Reflections on Raising Meat
It’s with some hesitation that I write this post. The ultimate fate of our animals is something that we try not to focus on. Most people would prefer to eat their meat without thinking about the fact that it came from a once living animal. It’s much easier that way.
Today is a day of reflection. Our first lambs are being taken down to the butcher. While we’re so excited to add lamb to our list of products and so proud of the work we’re doing, I would be lying if I said it was easy. There’s a twinge of sadness that I’m not ashamed to share. I think it’s important to know how much Benson and I care about the animals we raise and appreciate the responsibility we have of being stewards of God’s land and creatures.
We are often asked “how can you do it?”. It’s not easy – but I’ve gotten to the point now, where it seems more difficult to buy meat at the store not knowing where it came from – and I don’t just mean geographically. I mean knowing how it was raised, what it was fed, how it was cared for and how it ultimately died.
I think the more important question to ask is why Benson and I farm. Here are just a few of the reasons:
1. To provide people with a choice.
Most people eat meat. Some choose to be vegetarian, vegan, etc. and I think that’s a fine choice. But for those people who do eat meat, they deserve to have a choice. Buying our meat means that you’re supporting a local family farm that raises animals on pasture in an ethical and environmentally sustainable way.
2. To know where our food is coming from.
When we started farming about 7 years ago, it was mostly to feed our own family. Raising our own meat meant that we could be deeply connected to the food we were eating and that there was no question about where it came from, how it was raised and how it lived its life. We took the time (and still do) to know the people who butcher our meat to ensure that from the day the animal was born until its final moments, it was well cared for. The butcher we use now, Faquier’s Finest Meat Processing, is a USDA-inspected, Animal Welfare Approved butcher. We have developed a personal relationship with this company and work cooperatively with them to ensure that our meat is of the highest quality.
3. To connect to our roots.
Benson’s family has been in Calvert County since the late 1700s. In some ways, what we do is about carrying on a legacy – preserving a piece of land for our own children, Benson’s brother’s children and hopefully our future great-great-grandchildren. Not many people have the opportunity (or desire) to farm. We feel blessed to preserve agriculture in Southern Maryland and share our experience with so many wonderful and supportive people.
4. To nourish our soul.
Farming is difficult and profound work. We have deepened our connection to God, who gave man dominion over the land, sea and animals. Religion aside, there’s also a deep sense of connection that we have towards the earth and health of our planet. Farming has made us more aware of ways we can improve to keep ourselves and our planet healthier. Benson and I debate almost everyday about different types of farming – being a part of the local farming community has opened our eyes to the need for diversity. We’re proud of the space we fill in this community.
WE ARE A GRASS-BASED FARM
The health of our pasture – from the soil to the grass is of the utmost importance. Without healthy pasture, we can’t produce healthy meat. We carefully select animals that will thrive on a pasture based management system. In some cases, as with our sheep, they are rare breeds that face extinction without good stewards to continue their breed. Our cows, sheep and goats are exclusively grass fed. They are born and raised on our farm, loved from the day they are born. Our pigs come from a local farm, bred and raised by farmers we deeply admire. We get them as piglets and raise them on pasture and wooded areas, supplementing with locally sourced feed (St. Mary’s County).
It doesn’t happen often – but it’s harder to deal with a sick animal than one that’s going to the butcher. When an animal dies from sickness, there is an indescribable feeling of loss. We analyze these situations from all sides to understand how we can improve and what we could do differently to prevent similar situations from happening again.
Raising an animal to its full potential is very rewarding. We’re so proud of the quality of meat we produce and appreciate all the positive feedback we’ve gotten. We stand face to face with our customers every week, holding ourselves accountable for the products we sell. And we go to bed every night thankful for the opportunity we have.
Meat is a precious resource. We should all think a little harder about where our food comes from and to support those who work tirelessly to raise it.
The Calvert County Fair is this week – be sure to stop in the Ag Building to learn about Calvert’s farming heritage and to visit the 4-Hers who proudly show their animals and other projects at the fair each year. The future is bright for young farmers.