This is our project this weekend: teaching a valuable homesteading skill. Appreciating your food and knowing that it was raised, harvested, and prepared with care from field to plate is part of a healthy lifestyle. Your food is your nourishment and an investment you make in your health.
If you’ve never been part of harvesting your own protein, you’ve missed out on a powerful experience. We don’t use the term “butcher” for several reasons. The word is loaded with connotations that are the antithesis of the care that goes into the harvesting process. When an animal gives it’s life for us to live, it’s encumbant upon us to honor that by making good use of it. The only thing we throw away is the squeal. Everything else is used to feed something. Life for life is honored and not to be wasted.
We were thrilled that over half the students in the Anyone Can Farm on the road class in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula plan to harvest their own animals in the next few weeks after learning how this weekend. They have raised the animals to full weight and now want to finish the process. Why?
- Ownership of their food source from start to finish.
- Food security.
- A stress free process for the animal.
- The ability to truly utilize every bit of the animal so nothing of the life is wasted.
- Save money on paying a processor to do the job.
Not everyone who comes to a class will go home and do it, but no one has left feeling it was a waste of time. It’s a chance to experience something profound in the production of meat and to see how it can be done with honor and care. Others have felt that they understand the process enough to be able to buy a half or a whole from a farmer and know what they want and how to use all the gifts of the animal.
Randy Buchler at Shady Grove Farm U.P. is modelling that. A few years ago we did a class for him in part because he didn’t think he could do the actual killing of his pigs. This year he did the deed, and felt it was important as the pigs weren’t at all worried and the kill was entirely stress free. The pigs’ job on the farm was to feed the farmer and they enjoyed a fabulous pig life right to the last split second. As part of appreciating what the pigs did for him, Randy makes full use of every bit of the pig to feed his farm. The earthworms (compost), chickens and dog get the relatively small amount not going in Randy’s freezer. A typical yield from a USDA butcher will give you 50-60% of your pig back to you and they throw aw away the balance as waste. Randy will put about 85% of the whole pig in his freezer and utilize the “waste” (hair, intestines, scraps) to feed his farm system. Everything is used for the betterment of the whole. This is the natural cycle of life in which even in death the energy of life continues on, not lost at all.
When you become your own farmer, or make sure you know your farmer, you become part of this regenerative process. You become part of the system that honors, regenerates, and sustains life, which is what farming, “husbanding,” is really all about. This is how Anyone Can Farm!