I have had a lot of negative reactions to us raising animals. This is because we do use the animals we
raise as food for our family. People go from horrified to disgusted, and have
made some pretty ugly remarks.
All that is said, has to do with the death of the animal, and to do it ourselves is barbaric, or how could you pet an animal and then kill it, and then eat it. Generally, from people who are perfectly fine going to the grocery store and buying that plastic wrapped meat to take home and cook for their family.
I guess the reality is, that people have become extremely disconnected from their food and the reality of its source. I watched an episode from Justin Rhodes where a man learned to help milk a cow, but then when he was handed an ice-cold glass of the milk, he struggled to put the glass to his lips.
Raising animals for food rather than buying meat from the grocery store is not easy, but it is not all about death and gore either. There is more LIVING going on, on farms, than there is death. Death is a part of it, but LIFE is a bigger part.
Our first animals we started with were some mixed breed rabbits. We learned how to care for them in the Texas heat. How to keep them alive! Texas is a hard state to raise rabbits in. They prefer colder climates. However, with love, care and attention, it is not impossible to raise healthy rabbits. We have had to take careful consideration into the type of building we raise them in. We watch the weather to make sure if it gets too hot, we take extra precautions. We have created cooling boxes for them to sit on, placed fans in their hutch, and made sure not to breed them close to the hot season. So many things have had to be taken into consideration. Along with the heat is making sure they are equally comfortable in the cold. We place hay (because straw is not a readily available source here in our part of Texas) into their cages on a regular basis. It has to be taken out and replaced because they defecate on it. We have installed an automatic watering system onto their cages so that they have cool water available on demand. We track breeding and know exactly when to place nest boxes in the cages. When the kits are born, we check them all and the mother for health on a daily basis. The kits are handled daily so they will be used to human touch. And, now that we raise pedigree show rabbits, we set them up on a show stand and work with them to make sure they are easily handled by judges and that they have good show form. They are groomed, their nails have to cut, they have to be treated if they get any ear mites or anything else that can happen with animals. It is every day that they have to be taken care of. My daughters even make toys for the rabbits to play with, and we have a special blend of treats they get a small amount of daily.
Then one day after we have sold those that would be sold, kept the best for breeding stock, we gather the ones that are to be culled. We dispatch them quickly so that they feel no pain. We keep their pelts, usable organs, and meat. The waste is minimal and we do the dispatching knowing they have had a good life. They have not sat on a feed lot, they have not been in cramped conditions, or unsanitary conditions like so much of the mass-produced food out there. There is not an abundance of cortisol (stress hormone) in their bodies. The day they are dispatched they are eating a treat and have no idea of anything adverse. They never have.
It is not an easy task, dispatching your own animals. You are keenly aware of the life that is being taken. And with that, there are a whole lot of other aspects that change.
Once we our freezer went out when we lived in suburbia. We were devastated at the loss… $500 worth of meat and vegetables. Roasts, chickens, ribs, special sausage Jason’s dad brought us for Christmas. Money. That was how we related to it. Money. Now that we have raised our meat its not just money in that freezer. To have a freezer go down now would be a much more devastating thing. It would be wasted lives. Which means also that leftovers are eaten and not wasted, and defrosted meat is cooked and not left to go bad either. It can’t, it took a life to create that food. With that awareness we careful take care of the meat even after the animal has passed.
We also raise chickens and goats now. We have not yet dispatched one but there have been many days of raising them and taking care of them. More living days than dieing. That is the truth to farming and raising your own food. There is a hard day when you say good bye and also say thank you. But for the largest majority it is; life, loving care, laughter, wonder and beauty.
I love raising food for my family. I love knowing that food has a story as many homesteaders would say. I love knowing the story, knowing the happy days, knowing the wonder of the beginning of life. I love loving the animals we raise. That is what we have done more than anything. We have loved, cared for, and been good stewards. Its not a disgusting life. It is beautiful, it is hard, but is worth it.