Size Matters

“While it is always possible to wake a person who’s sleeping, no amount of noise will wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” – Jonathan Safron Foer (Eating Animals)

We consider factory farmed meat unacceptable.

It is unacceptable in its practices–from how animals are treated, to what they are fed, to how they are medicated, to how they are slaughtered–not one step in the process is okay with us.

Meat Diaper

Meat Diaper

Every piece of meat that magically appears in your grocery stores (on styrofoam plates, to boot), sitting on a meat diaper (yep, that’s what that weird piece of cushioned plastic is called), and wrapped in plastic has ALWAYS had a brutal existence in over-crowded, confined conditions with no sunlight, no space to move, no loving interactions with any other animals, and no opportunity to live a life for any reason other than for human consumption.

If that doesn’t bother you, then consider the fact that in order to maintain these standards, factory farms must constantly medicate (at increasingly high dosage levels) their chickens, cows, and pigs in order to stave off the inevitable diseases that come with overcrowding in confined spaces.  You are guaranteed meat that is riddled with hormones and anitbiotics.

Why does this matter?

First of all, it is bad juju to treat another creature with such raging disrespect.  Second of all, girls as young as seven and eight are getting their periods due to the high levels of hormones in the meat and milk they are being fed.  Third of all, should you ever need to take antibiotics for an actual illness you may actually have, the efficacy of that medication would be dramatically impacted by a lifetime of ingesting second-hand drugs.

Plus, you can really taste the torture.

(I was going to include a photo here of pigs in a factory farm. A perfunctory Google search of images was so upsetting that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. If you don’t know what’s happening to these poor creatures, you should take a look.  It is important to know but it is not easy to see).

As omnivores, we made the decision many years ago that we would never purchase or consume any meat without knowing the provenance of that meat.  That means a fair amount of research, establishing relationships with local farmers when that is possible, and not making any assumptions (i.e. “local” doesn’t necessarily mean “organic;” not all small farms love the animals they raise; ask questions; do research).

When we lived in Brooklyn, many restaurants would say that they “sourced locally or organically whenever possible.” That always rubbed me the wrong way.  It is ALWAYS possible, it just isn’t cost-effective.  Those last two words are a cop-out allowing for randomness and leaving the diner uncertain as to what they may or may not be getting.

When we moved to our small, upstate farm, we agreed that if we were going to eat meat, we were going to raise it ourselves and finish it ourselves.  That way, we would be responsible for the process from beginning to end and could ensure that the animals we were raising for food had lives that were exactly the opposite of those in factory farms.

We decided to raise happy animals.


Bubble, enjoying a foot soak over lunch.

Which brings me to Bubble.

Bubble is one of our two sows and she has lived on applewood farm for a record two years. The life expectancy of a pig destined for porkness is usually somewhere between six and eight months, but Bubble was our first breeding sow, giving us our first litter of piglets almost exactly a year ago.

We had hoped to breed Bubble once more, but when breeding time came, Girl Pig was the only one of the two to get knocked up.

Despite our boar’s best efforts, Bubble wasn’t having any of his shenanigans.  We waited and waited until, finally, I started doing research to figure out what was wrong.  After all, we knew she was good for it, having already had a litter, as was he, having recently proved  it with Girl Pig.

It turned out that the problem was size.

No, not like that.

Since Bubble was larger than the boar, she didn’t respect him enough to let him mount her.  I’m not making this up.

Bubble, our 700 lb. pet, with Girl Pig and some of the piglets

Bubble, our 700 lb. pet, with Girl Pig and some of the piglets

And since both pigs were going to continue to grow at roughly the same rate, we could never hope for him to catch up.  We had to resign ourselves to the sad truth that Bubble was not going to have a second litter.

The problem is that we now have a barren, 700 pound pet sow.

So, this Tuesday is going to be the day we finish Bubble.

We can confidently vouch for the fact that Bubble’s life was the full and total opposite of the lives of those luckless factory pigs.

Not at all cute.

Six of Bubble’s piglets nursing (the other five are under the visible six)

She has spent the last two years roaming the woods, rooting weeds and grasses, being fed organic compost, pig feed, and garden weeds.  She gets a hose shower on hot summer days and big troughs of hot water on cold winter nights.  She had a lovely litter of 11 healthy piglets. She has had many a hearty scratch behind the ears, to say nothing of the occasional belly rub (although, to be honest, these tapered off around the 400 pound mark).  All in all, Bubble has had a really good life.

And her death will be quick, painless, and without stress.

When we finish pigs, we do it right where they have lived their whole life.  We don’t make them endure the stress of transport; we simply bring them some feed, wait until they are eating, and shoot them right between the eyes with a single-shot .22.

The pig is immediately dead and has not experienced any uneccessary pain or trauma of any kind.

Some folks might argue that our system isn’t a reasonable way to be able to keep up with the amount of meat consumed on this planet.  To this I say, well then, perhaps we should consume substantially less meat on this planet.

Anything is possible, really, we just need to stop pretending to be asleep.

About applewoodfarm

Restaurateur, farmer, bartender, beekeeper, friend, wife, mother, dog lover, cat tolerater, chicken hypnotizer, blogger, and sometime yogi
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8 Responses to Size Matters

  1. nancyloupy says:

    Thank you for this post.

  2. You’ve done it again. Thanks. This set me up for the entire week ahead.

  3. Pingback: Size Matters | applewood farm | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  4. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this. This is exactly the way I feel, but have never put it into words. I’m not a farmer and am not near your farm but I live in Western MA and can buy from farmers who feel as you do. Because of this column I’ve decided to stop eating meat that is not from small, local, concerned farmers like yourselves. I’ve been asking myself whether I should become a vegetarian. I don’t really want to. But I can live with this decision 🙂

  5. Bill says:

    This post makes me mad. It’s beautifully written and I agree with every word of it. What makes me mad is that in order to be allowed to sell cuts of our pork legally, so that people have the option of ethically produced pork without having to buy a whole hog, I have to load them on a trailer and drive them one hour to a USDA approved processing facility, where they are unloaded and transferred out of my control. After a life free of fear and stress, they get a final day that is filled with fear and stress. I hate that. We used to do it the way you do, but the law forbids us to sell pork processed here, even if that is disclosed and the customers want and agree to it.

    There are workarounds, of course. We could sell under the table as many of my neighbors do. We could sell the animals live and then process them for their new owners. We could quit offering pork. I’m going to continue pondering what we should do, but it seems that for now we’re stuck with just doing the best we can under the circumstances. Thanks for the food for thought and your great example.

  6. angeltate3 says:

    Hello there,
    I really enjoy your blogs. Your mom K.W. Introduced them to me today. Your restaurant and farm seem amazing. Bravo!

  7. I just discovered your blog and I’ll definitely be back to read it regularly. I was so touched and inspired by this post. I’ll admit I’m lazy when it comes to sourcing my meat- I want the local health food grocery store to do it for me, but for some reason they don’t carry pork with high welfare ratings (the store I shop at uses a step rating 1-4 and I buy step 4 whenever it’s available). This has inspired me to try harder, even if it means finding a local farmer to buy from directly. Thank you for all you do.

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