When I’m heading to bed at night, I like to browse through the internet and see what others in the homesteading world are up to.
One of the questions I’ve seen asked a great deal lately is, “I want to raise an animal for meat, but how do I go about it without becoming attached?”
A valid and real question. I wanted to share a few tips on preventing attachment to meat animals, for those who are considering raising meat but hold back out of fear of becoming emotionally attached.
Here’s what you should know to raise your animals for meat with success:
1. Emotion is Good
When I saw this question on a homesteading forum, I couldn’t help but respond. My first thought was that emotion is a good thing.
The first time you raise an animal for meat, it’s okay to cry when it is ready for slaughter. It’s okay to feel sad.
Full transparency here, I’ve been raising my own meat for five years, and I still have a hard time killing them.
I can deal with butchering all day long, but the actual process of taking a life is still hard. In my mind, this is a good thing.
It shows respect for life. Don’t ever feel bad for becoming emotional over taking a life. Know this makes you an empathetic person, and this is a good thing.
2. Don’t Name Them
Around our farm, we have a rule. We don’t name what eat. I don’t even keep my meat animals together with the animals I know I won’t eat.
For instance, I have one coop for my laying chickens and one for my meat birds. My laying chickens are pets which will die of old age.
They have a nicer coop and are spoiled. My meat birds I don’t treat the same way. They have a basic area, they are taken proper care of, but I don’t give them treats or add frills to their coop.
It isn’t as if they notice the difference. It’s more for me. By adding window boxes to my laying birds chicken coop and not adding flowers to the meat birds, it helps me mentally separate the two.
Treat all animals with care and respect, but don’t treat your meat animals as pets. That would make slaughtering them harder.
3. Give them a Good Life
We raise chickens and pigs for meat. I give all my animals a great life, and it makes me feel good when they’re butchered knowing how well we cared for them.
Giving them a natural life is important because it will allow you to feel better when you do consume them. Allowing them to live outdoors and as nature intended goes a long way to give you peace towards taking a life.
Knowing they were fed well and had proper care makes you feel okay because even though their lives may have been short, they had a good quality of life.
Make sure you give your meat animals a good life and good feed, because whatever was done to them or what they were fed, will affect you when you’re consuming their meat.
Therefore, if you feed them quality food, treat them well, and give them proper vitamins, you’ll reap the benefits with quality meat.
However, if you allow your animals to be sickly, eat an improper diet and live in filth, again, you’ll reap the consequences.
Making sure your animals have a good life should be your top priority (when owning any animal) but especially when consuming them for their meat.
4. Refer to them as Meat
It may sound funny, but when you’re raising a specific animal for meat, don’t name them as we discussed above. Pets receive names, but meat animals shouldn’t.
Therefore, when I raise a pig for meat, I may refer to them as ‘the pig’ or ‘the piggy,’ but they aren’t named Babe or Wilbur.
When we first brought pigs home to raise for meat, my children were upset because I wouldn’t allow them to name the pigs.
I knew if they named them, I’d end up with either three crying children when it came time to butcher them or three 400-pound pets.
Neither was ideal. I finally broke down and told the kids we could call them what they’d eventually become. One was named pork chop, one was named bacon, and the last one was called ham.
It helped the kids keep it in the forefront of their minds what was going to become of these cute little piglets.
Thankfully, by the time the pigs had reached butchering size, they weren’t nearly as cute, and the kids were ready for them to go.
As pigs get bigger, they become pushier over food, and my kids quickly learned to stay away from them.
But if you’re concerned about raising an animal for meat and becoming too attached to butcher it, try either not naming it at all or referring to it by what it will become. It helps keep everything sorted out in your mind (and heart.)
5. Death is Hard
It doesn’t matter if it’s a pig for meat, a family pet, or a person. No matter how you slice it, death is hard.
Why? Because life means something. It doesn’t matter how much you try to disconnect from an animal, you’re still going to feel the sting of death when butchering day arrives.
We’ve been doing this for years, and I still dread the morning I know I have to butcher an animal.
But what makes it all worth it is the sense of pride you feel when you process the animal and see how much your hard work is going to pay off.
For me, what takes some of the sting away is also making sure I don’t let the life I had to take be wasted in any way.
You can use the blood in your compost. There are a variety of ways to ensure the animal is utilized in as many ways as possible.
Though death is hard, when you allow the life to have a purpose in numerous ways, it makes the process a little easier.
6. Meat is Good
One of the main ways to raise an animal for meat and following through with the butchering process is to focus on why you raised the animal in the first place.
It was for their meat, after all. Meat produced in your backyard taste a ton better than any meat you’ll purchase from a supermarket shelf.
This is only my opinion, but many people will agree with me. I can only imagine it’s the difference in care, exposure to vitamins through living in the great outdoors, and also the better quality diet.
Plus, I’ve heard happy animals taste better. I used to laugh about it, but I’m convinced there’s truth to it.
Though it may be hard to take a life to feed your family, if you stay focused on the quality of meat you’re going to provide for your family, it should help the process along.
These tips have helped me along the way when raising meat, and I won’t go back to purchasing meat unless necessary.
I have a great appreciation for the food in my freezer because I saw the entire process. I know what it takes to provide a decent meal for my family.
Plus, I also know how the animal was treated and what it was exposed to during its lifetime. It may seem like too much information for some people, but I prefer to know. It allows me to take greater responsibility for my family and homestead and be self-sustained.
Hopefully these tips will help in preventing attachment to meat animals for you and your household, and realistically take on this new task of raising your own meat. Every step may not be easy, but you may find they’re all worth it to know where your food comes from and to ensure it was raised (and dispatched) in a humane way.