Sep 11, 2009


Well, the deed is done. The freezer is full(er).

Yesterday we butchered eight roosters and one three year old buck.

We are often asked at the markets what we do with the boys (goats, of course), we would never eat one, would we? The answer is yes, we have and will likely continue to do so.

I know that there are many who are horrified by this thought and I want to address this by explaining my philosophy.

Although I am less than enamored with the way most meat that fills the freezers at the grocery store is raised and processed, we are not vegetarians. We have gradually decreased the amount of store-bought meat that we eat, but we are definitely carnivores.

I do not think being eaten is an ignoble end for livestock. What is ignoble, is treating the animal (be it chicken, goat, rabbit, cow, etc) like a commodity. These are living, breathing creatures. I believe that they are made by God and I believe that we will be called to account for how we care for them. This includes everything from how they are raised, fed and treated to how their lives are ended. I believe that being a good steward of the gifts that we are given not only means making sure that the animals are well cared for while they live, it also means not wasting their lives by just discarding them when they are no longer needed. I am not the best when it comes to recycling, etc. But making sure that potential food (and the lives that the food represents) is not wasted is something that is important to me.

In the case of the goat yesterday, we put it down and dressed it out ourselves. ("We" to be taken generally as, being pregnantly queasy, *I* stayed inside folding laundry while my husband, older children and a family friend tended to the task.) We could have taken it to a USDA approved processing facility and let them tend to it, but I did not feel that to be kind. In this case we had a three year old animal. This boy was born right here on Swede Farm. He was fed bottles by my children. He was cared for here, he had never left the property. We had the option of taking him and putting him in a livestock trailer (a new and likely scary experience), transporting him to a nearby town, unloading him into a building (he hasn't been inside a building since he was little enough to be picked up and carried!) to be handled by strangers who might be yelling, shoving, and treating him roughly. Instead, he was let out of his pen. He was petted and allowed to wander to choice brush and enjoy a real treat. He was put down without ever being handled roughly by strangers, never knowing fear or essence going from happy and here to gone with no unneeded pain or anxiety.

This, I can live with. Imagining the fear that would come with handling it another way I do not think I could tolerate.

Do we do this often? No. This is only the third goat that we have put in the freezer in the five years that we have owned goats. This is the only way that we are comfortable doing it, even though it is harder for the people involved. Does this mean that we are truly "comfortable" with it, that we enjoy it? No, and I pray that we never become cavalier about it.

After the animal is put down, we do take the opportunity to use it as a teaching time, showing the kids what a brain, liver, etc look like. Later, when we eat something with goat meat in it, they do know that this meat came not just from the freezer, but from the woods pen on the west side of the property, and before that, what breeding he came from. I know some will disagree, but I think it is a good way to teach them to value life, not devalue it. This was not a "throw-away" life, this was a life with purpose.

1 comment:

Martha Ann said...


Thank you for your post on ethical livestock care. I enjoy reading your blog and have linked to it here