Generally speaking, I've gotten away from the styrofoam meat that makes up the lion's share of mass-market supermarket fare. I'm incredibly lucky that I have access to such great sources of humanely raised local meat of such variety, and I feel pretty comfortable with where my food comes from.
Even so, it's rare for me to meet the animals I'm going to be eating. I'd been out to my friend Greg and Sandra's farm, where I've been getting local lamb for several years, and I see pictures of Mo's chickens and ducks and pigs from time to time, but today's visit to The Piggery meant really getting up close and personal with the pigs.
The tour was offered to members of the farm's CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, group. Members pay ahead of time for a share of the farm's output, and over the course of the season, get their portion as it's produced. It helps the farm get capital when they need it, helps them even out demand for their produce, and gives customers a reliable supply. I've paid for a "half hog" share, so over the course of the summer and early fall, I'll be getting cuts that roughly add up to half a pig.
Each week, we're getting entree cuts like pork chops or a shoulder roast (Boston Butt), sliced cuts like bacon or lunch meat, and a "treat" like pate, "Trumanswurst" sausages (bratwurst-style), or baking lard. The baking lard I passed along to a friend who bakes; I get enough cooking fat just by cooking bacon and refrigerating the drippings. :-)
We got to walk out into the paddocks with the pigs, who seemed pretty unfazed by a larger crowd than they generally have to deal with. We were warned not to get too close to the really young piglets, whose moms would not be happy and might overreact, but otherwise could meander around. Heather gave a few people some bread to tear up and feed to the piggies, and many of them came and explored us, too. My feet and legs got nosed and/or nudged quite a bit, and I got stepped on a couple of times. (Luckily, not by any of the really big and heavy pigs. They generally go off for processing when they hit around 250 lbs, though there's one grandmother pig who's up around 600 lbs.) One of them even decided to try nibbling (see middle toe) after sniffing around a bit.
Dave had seemed uncomfortable with the idea of meeting animals he could potentially be eating in a few weeks, but I'm really glad I went, and I'm glad some of the members had brought little kids out for the tour. Everything was very matter-of-fact. This is where the bacon and pork chops we eat comes from, and hiding that from kids isn't helpful. On the contrary, kids who grow up understanding where food comes from are likely to be much more respectful of the process and of the animals.
The tour also included the processing facility, and a peek into the walk-in cooler where the pigs slaughtered this past week (at a facility in Dundee, about a half hour away) were hanging to await butchering and processing. They'll be cut into roasts and chops and ribs, sliced into bacon and cold cuts, and ground into sausages and pate over the next few days.
( More Piggery pictures... )