Eat This

In which I meet my dinner

Littlepigs
Young Tamworths


This has never happened before. Over the 30 or so years that
I have been an enthusiastic home cook, almost all of my ingredients have been
purchased in retail establishments, punctuated by trips to local farmers’
markets. Meat came from the urban butcher or in packages. And I was fine with that. In fact, I’m still fine with that.

But my magazine did a local food issue and the rest is
history. There is a farm specializing
in heritage pigs
just 20 minutes away from my office, and a suckling pig from
this farm seemed perfect for my yearly holiday dinner. Last month we visited
the farm to view these special animals and I must say that they seemed like the
happiest pigs I’ve ever seen. I don’t think Babe had as much running space as
these Tamworths, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Large Blacks, and various hybrids.

Farmer 

Rich, owner of T-Meadow Farms.


The farm is owned by a local schoolteacher who bought a
disused farm in order to breed these pigs. He has built fences around
several acres of his property so that the pigs can ramble freely, rooting up
scrub as they go. Many of the cleared acres become arable land, where crops can
be planted to feed the pigs. It’s not quite a full-circle yet, as some of the
feed for the pigs still has to be bought in, but it’s getting there.

Henry
 I was surprised to find that the lifespan of pigs isn’t as
long as I thought it might be; they live about 10-14 years. Our farmer assured
us that the Tamworth patriarch (Henry) shown here would never go to the
processor. The pigs that do get consumed often find their way to the tables of fancy Manhattan restaurants, via downstate distributors.

Pigs
 So today I’m going to pick up my pig (which has already been dispatched by a 3rd party). It seems like such a
simple thing to do, but in terms of how food usually gets to our table, it’s a
rare occurrence indeed. We'll have to remove refrigerator shelves, and I don't have a roasting pan large enough, but that's part of the adventure.

Posted by on December 15, 2009 at 5:13 am, in the category Eat This.
Comments are off for this post

17 responses to “In which I meet my dinner”

  1. Do you think removing a few shelves in the refrigerator will be enough? You may need to hog tie that piglet or it could make a major mess cooped up in there.

  2. Michele Owens says:

    A neighbor raised two pigs this year, and I bought half of one. Incredibly delicious meat.

    However, having visited those pigs several times, if I’d have been the one having to pull the trigger…couldn’t have done it.

  3. Eliz says:

    Well, neither could I. In fact, neither does the farmer. He sends them off to a certified processor. This is New York State, after all. We have regs and procedures for everything!

  4. Fiona says:

    We started eating heritage pork a couple of years ago and I was surprised at how it changed my approach to cooking.

    Many pork recipes call for acid or sugar (ie, chutney, mustard sauces, etc.) and I always thought they were too much on regular pork. But on heritage pork? Delicious! It has a much pork-ier flavor, and you need that acidic/fruity flavor to cut it a little.

    I hope that pig makes your holidays delicious. It’s making me wish for some pork roast tonight…

  5. Elizabeth Stump says:

    I had to kill in alcohol and mount a dead black widow spider for my son’s 3rd grade school project. I was pretty squeamish about that. Having to kill my own food? Eviscerate and pluck my own chickens? Deal with the offal? *Shudder* I love meat as much as the next “People for Eating Tasty Animals” member, but it would take a lot for me to get over that hump to do it myself.

    Thank goodness for modern society.

  6. I really think EVERYONE should meet their dinner. Getting removed from the reality of the fact than animal died for your dinner is, I think, unhealthy. It is messy, and a little disturbing — but I think modern society insulates is too much sometimes from the mess, disturbing realities of our choices.

  7. I have a hard time with the occasional chore of taking a pre boned chicken out of the store bought package.
    The live pig approach would put me in shock.
    Please, nobody describe how tofu or tempeh is made. I am running out of protein choices to eat.
    … but roasted carnitas with apples and pears sounds scumptious.

  8. Foy says:

    It wasn’t until I found myself living in a very rural setting without electricity and hot water that I helped with the slaughter. Here’s my experience with chicken: http://foyupdate.blogspot.com/2008/08/day-465-tribune-article.html

    I also helped during carnival with a cow. Being a woman I helped wash out the stomach and intestines in the river. It really wasn’t that bad.

  9. Christopher C., thanks for the only chuckle I found here…

  10. Matt says:

    very cool! i hope i can get into this type of cooking myself.

  11. Hoover says:

    Did you know pigs can be toilet trained? One farmer in Taiwan trained his pigs to use a certain area and his farm is now “greener”–the waste is kept out of the local river and he uses 50% less water.

    Pigs are intelligent, sensitive creatures who don’t like being dirty.

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/potty-training-pigs-prevents-water-pollution.php?campaign=TH_rotator

  12. Well HELLO!
    Just discovered this blog tonight. I’m an avid urban gardener and writer. Also working on a book (“Pig Tales:a Love Story”) about heritage breed pigs, the farmers and chefs bringing them farm to table. Just linked this post up to my Facebook Fan Page for Pig Tales and Tweeted it out. Good good work here. Do you all know about HomeGrown? Check Facebook friends to hook up with another great group.

  13. Fascinating article, especially the part about letting the pigs self-feed by planting forage crops. I am currently working on plans for my next season, and trying to integrate livestock animals with my organic market garden. I’m now inspired to broaden the scope of the experiment a little and see if I can raise some of the pig’s feed, too.

    We have raised pigs on pasture in the past, including Large Blacks occasionally. They are smart and friendly animals with distinctive personalities. They ‘socialize’ easily with people, which is a good idea for the farmer; at some point they will probably out-weigh you.

    I would never consider raising pigs any other way, they just thrive when they have access to fresh ground. I believe most of the problems with animal agriculture result from frustrating the natural instincts of the animals. Pigs like to root, chickens like to scratch, and just about all animals like to be with others of their own kind; if you don’t mess with that you will have very few problems.

    One final point, raising heritage breeds is important to maintaining genetic diversity in our livestock animals. Many of the heritage breeds that have fallen out of favor with ‘agri-business’ possess important characteristics that we WILL need in the future e.g. to my knowledge no Kerry cow has ever had BSE (mad cow disease.)

    Kudos to Rich for maintaining this important resource, and I recommend everyone check out and consider supporting the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy http://www.albc-usa.org/ or Rare Breeds Canada http://www.rarebreedscanada.ca/ organizations dedicated to this important work.

  14. commonweeder says:

    Great article. I like the idea of giving the pigs room to roam. We raised our own pigs for several years but we couldn’t give them a lot of room. We finally gave up because you have to have 2 pigs (one alone will not thrive) and there is just too much meat for us, and so many people in our circle eat no or little bacon. Do you know how much bacon you get out of two pigs? A Lot!

  15. Becky says:

    Ugh, I hate to do this but felt a need to assume the position atop my soapbox. I will keep it brief and try to be respectful. I am a vegetarian but not because I’m morally opposed to the consumption of meat. Praise is due for the very thoughtful and humane way in which these pigs are raised and I applaud the author and several commenters for moving past the factory farm to support such an operation. However, I can’t help but be offended by all the freely offered and worse yet, cavalier tone, of the comments from folks who acknowledge that they, themselves, could not kill this animal but would very happily eat it. A pig has an intelligence level on par with your beloved dog. If you as an individual choose to consume meat, you owe it to the animal from whence it came to be present and involved in its dispatch. At least once, you should force yourself to experience the killing of an animal so you may bring the deserved sense of gravity and gratitude to every crispy, delicious piece of bacon you consume henceforth.

  16. Peg says:

    Those pictures are adorable. Kudos to these farmers for treating their animals well; farm animals raised for slaughter have a limited time on earth; how much better it is for everyone for them to be raised in this humane and healthy fashion.

  17. That must have been a very special experience! You are totally right about those piglets, they seemed so happy and healthy. It’s so cool that the owner is a school teacher at the same time. What a funny combination. Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed reading.

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