Think About Your Food

If butchering or processing your own meat makes you uncomfortable, do not read this post. Also… if you feel so inclined as to send me hate-mail based on what I do for my family, don’t bother. I delete such things from my email inbox and also here on my blog. Thanks!

I have two meat rabbits out in the hutch as I type this, awaiting their fate. I should have processed them last weekend, but I just wasn’t in the mood, so I didn’t. It can be emotionally difficult to process animals. I have been raising rabbits for meat, specifically, for almost a year now and butchering day doesn’t get any easier. Trevor thinks I’m over-dramatic sometimes when I don’t feel like eating meat for a few days after butchering, but honestly– after processing a few rabbits all in one sitting, it wears on me a bit. I think it’s the smell of warm raw meat that gets to me.

Every single person who came for a farm tour this season asked me if Trevor does the butchering around here. Um… no. I do. He was gracious enough to help me with my very first rabbit here on the farm (because I was nervous and he wanted to see how to do it), but other than that, he occupies the kiddo while I do the deed.

I should clarify. Yes, I do dread the days that I have to process these fated animals. No, I do not regret it. Sometimes I just have to remind myself of the alternatives out there. I could buy meat from a grocery store. Meat that came from who knows where and was treated who knows how. No, wait… I have a pretty good guess as to how these factory animals were treated.

There are days I think that the best thing that ever happen to me was having that emergency gallbladder removal three years ago. It opened my eyes. My body now tells me if food is bad instead of just suffering through it in silence. I can no longer eat fast food (even fast food chain salads), most fried foods, certain conventional oils, pork, non-organic milk, cheeses with preservatives or mold inhibitors (hello “orange” cheddar), most beef, mayo, oh and the list goes on. But you get the idea. The common trait in all of these foods is that they are heavily processed and contain all sorts of chemicals and preservatives. It makes sense doesn’t it? Our bodies can’t really handle all of these modern processes and additives.

So with all that, I leave you with this documentary snippet. It is only 6 minutes long and even the first 30 seconds creeped the bejesus out of me. If nothing else, do me a favor: think about your food.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

27 thoughts on “Think About Your Food

  1. We did our own rabbits and chickens for several years but I never did the actual killing. My sons would do that and skin and gut the animals (we skinned our chickens, too), hosed them out and I would do the final clean up and cutting up. My favorite meat rabbits are New Zealand Reds. Their fur is so pretty. I admire you for being able to do the deed.

  2. So true! Great post and thanks for the video!!
    I learned at a young age by helping during the processing of hogs & chickens and helping butcher deer, rabbits & squirrel during hunting season, that meat does not come from a foam tray wrapped in celophane. Now as an adult, my husband & I process our own meat birds in the Spring and our old laying hens as needed. We are passing this skill down to our children. I have done the job alone, but most often my husband and I work as a team- nothing like spending a Saturday plucking chickens with the ones you love, I guess? 🙂 It is not an easy task, as you mentioned, but one def worth the time and effort. I think it is all about being responsible for our food & not living in McNuggetland.

    • Definitely worth the time and effort! Maybe it would be easier on my psyche if I had a team member to help. I’ll have to consider that when it comes time to butcher the larger groups of rabbits we will have this winter. Two isn’t a big drain, but ten or so will be. Ah, and then the big chicken butchering day is coming up soon. I don’t think we will be harvesting any nuggets though… 😉

      Thanks for the support!

  3. Good work removing yourself from the meat production system! That movie was absolutely haunting. Bleah. It’s good motivation for me, though. We’ve processed an old laying hen here and there, but I’ve been wanting to raise our own meat on a larger scale for a while now. I don’t feel like I have the bandwidth right now, but hopefully in the next few years. Rabbits appeal to me for the fur as well. Do you tan the hides you get after processing?

    • I have been saving the pelt I collect when processing and have enough for at least two batches of 6-8 pelts each. They are just sitting in my freezer in ziplock bags right now. I need to buy some alum and bulk salt to tan them since I don’t have any supplies to do it yet. But tanning is best done in cooler temperatures anyway so I can’t get started just yet. I will definitely be posting a step-by-step tutorial and results and soon as I start! No worries!

      p.s. The first things I am going to make with the pelts are a super cute bunny purse and some earmuffs. Can’t go wrong in the mountains with earmuffs.

  4. We have satellite internet with data limits so I won’t watch the video. Sadly I must be VERY selective of what I watch or I feel I am stealing educational time from our homeschooled kids.

    Make sure you read the info on fodder at the end. (Never mind, I just went ahead and moved it to the fodder discussion.)

    I have raised chickens for their eggs for about 20 years. I’ve always felt bad that the young male chicks at the factory farm are killed in horrible ways. I rationalized that if I was a hunter-gatherer more animals would die in any given year than the two or three male chicks that are killed so I can buy two or three hens. Then a friend recently mentioned she buys chicks local from someone who treats the male chicks humanely. What an epiphany. In the future I will buy from such a party so I know the male chicks were at least killed ethically. (Have you ever considered selling female chicks and butchering the males for food?)

    I am a vegetarian who understands it is an eat or be eaten world. It still annoys me (to put it lightly) that that is how the world is set up, but it is a fact. The wild rabbit population would starve if the coyotes were not culling out the old and sick. One of the things I dislike about farming animals (including male laying breeds) is that it is the young and healthy that are butchered. That is so against the natural world. In nature it is the old and sick that are culled.

    I admire your concern for the animals and the well being of those you are saving from the tortures of factory farming. However, I am curious, given your obvious distaste for the butchering process, why you don’t simply go vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for 29 years. My kids, 7.5 and 5, have never had meat. A dentist once asked me if I was a vegetarian because my gums were so healthy and he usually only sees that kind of gum health in vegetarians. I recently had bloodwork done. The nurse practitioner said I have absolutely no risks for heart attack or stroke. (I am 51, the same age as my grandfather when he died from a stroke.)

    Again, I appreciate you are trying to cut down on the torturous conditions the animals you eat would endure were you not raising them. I just don’t understand, given your distaste for the process, why you don’t just stop eating animals. I hope this doesn’t come off as judgmental, it’s just curiosity. I figure stress is nature’s way of telling you that you need to do something different. So, if you are stressed out by butchering I wonder if perhaps coming up with an alternative makes sense. (And I do think that the idea of folks raising laying pullets to sell and humanely treating the males is a much needed profession for those of us who choose to raise layers but don’t have the stomach for the butchering process. Though if I could raise the roosters to a ripe old age I would. It’s just not feasible.)

    • What a great comment… thank you! I don’t think you’re being judgemental at all and the point you bring up is a valid one. I haven’t become a vegetarian because I like meat. Especially “clean” meats like what I raise myself. I, personally, feel as if I have more energy when my diet includes meat. And more so– I crave it at times.

      I wouldn’t say that the process of butchering animals “stresses” me out; I simply don’t like doing it. Rather, I don’t enjoy it. I am not sure there are many people who actually enjoy butchering and that is probably a good thing. The video attached was a short snippet of a documentary on factory farming. I have not seen the whole documentary, but I can only assume it is more of what was featured in that six minute video. It’s easy to forget where the mass majority of meat comes from when all you see in the grocery store is the end result neatly packaged.

      I sincerely congratulate you for having the disipline and motivation of great health to be a vegetarian. I really do. I’m just not sure if I could do it. I would be hungry all the time… hahaha! We do buy about half of our meat from local farmers and ranchers (luckily we live in a mostly rural area) so it is comforting to know and see how their animals are raised and to know where they are butchered. Given that we don’t have the space to raise all of our meat yet, I do compromise and buy meat from local people I deem reputable and humane in their animal husbandry.

      I think that even if I had enough animals to send out to the local butcher, I would still want to do it myself. There’s just something about having raised an animal from birth and then being there while it takes its last breath. It may sound a bit morbid, but I like to be there at the end. It helps keep me from feeling guilty because I was there to comfort it in its last moments. I don’t know… it makes me feel better.

  5. For me, I grew up with my grandparents and my mom, aunts and uncles always helping out with butchering cows, chickens, pigs, and wild games and fish. I guess it doesn’t bother me as it would others since I know the animals we butcher were raised great and it was their purpose to feed us. Soon (I was hoping this year) I’ll have my own meat rabbits. I’m glad your keeping the tradition of knowing where your food comes from alive. Keep up the great (but draining at times) work.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! I came into all of this with ZERO agricultural or hunting experience so I am at a disadvantage when it comes to butchering. But, I am a fast learner and it is getting easier and easier physically. I still have a touch of “Easter Bunny Syndrome”… the general cuteness of rabbits is what holds me back a bit I think. We’ll see how I do with chickens next month.

      Like I always say, “Keep on keepin’ on!” 😉

  6. Great post. We raised our first chickens for the table last year, and increased the number this year. We’ll add more next year. We have been having them processed by local farmers, but someday we’ll learn to do it ourselves. Food security is an issue we all need to think about.
    And watching those machines suck up the chickens in that video was creepy.

    • Food security is most definitely something we all need to think about. Twice a year a couple experienced homesteaders/backyard farmers around here gather and do a group chicken processing day. I guess you just bring your chickens and then everyone helps everyone? I haven’t attended before, but I’m hoping they have a fall gathering in time for me to do my chickens.

      And yes, that machine was creepy. It’s like it was sweeping them up.

  7. I am surprised you have not gotten the comment about it being in China yet, at least they wear masks etc. The u.s. facilities are much nastier did you watch the egg production video on my Facebook that is in California those birds then go to be put in canned soup, broth and pet food. You need to put that video up as it is local reality! Reminds me I need to pull feed and separate roosters think I will just do one a day over 6 days. Found out feed had antibiotics in it though I ordered it without so that puts me out on butchering at least 5 days!

    • It may be in China, but recently the USDA has given the okay to export U.S. raised chickens to China to process and then ship them back to the U.S to sell in our grocery stores.

      Yummy right?! So that documentary may be a little closer to reality for us here in the U.S. than you may think.

      Lots of feeds are medicated. In fact, when I was looking for game bird feed for the quail, I couldn’t find a single brand of game bird OR turkey feed that was NOT medicated.

      If you don’t want to grow fodder, consider feeding soaked/fermented grains instead. Just have three buckets, fill one bucket with grain seed and water each day, then let sit for three days, and feed. Voila! Easy feed. If you keep the cycle going, you should have one bucket to feed every day and one bucket to refill every day.

      • I have started growing fodder for my chickens, but I still give them about 25% organic feed just to give them a varied diet. Is organic feed medicated? How do you know if medications have been added to feed?

      • That’s great! Medicated feeds SHOULD be labeled, but I have found that it is usually in the small print on the label or tag at the bottom of the bag. Sometimes it is only listed in the ingredients. It’s good to check trusted brands every so often as well since feeds will sometimes change their formulas.

  8. Why aren’t more people interested in where their food comes from? I just don’t get it. I don’t process my own (kudos to you that do!) but take the beef and pigs my neighbors raise to a local slaughterer. Haven’t found any local chicken slaughterer so I don’t eat chicken..:( Oh well, doing the best you can. You truly inspire me Sarah!! Keep up the fantastic posts!

    • Thanks Trista!

      I don’t know why more people don’t think about these things. Maybe because we generally eat three meals a day, it just becomes too routine for some people. They think of food more as a chore instead of for fuel and enjoyment? I don’t know. I can’t remember how I thought of food before “waking up”.

  9. What a super post and comments! Am not brave enough to watch the video just yet – I can already visualize the machine you were talking about and shudder…I would love to raise my own meat chickens but someone else would have to do the deed. I am somewhat of a vegetarian, I eat chicken and fish but am a total wimp if an animal is hurting or being put down. When going to the meat processor, I ask first if there are any cows(live) there at the time because I don’t want to see them or hear what goes on. Sounds crazy but that’s me. My own steer went to the processor but someone else took him. 🙂 BTW, thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday and come back again!

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