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If You're Gonna Be a Meat Eater - Spring Lake Homestead
As I watched Miss Lady take over with the potato fork in the garden the other day so she could have a turn digging up potatoes, I was impressed by the strength, skill, and knowledge this 6 (and a half) year old little girl already possesses. I was reminded yet again about why we have chosen this life for our family. There isn’t just one reason that we homestead, but an important reason that we do is that we want our children to understand what our food is and where it comes from. I think that if you’re gonna be a meat eater there are two things you need to understand: No. 1, Where your food comes from and what it is, and no. 2 appreciate, and value that which you eat. (*Psst. I’ve tried writing this post quite a few times, and I just can’t keep it short. Sorry. I hope you take the time to read it through… I think it’s worth reading, so save it for when you have more time if you need to, and sit down with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee when you are good and ready! The contents of this post are my opinions and the opinions of some other homesteaders, but do not necessarily reflect the exact feelings of all people who homestead or farm. ) (** Psssssst… this post contains an affiliate link. Please read the full disclosure in our sidebar or at the bottom of our page.) Before We Begin Lately, the topic of what food is and where it comes from has been coming up in some of the Facebook communities I am a part of and elsewhere. The issue isn’t that we don’t know these things, it’s that there seems to be a large portion of our society that doesn’t understand. Some of these people have been living and breathing the homesteading, gardening, or farming life forever, some not. I haven’t always lived this way, and there are plenty of things that I’ve learned since we started cooking from scratch and gardening and even since we started homesteading, yet I grew up in an agricultural community. Having grown up in that environment, there are some things you just don’t go into adulthood without knowing. I know that this is not what everybody grows up around, so I get why not everybody would automatically know the things I take as common knowledge. I know that even from person to person (take my siblings for instance) you can have one person absorb most of what they grew up around and have another person whose head it goes right over. I want to be clear that my intention with this post is not to insult anybody. The fact is that it breaks our hearts that people don’t know or care more about their food. #1. Food is the Foundation of Life It probably sounds a bit dramatic to say that it breaks our hearts that people don’t know or care more about their food, but it’s true. Whether or not you realize it, your life revolves around food. The food you consume impacts your health. If you don’t eat, you starve to death. If money gets tight, you might try and find ways to reduce your expenses… you’d get late on the mortgage or the rent, you’d sell that which you didn’t need, and you’d spend your limited income either finding a new source of income, or getting food. If you lost your job, lost everything you had, and didn’t have a penny to your name, your first goal (maybe after finding shelter for the night) would be to find a way to get food. But it doesn’t just stop there. First dates are often had over dinner or lunch or coffee. We gather together on holidays to share in a feast with our family or friends. Nightly dinner as a family is a must for many people. Some husbands and wives eat every breakfast and lunch together. Shared meals are a time to catch up with one another or get to know each other better. When we experience the death of a loved one or a friend, people bring meals. When we’re sick, or fall on hard times, people bring meals. They do it to comfort, and also to help, because food is important and because sometimes when the stress is too much, it’s really difficult to find the energy to feed ourselves. People bring meals when a new baby is born because it’s crazy hard to cook anything when there’s a sweet new bundle in the house. Culture and tradition revolve largely around food. Your heritage probably impacts what kinds of food you eat, or how and when you eat. As homesteaders, gardeners, or farmers, many of these people work to raise their own food because they know that it’s better for their health, and most of them will tell you that it just tastes better. And not just because they raised it themselves. Like I said earlier, I just want to focus on eating meat today. I could go into other aspects, but this post would never end, and you might hate me for it. So let’s look at the different comments some of us have heard from friends, family, acquaintances, and complete strangers. There are many other comments on the topic of meat-eating I could discuss, but I mainly want to concentrate on those that are made from other people who eat meat or people who object based on similar reasoning. #2. Meat Comes from Animals It doesn’t matter if you get your meat from a grocery store, restaurant, or somewhere else. All meat started out as a living, breathing animal. The fact that meat comes from animals that gave their lives so you could eat and sustain yourself. It’s hard for some people to swallow, and that’s okay. It’s really, really important that we understand that fact. I’d go so far as to say that this is the biggest reason we shouldn’t waste food (meat in particular). I mean, I get it. Sometimes you get so full, you just can’t possibly eat another bite. Sometimes there is not a good or safe way to keep the meat for another meal, and a lot of folks can’t simply feed it to their dog or cat. But how many times have you let a cut of meat or a pound of ground beef spoil in your fridge because you forgot it was there? Threw out leftovers when you could have frozen them or refrigerated them? Left out the leftovers after dinner long enough that they are no longer safe to keep? And on top of that, there are a lot of people who practically live off of meat without either understanding, caring, or respecting where that food came from. I know this sounds obvious to a lot of people, but apparently it’s not as obvious as I once thought. So many people are so far removed from the food process and as a result, there’s a lot about food that people just don’t know anymore. It’s not fair to blame it on anyone or anything in particular. Things have changed. Our society has changed. And there’s just not a great motivator for people to know some of this. In fact, there was even a person in one of the homesteading Facebook groups who admitted that it wasn’t until she was in college that she realized that meat doesn’t come from a grocery store. Personally, it’s something I’ve always known, but the fact is that the point wasn’t really, truly driven home to me until we raised and butchered our first batch of chickens. #3. “How could you eat your pets?! That’s so cruel!” That comment followed with something along the lines of “Why don’t you just get your meat at the grocery store like a normal person?” Real comments from real people. Let’s just address that first part. Anybody who butchers their own meat or raises animals for meat will tell you that these animals are NOT pets. That doesn’t mean they aren’t well cared for and deeply appreciated. But for somebody who raises animals for meat, it’s not the same. Some people will name the animals, but most won’t. If they do, they might seem like “dark” names to some, but they do it to keep things in perspective… a lot of people will name their turkeys “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas.” Some people name their pigs things like “Porkchop,” “Bacon,” and “Ham.” There are also a lot of people who have raised animals with the intention of one day butchering them, but just couldn’t find it in their hearts to do it. They did get attached to the animals, and the animals inadvertently became pets. Some of these folks would willingly go help a friend to butcher their animals, some of them fully and completely understand what butchering is and are okay with it, but don’t have the space or equipment or time or desire to do the butchering on their own. But it’s like I said, nobody who raises animals for meat will tell you that these animals are pets. They are livestock. Their life purpose is different from that of the milk cow or the family dog. Now, if you have a problem with killing an animal for the sake of eating it, really I hope you don’t eat meat, because as I said before, that’s the reality of what meat is. Getting it from the grocery store does not somehow make it more “clean” or “humane” or less…animal. If you object and abstain, I can respect that, but it’s just insanely hypocritical to say that it’s cruel to kill an animal to a farmer who raises their own meat and yet you go and buy meat from the store. That’s where the meat in the store came from… an animal on a farm! Meat is muscle tissue. Organs are, well, bodily organs! Just because you get your meat from the store does not somehow mean you are not partaking in the death of an animal. You did because of the very fact that you purchased that meat. Somebody killed that animal FOR YOU. Listen, I have long known that meat comes from animals, and that the majority of meat that people eats comes from animals that were raised on farms. But I have to admit that it was a really different and eye-opening experience for me to raise and butcher chickens for the first time. I remember getting the baby chicks and having to consciously think about what those chicks’ life purpose was. I remember picking up the meat birds at night to put them back into the coop, and holding them and feeling that they were warm, and feeling them breathe. And I remember seeing the change from when life was flowing through them, to when it stopped, along with participating in the process of turning that bird that was alive just a few minutes prior into something that could be cooked and served up on our dinner table. It was a deeply humbling experience, and not just for me, but our whole family. When we butchered our first deer, it was just extremely eye opening to see what such a large animal compared to a chicken offers up in exchange for it’s life. A lot of people who butcher animals will say a humble prayer either before or after butchering. When they sit down to a meal, they know exactly what they need to be grateful for, and they aren’t willing to let anything go to waste if they can help it. There is a profound understanding of what is placed before them. Bonnie of The Not-so-Modern Housewife had this to say: “The most common comment I get is “How can you eat something you’ve raised from a baby?” To which I reply, “I’d rather eat an animal that I raised, knowing that it...