The idea of raising your own meat may sound crazy to some. “How can you eat an animal that you raised?” It’s a question I get often. I definitely don’t take offense to it. It’s completely appropriate and understandable. So, I would love to share just five reasons we have made the decision over the past year to begin raising a good portion of our own meat.
1. Raising your own meat is provides a good quality of life for the animals.
Have you ever heard the term CAFO? Probably not. In fact, I had already begun raising our first pigs when I heard it for the first time. CAFO stands for ‘concentrated animal feeding operation’. It is the industry’s method of growing out pigs (or other animals) in an enclosed area with concrete floors where the maximum number of animals spend their days. I won’t even show an image of it because it just feels wrong to see animals raised in confinement where they never see daylight or enjoy fresh air. Factory farmers choose this method of raising animals because it is efficient and yields a nice profit for the investor.
Our animals, however, live in very different conditions. Living in small groups, they are free to enjoy the sun, the wind, the ground.With the option to go into a shelter or remain completely outside, they have fresh water at all times and are feed by humans who talk to them, pet them and scratch them. Animals make messes and we clean them up, but that is a small price to pay for what they bring us.
2. Raising your own meat provides dense nutritional value.
It’s difficult to know how nutritionally dense your meat is when you have no idea what the animals have been feed. Most all of the meat found in supermarkets in the U.S. is from animals raised on corn, soy and other grains along with being mixed with parts of other animals. You can do the research, so I won’t share any more here.
Here on our homestead, we feed our animals non-GMO, no soy and no corn feed, milled in a nearby town. We want to support local as much as possible and believe this is a win-win. Our animals are not only provided this nutritious feed, they are also able to access grass and insects that would be part of their normal diet long ago. They are healthier and rarely have health issues related to the overcrowding of CAFO’s. For this reason, it is not common to need antibiotics. We do not use hormones to speed up their growth or maximize their size. Instead, we allow our animals to grow out at the rate God intended.
3. Raising your own meat is better environmentally.
Many people are surprised to learn about the benefits to the land from raising animals. Not only do animals till the land and eat pests, they also deposit natural fertilizer in the form of manure. This improves land for crops. Additionally, many animals can provide weed control.
Animals are incredible recycling machines for food scraps. We rarely have any food going into our kitchen trash can because there is always an animal that will eat those leftover food pieces Everything from salad bits to egg shells to chicken bones; it is all consumed and turned into more chicken or bacon. Not bad for reduce, reuse and recycle. Eh?
4. Raising your own meat helps to keep things local.
It just doesn’t get any more local than walking out the front door to gather your groceries. Those eggs at the super market have traveled much further and for far longer. Our eggs are sometimes still warm when we crack them for an omelette.
We also either process our animals on our property or at a local processor just 30 minutes away. We know our processor by his first name. He calls when the meat is ready to be picked up. He cuts the pork chops to suit our taste and makes recommendations for how to prepare certain cuts of meat. Do you know your butcher?
5. Raising your own meat provides a boost for our mental and physical health.
Studies show that having a cat or a dog can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness. Raising livestock can have those same effects. the interaction between caregiver and animals is mutually beneficial. Not only are animals entertaining and enjoyable, they also require physical activity on our part. We haul food and water, mend fences and build shelters. Because they live outdoors, we are also soaking up additional vitamin D that is lacking from the average office job environment.
And finally…I’m not even counting it as one of the five reasons, but there is one more psychological reason for raising our own meat. When we sit down to nourish my body with chicken or pork, we are always aware of the life that has been taken. Realizing that an animal gave its life for my nutritional gain, keeps me from over indulging and from taking for granted that sacrifice. Yes, there is an emotional connection that can be hard sometimes. It needs to be. If I am going to eat a pork chop, I need to be connected to it.
If you are considering raising your own meat, go for it. It is good that we meet our meat.
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