Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Long Walk Down the Green Mile

Warning: If you believe your food comes from a grocery store, factory, or a box, you may want to skip this post while I share with you the other side of farming.

The part that not even the farmers want to talk about.

Butchering day.

While grass-fed meat is always a better choice, raising one's own beef (or any other meat!) comes with a price. The animals have faces. And if you have children, the animals also have names. 

Angus was born on August 1, 2009, beneath the shade of a large maple tree. We knew that Bailey was "with calf", but had no idea as to her due date. In the past, we've named our calves; Meatball, T-Bone, Big Mac, Stella, and Liberty. (Stella & Liberty were heifer calves, so they got the cutesy names.) Because the little bull calf was destined to become a steer, we named him Angus, just to keep things in perspective.

From the beginning, Angus was a real charmer.

Bailey loved him. In fact, she loved him so much that she continued to allow him to nurse until we finally sent her to the "Swingin' Singles Spa"...last week.

Did I mention that he was two years old?

As people who raise our own meat, we do NOT look forward to butchering day. We try not to think of our meat animals as pets, but it is inevitable when you are responsible for their food and well-being. It is difficult to not become attached to a 2,000 lb. animal that stands at the garden gate waiting for produce that is past its prime. It is near impossible to not feel some kind of affection for an animal that stands vigil by your side, while you repair the very fence that just minutes before he broke through.  

Because we made the decision to raise a steer for meat, we had to finish what we had started.

It was the responsible thing to do.

And while it is with great sadness that we look out into a field that Angus is no longer a part of, we are thankful for the time we had to enjoy him. Without knowing it, Angus is helping us move away from the grocery store mentality, and put thought into each and every decision we make on our little hobby farm. We were able to observe the butcher as he skinned, gutted, and eventually quartered our beef. We saw the mistakes that were made by our poor planning (too much fat), and the areas that we did exactly right (The marbling is perfect!). With every animal that is processed from our farm, we see ways to improve. And we know that even when it is difficult, we're doing what is right for our family.

Even when butchering day inevitably arrives.

Thank you Angus.

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.


Susan said...

you are so brave! I could not have done it....that is why we have been having our beef and pork raised for us. I get way to o attached.....and Angus...He was so handsome!! and cryin for his mamma....see, I get caught up in their emotions too...It is best we stick with having ours raised.....I know I could do it if I had to but I would have to keep myself distant....good for you, should be some good eatin!


Farmgirl Cyn said...

Now THAT would be difficult. I think I could get over sending him somewhere I couldn't see, but to watch and take part, I think I would cry. I would do it, but I would cry....
Responsible much better than just picking out your roast from behind a glass counter at the grocers.

MamaTea said...

Dang it, it's hard to be a farmer. Just because you know that you're doing what you're doing for a reason, and you know what the inevitable end is, it sure doesn't make it any easier. :(

Kris said...

Wow, he was huge! Y'all did a great job raising him to that size. Well, his momma had a lot to do with that too. I know how you feel because we do the same thing. And I have sheep now. Ugh. But I do love some lamb chops. Thanks for sharing the "other" side of the farming story. And enjoy those steaks!

Sadie said...

I don't think I could have watched...that would have been way too hard. So far we just raise chickens and goats- neither for slaughter yet. Though the time will come soon for chickens to be for us and pigs too. I am hoping my boys (and me too) can handle it.

Kim said...

**There were tears. I also forgot to mention how I hid in the butcher's office until Angus no longer resembled himself. We just felt like we owed it to him to see that he was treated with the same respect in his death as he was in life.

shopannies said...

loved reading your post it helped remind me of my grandmother who always had cows, took long walks and always reminded her cows they would be her winter suppers LOL

Candy C. said...

I read once where a fella was asked "How can you butcher and eat animals that you have raised yourself?" He replied, "How can I not? I know that they have been treated well, fed properly, had a good life and have only had one bad day in their lives." To me, that is responsible livestock raising. There can only be so many "pet" steers and wethered goats in the world.