Victor studied the three pigs in the pen and pointed out that the one we had chosen probably weighed over 300 pounds, much too big for a “roaster.” He pointed to a different animal and said, “That one would be a better size.” I got the buyer's OK, and the smaller pig was dispatched.
It's a sad day at Miles Smith Farm when we sell a hog to be processed for meat – a hog we have raised and cared for. In this case, the buyer had purchased this hog for a pig roast. Then we contracted with Vic Huse to come to the farm, dispatch the animal, and prepare it for roasting.
Because the hog was purchased while alive for roasting, it became the property of the new owner even though it stayed on our farm for processing. In all other cases, we are required by law, to bring our live animals – cows, pigs or lambs – to a USDA-approved facility for processing. There an inspector watches the animal walk into the chute. If the animal seems sick, the inspector can reject it, and it won't be processed.
Once a healthy animal is humanely killed, the carcass is skinned, gutted and continually washed -- all subject to USDA inspection. Depending on the meat (beef, lamb, goat, pork) it hangs in a cooler for a few days to two weeks, then goes to the meat-cutting room where hanging sides are cut and Cryovacked into individual packages of steaks or roasts or ground into hamburger, ready to sell. This meat carries the seal of the processing plant, which indicates it is USDA-approved. The processor then delivers boxes of delicious, humanely processed meat to our farm.
The plant we chose for processing always treats our animals as we would – with respect. They are handled carefully in a state-of-the-art facility. The animals wait calmly in pens until it is time to walk through the curved chute to be processed. I want no less for the animals I've lived with for months or years.
Even so, I prefer that an animal meet its end on the farm, in a familiar environment. And while I know it is better for the animal, it is always hard for me. I wish I could keep all the animals I raise, but that is not an economic reality. Just like you, I have a mortgage, insurance premiums and utility bills to pay. Hay alone costs $30,000 a year. The farm may run on sentiment, but my creditors want money.
Even more importantly, we started this farm as an alternative to factory farms where livestock have numbers, not names. I want to know that our pigs got to express their pigness; that cows could graze on tall grass; that lambs were raised with kindness.
Within an hour, Victor was done, and the pig hung in the cooler ready to be taken to the pig roast. The purpose of raising this pig was to provide food. His life was good, and the end was quick, without suffering. I don't regret my decisions, but that doesn't mean I can't be sad at the same time. On days like this, I can't always hold back the tears.