Know where your meal comes from

A quick stroll past the meat counter of a popular megastore Sunday afternoon prompted thoughts of Piggy Sue and others.

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A quick stroll past the meat counter of a popular megastore Sunday afternoon prompted thoughts of Piggy Sue and others.

Years ago, while living on Eastern Washington acreage, my wife had the inspired idea that we should use some of the rented space to raise a few pigs. On the list of her many inspired ideas, this one remains near the top, though this city-raised fellow had some serious doubts.

In the end, the experience was a rousing success – most of the time.

The prime benefit of this hog-raisin’ business came in the form of a major life lesson: just as you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, you can’t put meat on the table without killing an animal.

It’s simple, really, but the surprise is that it makes so many so uncomfortable.

That fact was abundantly clear while recently reading an archived story written by the food editor of a large, regional daily newspaper. He had accompanied a small hog and its owner to a slaughterhouse and, in his story, detailed the process of turning pig into pork.

The article was fascinating and kept as tasteful as one can expect when writing about how a living animal is quickly transformed into something for the table.

Even more interesting was scanning the accompanying reader comments.

The diversity of opinion was amazing. While some are keenly aware of the fact that animals have to die to create pork chops and Quarter Pounders, others apparently believe meat magically appears – on foam plates and under plastic wrap – in their store’s meat department.

Without going into graphic detail, our small-scale piggy operation produced meat for the freezer. Rather than hauling a small number of animals – Piggy Sue, Larry, Moe and Curly, among others – to a slaughterhouse, we called upon the services of a father-son team who maintained a small butcher shop in the area.

Wanting the education that comes with seeing livestock go full circle, I sat in on the butchering. The father of the operation, a nice guy possessing fewer fingers than he was born with, offered a running commentary. Suffice it to say that a couple of quick gun shots and even quicker knives turned our grunting hogs into hanging pork.

It was bloody but quick. It wasn’t particularly appealing, but tremendously educational. If I became a bit more callous due to the experience, that’s probably a good thing.

I eat meat. I know where it comes from. And I’m quite aware of what has to happen to put in on the table.

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