Why would anyone want to raise their own meat?
Why would someone spend so much time, effort, money and life raising animals for food?
Here's 5 Reasons Why We Raise Our Own Meat:
CAFO's make me cry.
Factory farmed meat is horrifying. Just google "Factory Farming" or "CAFO" and look at the images. It is unsettling, sad and shocking to say the least. It breaks my heart to see these animals all crammed into such small spaces living such miserable lives. To think that just a few decades ago all these chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs were living, grazing and enjoying lush pastures and fields.
Our society has streamlined the process of raising animals for food in the smallest space possible, as quickly as possible, netting the most meat possible. Pigs are being raised in concrete buildings where they don't see sun, grass or dirt. Cows are crammed into dirt lots with nothing but piles of manure and other cows. Chickens and turkeys are being raised by the thousands in buildings without insects or earth to scratch and peck. Not only are these animals not being exposed to sun, pastures and fresh air; they are mostly being fed GMO corn, corn and more corn.
What may have begun as good intentions has become a sad excuse for a life for these animals and the quality of the meat has been sacrificed.
CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are a failure in every category but one:
• The animals suffer. Many are fed antibiotics regularly to keep them from dying (the lack of ventilation, crammed spaces and deficient diet all contribute to their health issues).
• The employees suffer. Respiratory issues have also been lined to people who work with these animals in the CAFO's. Employees wear face masks because the air is so polluted.
• The Earth suffers. With thousands and thousands of animals living in such tight spaces there is going to be a manure problem. If these animals were grazing pasture the manure would fertilize the ground. When the animals are in concrete buildings, dirt lots or cages — manure is a problem instead of a blessing.
• The consumers suffer. It is no surprise that raising meat in these circumstances produces an inferior product. Grass-fed meat is some of the healthiest foods available. On the contrary, meat raised in CAFO's who are fed mostly (GMO) corn are not healthy. Increased rates of heart disease and cancer are undeniable since we moved our animals into feed-lots.
• The only ones who gain by raising animals in these cramped, horrible environments are the folks making the money. They can raise a large volume of meat in a small space very quickly for little money.
On the flip side we have happy, free-ranging, pasture eating, sunbathing critters. Like the ones at my place!
In order to become healthy, organic, meat that will be nourishing and life giving to us — the animal itself needs to have lived a healthy life and ate a healthy diet.
I want nutrient rich, healthy, cancer-fighting food.
We are what we eat.
I want my cows to eat grass. I want my chickens to eat bugs. I want my pigs to be playing in the mud. I want animals living, eating and grazing the way God made them to. I want my animals bathing in the sunshine, napping in pastures and living free, happy lives.
It is wonderful that the life that is best for the animal's enjoyment is also healthier for the animal, better for the farmers working with the animals, life-giving to the earth and better for the consumer who eats the animal. It is a win-win.
Everyone benefits when animals are free.
Have you ever watched free-range chickens? Have you ever taken a baby pig for a walk? Have you ever kissed a calf? Have you ever held a just-hatched chick in your hand?
Raising your own animals is so fun! The friendly Jersey cows who want to be in your lap. The adorable piggies who squeal at your arrival every morning. The furry bunnies that climb the sides of their cage because they want you to hold them. The chickens — they're friendly, they're stupid, they're yard art, they're hilarious.
Animal husbandry is entertaining.
It's good for me.
Raising your own meat is going to improve your diet and your healthy in ways you may never know.
It's like the saying about firewood: It warms you twice. First, when you're chopping it. Second, when you're burning it.
Raising your own food is similar. It's healthy for you twice. First, when you raise, feed, water, care for, clean up after, and process it. Second, when you eat it.
If you don't think raising animals is a workout you need to get a couple. Whew! They keep me moving all year long. No matter what the temperature, the weather, the schedule, the holiday, the sickness, the anything — the animals must be cared for. It is a daily workout that you won't skip, put off, procrastinate or cancel. Because you can't. It must be done — every day.
It's the perfect workout plan. Unlike that gym membership that involved good intentions but was easy to drop — the animal-workout-plan is a sure thing. You can't skip, forget, take a day off or reschedule. Exercise, yea!
It's fast (sometimes).
You can raise a few pigs in a summer: get them in spring — you're done by Halloween. It's fast, it's fun, it's bacon! If you hate it, it's over in 4 months.
Raising chicks is even faster. Get some just-hatched chicks and in 6 weeks you're eating fried chicken. Easy!
Raising ducks will make your head spin. If you thought those chicks got huge in a hurry, go get a duckling. You can practically see it growing before your eyes. It only takes 4-5 weeks to raise a duckling into a full-blown-duck. Amazing.
Raising rabbits is almost as fast as meat chickens. They are born tiny little, naked-mole-rats and before you know it they are ... rabbits. In 2 quick months you won't have baby bunnies anymore. Waaaaah!
Here's a look at how long it takes us to raise our food:
Pigs: 4 months
Meat Chickens: 6 weeks
Ducks: 4-5 weeks
Rabbits: 2 months
Now these are some timelines I can handle. They are perfect for all ADHD homesteaders. With any of these animals you are in and out fast. If you hate it, it's over in no time and you don't ever have to do it again. You will have learned a ton. You will have meat in the freezer. You will have new self-sufficient, life-skills. Yea!
Cows are on the other side of the livestock raising spectrum.
Raising a cow takes time, time, time; land, land, land and patience, patience, patience. (especially if you are raising it on a grass-fed diet).
I'm here to tell you, if you want to raise your own beef — you'll be eating in a year and a half. I hope you're not hungry. Raising a cow (or steer) is a looooooooong process. You can (and we have) processed our steers at a year old, but you usually won't get as much meat and marbling.
It's cheaper (sometimes).
This one is debatable. If I told you how much I spend at the grocery each week to feed my family of 6 you would think I was a liar. It is not very much.
HOWEVER, you should see my feed bills. There is a cost for hay, grain, fencing, barns, vet bills and all things necessary to raise your own meat.
I do think it is often cheaper to raise your own animals. This is especially true when you let your cow raise your beef and feed your chickens mostly from scraps and free-ranging.
If you live in a city, or a neighborhood, or a suburb and it is not likely you will be getting a flock of meat chicks or a cow anytime soon you can still help all the sad, cramped, mistreated animals living in factory farms. How? By purchasing free-range products.
Every time we spend our dollars on meat we are voting for how we want our meat raised. If you buy the Big Brand Chicken, you are voting for them.
If you buy the caged, generic eggs you are voting for sad, stacked, caged chickens.
If you buy the bacon, sausage, and meat that is from CAFO raised pigs you are helping the CAFO's stay in business.
Likewise, when you buy the locally raised, free-range variety you are helping the free-range, organic farmers and farms raise happy, healthy, free animals.
Save a cow — eat free range!
To get old fashioned advice, farm tips and homesteading fun delivered straight to you be sure to subscribe via email (here) or "like" the blog on Facebook (here) or even sign up to follow the blog on Twitter (here).