Sunday, January 24, 2010

from Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall, The River Cottage

"It seems obvious to me that the morality of meat eating lies in the factual details of our relationships with the animals we kill for food. It is what we do to them that counts. There is the simple fact that we plan and carrry out their slaughter. And, in the case of farmed animals, there are the more complex interactions through which we manage and control almost every aspect of the lives, from birth to death. From where do we draw the moral authority to bring about their deaths? And what is the moral status of the means and methods we use to run their lives?" 

from "The River Cottage Meat Book" by Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall, 2004 and 2007.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Letter to Bob del Grosso - A Hunger Artist

Bob:

It's interesting to ponder the significance of slaughtering one's own animals and it's impact upon ones life. I'm new at this, having only watched and helped kill a few pigs in my short "career". One of my early rationales for jumping into this whole business of running a small grass farm and raising livestock, was a simple challenge to myself. Could I raise an animal, bond with it, and kill it for food? Sort of an ultimate food challenge. Something, BTW my Dutch Calvinist ancestors did all the time.

Pigs, it seems to me, are relatively easy to kill. They are, generally speaking quite mean, ornery and downright uncivilized, especially to their fellow pigs. I'll never forget seeing the skin on those Mangalitzas after we scraped them clean. I asked Christoph about it. Bruises, welts, bite marks and scratches everywhere. They treat each other horribly, at least by human standards. There is also the knowledge that they are eagerly cannibalistic.  I'm told a pig will quickly eat a human if given a proper chance.  Pulling the trigger on those Mangalitzas was just not that hard.

This then, strikingly contrasts with my attitudes towards cows, or more accurately, my Highlander cows. All four of them. My "herd" consists of two brood cows, both around 4 or 5 years old and very pregnant. Calves due this summer. I've had them for 6 months now. They are beautiful animals. Huge. Graceful. Massive. Powerful. I'm continually amazed by them.  The more docile of the two allows me to scratch her back, examine her utter, rub her horns (these are very long and potentially very dangerous) and just generally hang out. These have been some of my most sublime moments on the farm. The way she smells is the most compelling.  The freshest raw milk scent ever.

Then there are the 2 steer calves, aged 8 and 6 months. I weaned them this past Christmas - putting them into an adjacent pasture, separated from Moms a short distance.  They were miserable (and loud) for a few weeks, but are now getting adjusted.  Without mom to hide behind, they're much more willing to be near me, which is gratifying. I approach one of them. Out on pasture. Scratch and examine his forehead. Imagine where the captive bolt pistol will be placed. Massage his neck, thinking about where the bleeding will happen.  This animal is my responsibility. It's a life in my hands. I must honor it.

Both steer calves will be killed and butchered at 18 - 20 months (next winter).  Everyone has told me it's hard to kill your first animal.  I believe them.

Phil

grass farmer on the Olympic Peninsula, WA

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pigstock 2010

I attended a hog butchering seminar this past weekend near Branchville NJ, about 90 minutes north of Newark airport put on by the Mosefund Farm. http://www.mosefund.com/pigstock2010_XX.html

The seminar was sponsored by Michael Clampfer of Mosefund Farm and taught by Christoph and Isabel Weisner from Gollersdorf, Austria. Christoph is the president of Austria's Mangalitza Pig Breeders Union.

Bob Del Grosso has written a beautiful description of the event. Here's his blog:
http://ahungerartist.bobdelgrosso.com/

He's also posted a movie of the first pig we killed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgJf8xAtpRM

As a non-chef, I was a bit intimidated, but everyone was very welcoming and open. Christoph and Isabella have done several of these before, including an event at the Herbfarm, and clearly know what they're doing.

Heath Putnam, the man responsible for bringing the Mangalitza to the western hemisphere, was also there talking with several of the chefs present from Dallas, Baltimore and Manhattan. http://woolypigs.com/

The event was hosted by Mosefund Farm, and managed by Michael Clampfer, who works as a chef at the Farm. They have over 100 Mangalitsa from Heath's herd and are trying to build a market for this remarkable type of pork on the east coast. The pigs living quarters were positively lavish with lots of clean bedding, plenty of feed and 24 hour access to a large pasture area up the hill a few hundred yards. These pigs were about as un-confined as I've ever seen. Hat's off to the Mosefund owners for their passionate and humane approach to animal husbandry.

First day consisted of killing seven animals. The first was a small yearling pig that we later roasted for dinner. The other six were full grown animals weighing in at 250 - 300 pounds. They were all stunned with a captive bolt pistol, something I've never worked with before, but was amazingly effective and quiet. The pigs went down instantly. Then a very small neck stick to bleed them. We applied a pine resin (from Austria) to the hair prior to dunking them in a bathtub of hot (150 degree) water for several minutes. Christoph and Isabell demonstrated the very simple technique of removing the hair with a chain pulled back and forth between them. This got at least 80% of it. The remainder was removed by hand, using a scraper device, brush or propane burner. End result was an absolutely clean animal without a trace of hair. Then evisceration and splitting, leaving us with 12 hanging sides of pork which spent the next 36 hours hanging in the barn, cooling down. This took us till well past 6 pm, after which we had a stand up dinner of the yearling pig we had killed earlier. Delicious.

Day 2 we spent indoors at a local firehouse kitchen cooking the "fifth quarter" - brains, livers, spleen, head, kidneys, lungs and heart. Head cheese, greaves and blood sausage were some of the products. Fascinating stuff. We also had a preliminary demonstration from Christoph on how we would be breaking down our sides the next day.

Day 3 it was back outside at Mosefund, where we broke down all 12 sides. Christoph again demonstrated his amazing technique and skill. He would show us a few cuts, then it was everyone back to his or her table to do the same with their side. Even though I didn't take home any pork, Erno (a local vet who makes amazing saurkraut) graciously let me practice on his.

Mission Statement

Chimacum Meats


A rural abattoir in the pacific northwest, focused on teaching the professional arts of humane animal husbandry & slaughter, butchering and charcuterie to non-professionals in the community.


1) Chimacum Meats is a small scale farm-based butchershop in Chimacum Wa, dedicated to small scale processing, distribution and consumption of locally raised beef, pork and lamb, and to the preservation and education of old world, artisanal methods of preserving these products.


2) All animals are either raised on site or purchased live from local farmers who use sustainable organic methods and and who feed their livestock only local organically produced grass, hay, barley, wheat and whey. Chimacum Meats honors and respects our domesticated livestock animals who, because of their service to us, deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and care. They have given or will give their lives for our benefit. We owe them a debt of gratitude. And to allow them to live their lives in dignity and peace. And to sacrifice and consume them with the utmost of respect and honor.


3) All meat is sold in quarter carcass amounts or larger and is not USDA inspected. Facilities are commercial grade and meet all code requirements for safe meat handling including a full size walk-in refrigerator. All meat is intended solely for private use and consumption. All butchering and other processing is done by the purchasers/owners of the meat with those individuals responsible for their own meat and its safety.




Suggested reading:
1) Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game - John J. Mettler, DVM
2) Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery - Jane Grigson
3) Charcuterie - Michael Ruhlman
4) Cooking by Hand - Paul Bertolli
5) Bruce Aidells Complete Book of Pork: A Guide to Buying, Storing and Cooking the Worlds Favorite Meat
6) The Whole Beast - Nose to Tail Eating - Fergus Henderson
7) The Art of Making Fermented Sausage - Stanley Marianski and Adam Marianski
8) The River Cottage Cookbook - Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall; p. 139 - 169

"It seems obvious to me that the morality of meat eating lies in the factual details of our relationships with the animals we kill for food. It is what we do to them that counts. There is the simple fact that we plan and carrry out their slaughter. And, in the case of farmed animals, there are the more complex interactions through which we manage and control almost every aspect of the lives, from birth to death. From where do we draw the moral authority to bring about their deaths? And what is the moral status of the means and methods we use to run their lives?" - from "The River Cottage Meat Book" by Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall, 2004 and 2007.