Raising Hogs for Meat
When it comes to raising pigs, there are two types of people; those who have experience raising pigs, and those who do not. We do not. While we have spent a considerable amount of time reading about the process of raising pigs for meat, we have zero experience in the actual process. Because this will be our first year, we are destine
d for a valuable learning experience that I am sure will be filled with some hilarious stories and perhaps some scary experiences to share with friends, if we are fortunate enough to survive them. So why did we decide to do something crazy like raising pigs for meat? We’ve asked ourselves the same question and aside from the joy of experiencing something completely new, here’s a few other reasons why we think this process makes sense for us.
First, we want to know where meat comes from and how the animal was treated. A quick internet search will turn up multiple accounts of animals being treated unethically as a part of the meat production process, or of the countless unhealthy things that can turn up in meat that is a part of a large scale production process. In terms of how the animals are treated, we’re not advocating that pigs should be treated like family pets. Pigs raised for meat are not pets. Though they may be really cute when they’re young, they will grow into very large and potentially dangerous and destructive creatures when they get older if they’re not handled correctly. Our pigs will get plenty of love, but we do not consider them to be pets. We simply no longer wish to participate either directly or indirectly in the meat production process that has pigs raised in cages so small that they cannot turn around, where they are fed foods that fatten them up quickly but lack nutrition and where their living conditions are so poor that it becomes necessary to feed them antibiotics to keep them healthy until they are large enough for processing. There is a certain detachment that we have personally enjoyed related to where our food comes from. By purchasing our food from the super market, or from a local farm, we are not personally involved in the process. As we have learned by raising chickens, there is some emotional difficulty involved when it comes time to take the animal for processing. But this difficulty puts us in touch with our food source and makes us more mindful of how animals are treated during that process. We are certain that with pigs this process will be even more difficult emotionally, but we believe this difficulty is healthy for us and that this is a great thing for our kids to experience while they are growing up. We want them to understand that the meat they consume comes from an animal that was once a living creature.
Our next reason is financial. We have long felt that our choice is to either live a vegetarian lifestyle, a solid option, or to continue to enjoy meat raised on farms that we trust are raising their animals ethically, which we have done for the past several years. Buying meat on this smaller scale, however, comes with a higher price tag. We are now seeking ways to decrease our budget so we can do more with our farm. There is not much profit in small scale farming, but pigs can be one animal that is very cost-effective and maybe even profitable to raise for meat. I cannot say the same thing for chickens, at least in our experience so far.
Our final reason falls in line with our goal of developing our land in sustainable and environmentally conscious ways. We have purchased land that was not historically used for farming. This means that we have had to clear large spaces that will eventually be used for growing food. Much of this land had been left overgrown with weeds, brambles and various other thorny things. One large area had been completely invaded by sumac, which seems to grow from very shallow horizontal root suckers leaving behind a root system that is very difficult to plow through and will readily regrow an entire new forest of sumac in a very short time. We love the idea of using the pigs to tear up this newly cleared land. They will spend their days rooting up the roots, eating through the weeds and brambles and leaving behind a trail of fertilizer. They will, in theory, leave the land much better prepared for planting than it would have been without the pigs living there for a season. If it works, then this seems like a much better option than renting or perhaps even purchasing large equipment to use to tear up the land. And, if they do in fact serve the land in this way, we will have improved the land using animals that will be treated well, will provide our family with food and in the best of circumstances, even earn a little bit of money for us.
With all of that being said, we realize that we are embarking on a new adventure that will very likely be filled with some challenging moments along with some very funny moments. There will be some moments we wished would never have happened and might not admit to. And there will be some times that we’ll never forget. Overall we think that this experience will be very rewarding and fun and we look forward to sharing our experiences with you as we work our way through the process of raising pigs for meat.