Thursday, July 12, 2007

One for the freezer

We had a sad night Monday---we had to butcher one of our ewes. For some reason she has never really done very well for us here---even as a lamb. She was born on this farm so we know her whole history and we keep very good records to compare the animals with (this is because I know I have the memory of a gnat at times)
Was she just a bummer to start with? Was it heat? the long term drought? genetics? Is it that we should have supplied more this or that in her minerals? Whatever it is---we finally decided that even if we knew for sure that she will do better by the fall (which we were pretty sure she would)---she could no longer be allowed to contribute to the gene pool. Luckily we had chosen not to sell her lambs. One is in the freezer with her already and the other will be a wether for us to use in situations when we need one to keep another sheep company. He seems well and fine so far---so he can be an experiment in whether or not this passes steadily in genetic lines or maybe is just a "bad match" of parents every so often.
Though I try and "harden" myself to the lambs because you always know some of them will end up in the freezer--- either because they don't sell or they aren't good enough to sell---I had a little trouble with this girl. Yes, I weeped just a bit. is a necessity to cull and only keep those that will do well for us or others and not have lambs that might potentially have problems too. Part of it is raising good animals and part of it is about supplying the meat for ourselves. I have to admit---I have always weeped a bit with the animals. Even sometimes the chickens that I have come to like quite well. So I do wonder at times why I am not a vegetarian. I have tried to be a vegetarian---but I do like meat. I suppose if I lived near a CAFO operation and had to see the care ( or lack ) of the animals----that might have been my catalyst to not eat meat. When on the other hand I am raising them myself, I at least know they had the very best life that they could have had.
One problem we have come across lately is selling our meat. We have run into the problem that there are no longer (must be recently) any NON regulated butcher shops around us. All of them are required to be inspected. Which means that any cow, sheep, pig (farm animal basically) that comes to them to be cut and wrapped MUST be killed in front of the inspector ---by them. However, my issue is that I do not want to take my animals on a trip and pull them out in a strange place and have them stand around in a holding pen to be butchered after they have completely freaked out and been stressed to the nines--by a stranger. I have always felt very strongly that life and death should occur in the place of the animals life. It is the way nature intended it. Animals aren't hauled out of the woods to a processing facility to be butchered under supervision---then later that week the wolves come and pick them up all neatly wrapped.
SO...I have come to a conundrum. How to now sell my meat? Legally---I can't sell it to anyone without that inspection. I could get into huge trouble. Just ask the raw milk people---and they are doing it the "legal" way to start with. I think from now on we will (after this season) set ourselves up with the intention to sell only to those who want, and will, butcher the animals their selves here on our farm. We may have to invest in a station for them to use---with water and a table---but it will be much more "humane" in my opinion than the other way. Besides---if you take them to a butcher that can only butcher on Tuesdays (that is the day the inspector comes) how do you know for sure that you get back your organic animal and not someone else's? Maybe---since not much lamb/sheep is raised around here---I would. But what about a cow or pig? How would I know for sure? Of course---if we killed it ourselves and had him package it---we would still wonder about that, but I just thought I would throw it out there for thought. Since it is something we have wondered about.

As to the issue of packaging the meat, we bought a "food saver" machine. Yes, I know it requires plastic bags to save the meat in. Something I would rather not use--plastic I mean. However---I am horrible at wrapping air free with butcher paper and we loose meat periodically because of freezer burn. So I decided that I would at least invest in the food saver and use it on the larger cuts that are more likely to wait for longer times (roasts are for fall and winter---not the middle of summer) and might become freezer burnt during the wait.
Beyond the problem of the plastic---this thing is neat, neat, neat. After you put in the meat it sucks out all the air and then seals the bag for you. Nice! We had so much fun that we spent quite a bit of time watching it and commenting on how it sounds like a motor cycle. It "shifts" as it does different aspects: like pulling out the air and then sealing the edges etc. It was so fun to do that I was reminded of when we got our first front loader washing machine----it was fascinating watching the clothes go round. Oh the joys of mundane things. To bad I didn't get that much joy out of laundry now :-D

Anyways---hope all are well. We seems to be beyond busy lately---however for some reason there doesn't seem to be a lessening in things to do. Why is that?
Oh yes---we got RAIN finally! Real rain---almost a whole days worth. Amazing :-)

1 comment:

Joe Greene said...

Hi, Monica. I've been thinking about you all since we have been in our "mini-drought" up here in Central Ohio. I hope you are well.

We have a family-owned butcher shop about 30 miles from us that does on-farm slaughtering. They have a truck with a hoist mounted in the bed. They come to the farm and do the slaughter and cleaning of the carcass. The carcass goes back to their shop to hang in their cooler and they take all the waste with them in barrels.

I sell meat - whole and half animals - that they butcher. The packages are stamped "not for sale" so the customer has to understand that they are buying the animal from me and paying the butcher to cut it.