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Butchering Meat – Why I Won’t Be Doing It on Our Homestead
It’s so tempting, and easy, to get overcome with the fantasy of living on a homestead. It’s fun to totally forget the realities of life as it is now. I know it’s certainly something I’ve struggled and fought with. I love the idea of seeing myself as some sort of prairie heroine with her hair tucked up into a bonnet, waiting for her (very British) cowboy to come riding up over the hills, a beautiful sunset painted in the sky behind him. It would be awesome if I could magically become this person. The truth is, no matter how much our situations change we pretty much remain who we’ve always been. And that’s why I will not be butchering meat on our homestead.
I’m an animal lover. I’ve spent my life surrounded by cats, dogs, and chickens. I love animals! And, honestly, I like to eat meat. Like most people, I get through life by just not really thinking about the butchering process. Frankly, I’m happy like that. I don’t want to ‘meet my meat’. I know that as soon as I start spending time with any animal I’m supposed to eat, I’ll become the most devout vegetarian anyone’s seen in generations.
But it’s not just the idea of killing animals I love that stops me from butchering our own livestock. I am also very aware of the physical limitations I have. These limitations keep me from raising a cow, or a couple of pigs. Sure, we keep goats, but not for any real purpose… they can’t even clean brush effectively. They’re pets, plain and simple. The constraints we have with space, as well as how much more work it is to raise large livestock like cattle makes them simply unrealistic for us to do ourselves.
And I’m okay with this… but I really don’t need to get to know my steak that well.
To be fair, I am also in full support of humane slaughtering. And definitely a fan of improving the living conditions of commercially raised animals. Ideally, though, I’d love to see a return to small farming and ranching operations. And while I know that it will raise the cost of commercial meat, I’m actually okay with that. It’s probably a media-reinforced bias, but I feel there are too many stories of abuses and mistreatment in commercial livestock operations. These stories prevent them from being an example of positive stewardship, and stewardship should be a strong focus for those in the business.
In fact, one of the reasons I’m so focused on building the homestead in South Dakota with a focus on sustainability and permaculture is this idea of stewardship. And I like the Biblical definition of stewardship – “Utilising and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.” In other words, God has given us an entire world of resources to use, but also given us the duty of protecting and caring for them.
Proper animal husbandry and humane slaughtering practices go hand in hand with that idea. We’re not given authority of the beasts of the field and birds of the air so that we can cause them pain, discomfort, and terrorize them with fear before their passing. Instead, we should always be striving to ensure that they are living their best life. This means that they are healthy, well-cared for, and when it’s time to slaughter them, that it is done as swiftly and humanely as possible.
Personally, I feel that smaller operations and family farms are better able to achieve good stewardship and meet these goals. And I fully support them, especially if they offer herdshares!
Filling Our Freezer with Fresh Meat
Herdshares are a great way to fill your freezer with freshly butchered meat, and we’ve done it a few times and have always been spectacularly happy with the result. We don’t have to raise the food ourselves. We don’t have to deal with the slaughtering. All we DO have to do is show up at the butcher to get our meat.
Chickens are a bit harder. I’ll admit I’ve had some trouble here in the PNW finding a way to make my plan work. But before I break into raising chickens and ducks, I’m going to see if I can’t find someone that would be willing to trade the work of slaughtering and plucking for… something else. Ideally, I’m looking for someone that will trade for a percentage of the hanging weight of my poultry, but there’s some flexibility.
I am not at all opposed to people raising, slaughtering, and butchering their own meat. In fact, I’m really impressed with people that are able to do it. Really, it would be better if we were able to separate ourselves and do what had to be done, and long-term our survivability and sustainability may suffer for it. But, part of creating your own sustainable self-sufficiency is making decisions that are long-term based on who you are. You absolutely should not make plans based on who you hope to become or wish you’ll change into.
For me, that means accepting that we won’t be slaughtering meat ourselves or doing the butchering. And I’m okay with that.