Yesterday I saw a sign by the side of the road for a barn sale so I pulled down the driveway for a quick look. I asked if they had any hay forks, windrow rakes or log dogs and the guy was all smiles. I found what I was looking for plus a few extras and then brought up trade for meat. Both he and his wife lit up, we came to a mutually beneficial agreement and I took the tools I had found and returned later that afternoon with my youngest son in tow and a big box of meats- ground beef, chorizo, maple cured ham, skirt steak, ribeyes, sweet Italian sausage and a couple of pints of dark maple syrup.
I don’t expect that most people would want to do their own slaughter and frankly I don’t blame them. You have to be committed to your food and your animals on a pretty serious level to do something like that and you need a lot more than a good rifle and a sharp knife. What I don’t understand is why so many people who have the knowledge of our current food systems still avoid finding a local or even not that distant farmer to purchase from directly. Knowing how someone cares for his livestock, what kind of feeds they eat, how its processed is no different than researching your physician or mechanic and is in most cases far more important. Not everyone needs a heart bypass surgery or a new transmission, but every one of us eats food daily. Is there anything we do that is more personal, more tied to the overall physical health of our body than the nourishment we take from our daily meals?
I get the price conscious decision, but the fact is that as an excuse it isn’t only weak, it’s not even true. A pound of filet mignon I sell for $25 is going to provide the protein requirement for 3 adults. It would cost $50 in ground chuck from WalMart to equal the same protein because of filler and fat. The added costs associated with soil depletion, petrochemical usage, and future medical costs are part of the price no one factors in- never mind that when the last family farm is gone and the multinational food corps take over all production they will no longer have to keep prices lower and will charge whatever they like.
I get folks who come up to the farm and purchase a live animal and wait while I slaughter it for them. Some will even take a hand in butchering it and packing it up. Their cost is on average about $4 a pound for an entire animal from chickens and goats all the way to hogs and beeves. People with a decent freezer can feed their family well for months if not a whole year for a thousand dollars. How many hours of their life would they spend on grocery runs, how many gallons of gas, how many blah tasting meals or stomach upsets?
There are times in your life when you are so powerless that people who are bigger and stronger will hold you down and make you hit yourself in the face with your own hands and say “why are you hitting yourself?” Most of us grow out of that and learn to stand up for for ourselves and refuse to be bullied and pushed around. A lot of us decide to keep taking it and some of us even continue to abuse themselves without being forced to. Eating meat filled with wood pulp or worse yet, feeding it to your loved ones is the kind of self abnegation and masochism I just cannot fathom. And the worst part is that the ones who continue to do so make it so that sooner or later, no one will be able to opt out.