Due to the graphic nature of this blog post, reader discretion is advised…
I have always remained firm in my belief that meat is perfectly natural, nutritious, and delicious to eat. I love tasting everything. I especially love indulging in a well prepared meat, but I was not raised to hunt or fish. I was excited and intrigued by the pig slaughtering class offered by the Portland Meat Collective, and saw this course as essential education for me.
In April of 2011, at a farm in Newberg, Oregon, Home Pig Slaughter 101 began in the pen. We were able to observe the hog enjoying it’s last moments snorting around some straw with the man who would butcher him. This pig had lived quite a charmed life for the last ten months. Noshing away on the scraps of a 5-star restaurant and finished on Oregon hazelnuts; this Red Waddle was fat and happy, and now his fate was sealed. The Farmers had attempted to sedate the pig with a little beer, but the hog wasn’t drinking – It was pretty early in the day…
The pig went very quickly. I barely had time to send my silent ‘thank you’ to the swine for his sacrifice when a quick shot with a handgun hit him right between the eyes, dropping him instantly. The class was then pragmatically instructed on how to quickly find and sever the animal’s aorta. The hog bled out, neon red in the mud, and then was swiftly strung up by his hind leg to be hosed off. A fascinating evisceration education followed. The second pig of the day was clearly stressed before the kill and I observed first-hand how that adversely affected the meat and butchering process almost instantly.
Like a movie full of metaphor, the gravity of what I experienced didn’t fully hit me until after I left the theater… er, farm. I drove home in a daze. I dreamed of the experience. I mourned those pigs. It startled me to feel fleeting rushes of sadness, exhilaration, nausea, guilt, and triumph… A more complete understanding of the circle of life and all that jazz. I definitely felt a little wimpy, even worried for having been so affected by something that I before considered a casual part of the natural food chain. Would I ever be able to eat meat again? The answer to that came later when I unwrapped a tasty mortadella from Gorilla Meats: Yes, I would eat meat again… but something was different… more clear.
I suppose I would have been more concerned for myself if I felt nothing. Levi, a PMC instructor, did a great job of showing the most swift, responsible, respectful and matter-of-fact farm slaughter I have ever seen or heard of.
This class changed the way I look at my career, my pets, and my meals. I have learned to be more appreciative than ever of the artisan skills of a responsible Farmer and Butcher. I know for sure that my place is in the kitchen, not the slaughterhouse. I’d rather break it down, cut it up and cook it than kill it. I am even more convinced of the importance of how the animals we eat live and die. I still love me some bacon, but I am humbled to experience this magical meat with a new level of connectedness with The Mighty Pig.