By Robin Gordon Taft
Each Saturday I am asked the same questions. Folks who are considering buying some of our chicken or pork at the farmer’s market want to know: “What are they fed? Are they able to go outside? How are they butchered?”
The way we raise our animals is important to our customers and we always encourage folks to visit our farm. We are confident that they will like what they see and we like showing off all that we are doing. But often I meet someone whose questioning goes a bit deeper.
“How can you kill and eat the animals you have raised?”
I could dodge that one by telling them that my husband does most of the actual butchering. I have never wielded the knife. Neither have I eviscerated the killed birds I have raised since they were less than 48 hours old.
But I have caught them and delivered them to the butchering area. Turns out, I am kind of good at that. As to the actual killing, I am an observer who has become accustomed to the rituals of ending the life of a living thing in order to feed myself and others. And I feel okay about that. As a matter of fact, I feel very good about all we do to bring our birds to market.
I’m sure my customers have learned something about heritage breeds, Vermont Department of Agriculture regulations, brining poultry, and more than they ever wanted to know about bird and pig rearing through our conversations. But I’ve learned something too. I’ve learned that, whether they know it or not, the folks who want to know about the treatment of the animals they might eat are conscious carnivores.
Who is a conscious carnivore? The group is a varied one with differences in degree and intention. Let’s just say, you know you’re a conscious carnivore if you are beginning to realize that most of the animals that become the meat we eat, come from animals that never see the light of day…and you don’t like it.
You know you’re a conscious carnivore if you are learning the dangers of adding hormones and antibiotics to animal feed…and you don’t like what you are learning.
You know you’re a conscious carnivore if you have heard horror stories coming from slaughter houses and processing plants…and you are disgusted.
For these conscious carnivores, the meat they choose to eat is beginning to reflect their growing concern for the quality of life of meat animals and the long term effects of additives to that meat. They are experimenting with meat from local producers for some of the meals they eat each week.
A stricter level of the conscious carnivore is committed to supporting the humane treatment of meat animals throughout their life cycle. They are convinced of the deleterious effects of adding chemicals to the meat we eat. They believe that each animal deserves to live a good life – outside on pasture. They only eat meat that has been slaughtered with reverence.
This group includes former vegetarians who limit their meat consumption to that grown by producers they know and trust. The strictest conscious carnivore, on the other hand, will only eat meat that they have personally raised and/or slaughtered.
Learning the value of locally, happily, and respectfully produced meat animals is helping make us better conscious carnivores – people who are eating a little, or a lot, of the delicious meats grown on our own Vermont farms.
Robin Gordon Taft happily raises chickens, turkeys, and pigs on Pine Hollow Farm in North Clarendon, VT.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.