Hog Butchery Workshop: Getting Personal with Meat


Image credit: Cricket Bread

Paul McCartney once famously said that if slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. I've never been 100% convinced, but there's no doubt that we'd eat less meat, and maybe we'd take more responsibility for the meat we do eat. In fact, that's exactly what is happening as the world learns more about the horrors of factory farming. And while some are choosing to go vegetarian, others are choosing to eat less meat, or they are even relearning how to raise and slaughter livestock or taking up hunting. And a new breed of courses and workshops is catering to those who want to learn more about where their meat comes from. Now I understand that for those who believe all animal killing is wrong, there is little comfort in knowing that folks are doing it themselves, rather than outsourcing. If meat really is murder, then there is little difference, to the victim at least, between a contract killing and a crime of passion. The end result is the same.

But for those of us who do eat meat, and who believe that well-treated animals in an integrated farming system make at least as much sense as vegan organic agriculture, learning more about what goes into animal raising, killing, and butchery is a step toward a more honest and ethical approach to eating meat. That's why I was fascinated to see Trace Ramsey of Cricket Bread's photo essay of his trip to New York to attend a hog butchery workshop (parts two and three here) run by Bryan Mayer of The Greene Grape of Brooklyn.

As always with Trace—whose blogging of crop mob volunteerism I have referenced before—the photos are incredible. And they are accompanied by thoughtful and honest commentary of the ethics of what's going on, informed by his own experiences raising animals for slaughter for the first time this year:

There was a lot of reverence for the pigs during the butchering sessions. We discussed their habits, their escapes from the farm, their food choices. We also discussed how they were not named, a tradition that I do not adhere to. I was very close to my pigs and couldn't conceive that they would go through life without someone calling their names. They didn't get to pick their names, but how many of us had that opportunity? But they also didn't choose to come live with us and eventually to die unnaturally either. I will get into that in a future post.

I'll be keeping an eye on Trace's posts. I'm sure he'll have some important thoughts on the ethics of animal husbandry.

I should note that Trace is an acquaintance and has also been a client of mine. At the time of posting, I will most likely be brining a fresh ham that was raised by Trace and his fellow young farmers at Circle Acres.

Tags: Animals | Farming | Local Food | United States