Home-raised meat invokes quite a strange image in many people’s minds and I wasn’t any exception until recently. Now twenty-six, I grew up in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area very close to Oakland, California. Until I was sixteen, I lived in a city environment where grocery stores, corner markets, big box stores, and malls were completely acceptable places to buy food. They still are I suppose. But once I started developing my very own backyard farm two years ago, I realized how unnatural those little styrofoam packages of meat were.
After I had an emergency procedure done to remove my gallbladder, I found that there were a lot of foods I could no longer eat. Most of them being fast-food, processed foods, and commercial meats. Obviously there was something seriously wrong with this food if my body was literally rejecting it. I read up on some of the nasty ingredients and processes that our meat is put through and came to the conclusion that I did not want myself, or my family, eating this disgusting “food” any longer. Luckily, I already had a handful of chickens and a garden going, but this was the real tipping point for this city girl to start raising meat animals.
It certainly is a scary idea --for those of us who did not grow up around farm life-- to start raising animals for the sole purpose of butchering and eating them. At first it seemed almost wrong. Why am I caring for and watching this animal grow if my only plan for it’s future is to stick it in a crock pot with some potatoes? It feels morbid at best. I would like to say that that feeling has dissipated for me, but I still combat my personal demons when raising animals for the freezer.
Hopefully my own apprehensions don’t discourage anyone from raising meat animals, because that is certainly not my intention. It is just good to keep in mind that the feeling of guilt is normal and I’m sure everyone who raises meat animals has felt it at one point or another. I am currently raising meat rabbits so that little thing I like to call the “Easter Bunny Syndrome” is a big factor. For me anyway, it is a lot harder to butcher a cutesy, fluffy bunny than a squawky chicken. Meat guilt still gets me every time, but which is worse? Butchering your own meat animals or buying mystery meat with chemical additives? That, I suppose, is the real question. I came to the realization that many people do at this point; I would rather raise my own meat and know what that animal ate and how it lived than eat another frozen turkey burger from the grocery store.
I have been raising French angora rabbits for both wool production and now meat for a little over two years now. I have been butchering my own rabbits for meat for about seven months now and I will say that my whole perspective on home-raised meat has changed. There is no way I will ever go back.
Now I appreciate every bite of meat I eat and now I prepare meals with a lot more care and thought. Nothing is wasted and in the back of my head I thank the animal on my table for it’s sacrifice so that my family can eat and prosper. Sure, it’s heartbreaking to “do the deed”, but I know that the meat on my table was raised in a healthy environment, it ate GMO-free feed, it was loved and cared for right up until the moment is was humanely killed. And the best part is that I can now feel confident in that thought. The meat I eat is no longer from mysterious origins. If I am going to be a responsible meat-eater, I am going to do it like this.