Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Road Less Travelled

We are taking another big step in our journey towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. So far we have relied on home grown veggies, dairy produce, eggs and chickens for our food. Now we are heading towards our own home grown meat. As far as I am concerned, it is more heartless to blindly put a pre-packaged piece of meat into your shopping trolley with no thought as to the suffering and abuse the animal went through as it was fattened up for your table, than to lovingly and responsibly raise an animal for the table. In this way we can be sure of its humane treatment at every stage of its life as well as ensuring that it has a healthy diet. The only other ethical alternative, in my opinion, is to become a vegetarian.

How many chickens have to die to provide a package of chicken breasts or thighs? Have you ever seen cattle in a feedlot? Do you know what chemicals are in your bacon?

When we eat one of our own chickens, every bit is used up, and it feeds us for days. The only waste is bones and feathers which we bury at the bottom of the compost heap. Most important, is that we value the life that was taken so that we can be nourished. Never in my past did I consider the animals that had to die so that I could eat meat. In fact, I only ate filleted meat so that I did not have to face the reality of what I was eating. That does not make it any easier to eat the animal we've raised. There's a profound, humbling sense of gratefulness that accompanies home grown meals, but also a realistic acceptance of the responsibility that we have to give the animal the best life that we can for as long as it lives.

This brings me to our own meat. Our lambs are soon to be slaughtered. Our bull calf, once he has grown a whole lot more, will also be slaughtered for beef. Our choices are either to sell him to a feedlot or abattoir , or raise him in a caring environment until he's slaughtered. That, sadly, is the end of almost all bull calves, and male lambs unless they become stud animals. Our farm animals are not pets. We do not eat our pets, but that doesn't stop us from showing our farm animals care and affection as they grow. I named our calf Thorn partly because his mother is Rose and his Father, Bramble, but also because of the thorny irony of his future.

We live in an area where a neighbouring farmer will donate a whole lamb for a spitbraai between a few people, where the men prefer to eat chops and wors than salads and cheese, where meat is eaten at almost every main meal. We, on the other hand, eat meat as a treat. We seldom buy it, rather choosing to mostly eat our own veggies, eggs and dairy produce. A while back we were given a whole lot of mutton. We are eating it sparingly and use it for special occasions. It is treated as something valuable, not commonplace, not taken for granted. How much more will we value our own home grown meat?

If I have to choose between sentimentality about our animals and responsibility, I choose the tough road of responsibility. I would rather we managed every step of their short lives, than handed them over to an uncertain future. Living on a farm has challenged and changed me in many areas of my life, and this is one of them. Organic, free range meat is expensive, and mostly out of our budget. Raising our own organic free range meat helps us to eat locally, ethically and frugally.


  1. Hi Cath - I completely agree with your sentiments about meat. It is so refreshing to read about someone having such compassion towards animals. Lily. xxx

  2. Hello Cath, I have found your blog via Rhonda's "down to earth" blog and have enjoyed reading your thoughts on raising your own meat. I agree with you completely. We eat mainly our own veggies from the garden and have reduced our consumption of meat greatly. Home grown meat always has a nicer taste and I think it has a lot to do with the animal not being stressed before it is butchered. Thank you for a great post.
    Blessings Gail