Posts Tagged ‘pig farming’

Piggies and PB&J’s

When in doubt tell the truth.
-Mark Twain

I had one of those parenting moments the other day. Y’know, where  you’re faced with a hard question and don’t know quite what to say? I wouldn’t mind so much, except I’m not a parent. Let me explain. Cory has nieces. Two little angels that I love more than I think prudent for a merely, two-year relationship, but I digress. Hallie, 5 years old and wise beyond her years, came up to the apartment when Cory was still at work. After hitting me up for a PB&J, we settled in for a nice chat.

We talked about the weather, unicorns, chickens, the staying power of stickers; y’know, good stuff. Then little Hallie fixed me with a look reserved for 5 year olds and Disney Princesses…

“Jen, where did the piggies go? I know you used to have piggies! Where did they go?!”

I froze.

This was the moment I’d been dreading. I had been told over and over, NOT to tell Hallie (the perceived Drama Queen) where the pigs went. I had been warned that any attempt at the truth would result in tears and I was not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to tell Hallie the truth.

I looked into her earnest little eyes, took a deep breath and said: “Hallie, that’s a hard question. Do you know where bacon comes from?”

She thought for a minute and then she said, wide-eyed, “You turned them into BACON!”

I nodded.

“But…but…why didn’t you just buy bacon at the grocery store?!”

Good question.

“Well Hallie, all bacon, even the bacon that comes from the grocery store, come from a piggie.”

She looked confused.

“Sometimes, the pigs that get made into bacon for the grocery store don’t lead very happy lives. We wanted to make sure the bacon that we ate, came from VERY happy pigs.”

“Oh.” She still looked confused. “But why didn’t you just wait until the pigs died [naturally] and then make them into bacon?”

Another good question. In my opinion more difficult to answer.

“Pigs get very big. After many years they get too big to keep, and the bacon gets too fatty to eat. Pigs are best eaten after about one year.”

“Well,” she sighed and flung her hands down onto the table, “I guess some pigs are made into bacon. I guess that’s just the way it is. It’s sad though. I liked the pigs.”

BACON!

While the above is a bit paraphrased, there were no tears. Just questions. As far as I’m concerned, very intelligent questions. Hallie eats bacon. No one would hesitate to show a child where broccoli comes from, and while there may be a world of difference between a pig and a broccoli plant, I think it behooves us all to teach children a reverence for their food sources. Just sayin’.

I’m not a parent, but I’ve decided that if you’re doing something you have to lie to a 5-year-old about, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

And just for the record…”Daddy (or Mommy) and I need a little privacy right now”, is NOT a lie.

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Bacon Tears

A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an “and” not by a “but”.
– John Berger
 

Tuesday was the day. Pig day. I was upset to learn that the Slaughter-er (I don’t think that’s actually what he’s called, it just sounds better than Pig Killer) wasn’t able to come until two in the afternoon, an hour after I’d left for work, and three hours before Cory came home. I fretted for days about leaving them alone to their fate, but I had a plan.

On Tuesday, about an hour and a half before PK was due to arrive, I mixed a bottle of apple jack with several handfuls of grain in a five gallon bucket. I let the grain absorb the apple jack and then added a half a bottle of corn syrup, and a few dashes of cinnamon. I had been assured by reputable sources that getting them drunk would be enough to take the edge off any awareness they might have.

I brought the bucket out to the pigs and dumped the contents into a shallow trough near their feeder. They trotted over and shuffled through my offering. At first I thought they were digging in, but I soon realized they were just moving it around, like kids with unwanted broccoli. I scooped up handfuls of the goop and held it under their noses, cooing, trying to tempt them. It didn’t work. I put some into their feeder, but they nosed it out of the way and continued eating their regular grain. I kicked myself, realizing I should have tied up their feeder the night before so that they would have been especially hungry.

I finally gave up, and left for work feeling a little sick.  

So, nothing went quite as planned. I wanted to be there, or at least know that Cory was there, but from what I was told it was very quick, just one bullet each. In the end it was their good natures that made it easy. When PK arrived, they went right up to him, giving him a clean shot. Walter went first. Flo oinked a bit and scurried into the hut, but she soon came out, trotting right back to PK. Cory, in a lachrymose moment, suggested that she may have gone willingly because she decided she couldn’t live without Walter. This sentiment will haunt me.

I told Cory it was extraordinary that I’ve been eating pigs for 29 years without having any idea what that meant; without really knowing where the meat came from. Cory shook his head. “You knew the meat came from a pig,” he said. “You just didn’t know what a pig actually was before now.” 

I’ve decided not to buy pork products in the grocery store anymore. It’s important that I raise the pigs I eat. If I don’t raise a pig, I don’t have to eat a pig. Now that I know what a pig is, I can’t be so careless.

Living with Pigs

Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

-W. Somerset Maugham

I’ve been trying to figure out how best to proceed with the pig slaughter. Cory is convinced that I should be away from home when the deed is done to ensure I don’t hurl myself between pig and bullet, but I’m not so convinced. I’ve spent the last few days researching how to kill a pig. I wouldn’t recommend this as a pleasant pastime, especially if you have access to YouTube, but my overall fear has diminished. As they say, knowledge is power. My favorite account so far has been by Chuck Wooster of Sunrise Farm in White River Junction, Vermont. In his book Living with Pigs, Wooster devotes more than 2 full pages to “emotional preparation” for slaughter day, something no other source of my acquaintance did. He describes how he felt after his first pig slaughter…

“I was tired and dirty and ready for sleep…But I also felt a distinct skip in my step and an enormous sense of competence. It wasn’t just the pride of a job well done, though I certainly felt some of that. It was the pride of tackling a job that most people find too horrifying to even consider, let alone to discuss in polite company, and discovering that it wasn’t so bad after all. Discovering, in fact, that it was a job full of richness and meaning, wonder and learning. An unforgettable experience…”

This description strengthened my resolve to at least be there. I don’t think I’m ready to kill a pig myself. I’m terrified that my lack of experience would somehow result in suffering for Walter and Flo, something I could never forgive myself for, but I think I need to at least be there. I can’t leave the house one morning, scratch Walter behind the ears and then come home that night to find him in the freezer. I don’t need any more disconnect between my food and its source; I’ve had that my whole life. The goal now is to firmly and permanently make the connections, and maybe that means seeing this through to the end.