than unique and sacred (as in "set apart") practices, but I am also convinced that when if you ignore what is really happening when you cook and eat something, you lose.

Here is a brief sideshow with a few pictures of some of the belly we took from the sows. There are also a few shots of some of the eggs that Trent chickens are cranking out. I think has has more than 300 hundred laying hens now. I'm not sure but I think we are harvesting about 12-15 dozen eggs/day now.


Gary Allen said...

I've done B-E -- and can tell you that slaughtering a large animal is much more pleasant in cold weather than in the early summer heat we've been having lately. There is something about the animal's scent, wafted by its living heat, that reappears, later, in its cooking aroma. It's a real eye-opener (or should I say "nose-opener"?) for anyone who truly wants to understand the food he/she eats.

Chris said...

I must say that is some beautiful belly. I think, if my farmer has any, my next belly will be Berk.

How long is that knife and where did you find it?

french tart said...

i've done C, but it was an unexpected chore. long story short: yearsss ago, i was dating a herpetologist who worked for a guy who raised exotic mammals. guy was out of town and had asked my date to swing by his house for something, but he'd forgotten that a shipment of dead beasts to feed his tigers would arrive while he was out. so at 11 pm one night, while wearing 3 inch heels and in full make-up (as we were kind of on a date), we had to butcher and freeze three deer. the smell nearly knocked me out.

i had totally forgotten about this particular incident until just now. hmm.

Anonymous said...

My ancestors who raised cows for milk and beef used to get together with neighbors and share in the work of disassembling one on occasion. For that size animal, it is the only way. That process is, or at least used to be, a community effort.
When I was a teenager I tried preparing a fresh squirrel but it grossed me out and I never ate the final product. What would I do if I really HAD to do it? I don't know. I know hunger would play a part in the success of the final product but that is no replacement for expertise.