Bacon. Ribs. Chops. Carolina barbecue. Carnitas. Chorizo. Any way you look at it, meat from the humble pig is delicious. I mean let’s face it--there’s a reason people say bacon is the gateway meat. Even as a veg*n, I was enamored with the smoky taste of bacon. If you look closely, there are a plethora of veg*n recipes for “bacon” made from eggplant, coconut, and tempeh. Not to knock those recipes--I like them. But they don’t hold a candle to the real thing. And yet, as any good former veg*n would tell you--there’s a real dark side to pork.
The way pigs are treated in factory farming operations (CAFOs, if you like acronyms like I do) is horrific. Gestation crates prevent sows from standing up and turning around. Pigs have their tails clipped to prevent bites from other, stressed animals. (They say it’s to keep the pigs comfortable, but that “comfort” level is only needed because the animals don’t have enough room to be pigs.) There is nothing natural about commercial pork. And, as such, I refuse to buy it.
I used to believe that the best way to stop factory farming was to abstain from meat altogether. I still feel that given the choice between CAFO meat (poultry, pork, beef, etc.) and none at all I’d choose to be veg*n again, despite the fact that my family can consume neither soy in quantity or gluten. But now I believe that supporting local farmers’ efforts to reclaim pastured, humane animal products is both better for health, the environment, and the movement toward meat the way it should be. That is, from pastured animals and farmers who care. Luckily, northern Virginia is a fantastic place to find farmers who believe in this type of product. In letting their animals live as animals should. In being responsible.
But as I began to eat animal products again I still held ethical reservations. I did believe that it was morally okay to eat meat. Humans are omnivores, and should eat a little of everything. But I also believed that if I were going to eat meat again, I needed to be prepared, should the need arise, to kill for myself an animal to eat. It’s not something I take lightly. I do not like unnecessary violence, and find it abhorrent. (This is one reason I detest CAFOs with such passion. Animal abuse on the way to slaughter is unacceptable, even if said animal is going to die anyway.) But, I cannot be a hypocrite. If I cannot stomach the idea of slaughter so that I can eat, I have no business whatsoever eating meat--regardless of the type of farm from which I purchase said meat.
Several weeks ago I received a notice of classes to be offered at a local farm via our CSA farmer, Rob Moutoux. The classes to be offered included home dairy (yogurt, cheese, kefir, etc.), which Rob would be teaching, and also mushroom cultivation among other topics. But the one that caught my eye was a class on pig butchery. As in, upon arrival in the morning there would be a hog out back, and by afternoon said hog would be pate and well on its way to bacon. As much as the thought of attending a slaughter turned my stomach, I knew I had to sign up. I needed to know I could be there and watch the process from start to finish, participating when appropriate. My husband, Jarrod, signed up with me; we found a babysitter for the day; and we prepared for a long day of, well, everything.
To be continued...