My butcher dates for this year are done, so it’s my chance to reflect on my growing year.
Berkshire pigs are renowned for the fat marbling in the meat, and the results of my first year of raising Berkshire pigs did not disappoint. The meat is bright pink, juicy, and tender. I worked hard to keep the pigs from getting too lardy as they were growing, and that was successful as well. (The extra lard adds to the hanging weight but most folks don’t want to get their share from the butcher.)
Berkshire pigs are also friendly and playful so it was a joy to raise them. Amid the great clamor for plant-based meat substitutes and attempts from activists to thwart farmers from raising livestock (at least here in Oregon), I have a different view, closer to many older cultures that raise animals with loving care, celebrate the slaughter, and praise the individual animal for its nourishment at every meal. Human-centric? Yes, for sure. I used to have a card that said “I didn’t claw my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.” It’s much more personal than that though.
Like wildlife, domesticated livestock can provide many benefits to the environment. Joel Salatin’s books contain many descriptions of the benefits that pigs and other livestock offer besides their meat. See the quote box for a favorite. Whether you believe in God, Nature, or both, there is something divine and fundamentally grounding in living close to life and death and struggling to integrate into nature and make a net-positive impact.
Enough philosophy and religion. It’s fascinating to watch annual variation in vegetation and this has been the spring for nonnative italian thistle, shiny geranium and purple dead nettle to flourish and I have prevented thousands of nonnative thistle seeds from returning to the earth, while learning how to forage and eat heals-all. Back to work.
Quotes and Trivia
Gravity tends to pull fertility downhill. Hence fertile valleys and infertile hilltops. But wait, many times the most fertile soils are on hilltops. How could that be? Herbivores graze in the fertile valleys and then trudge up to the hilltops to chew their cuds and lounge. Why the hilltop? To watch for those nasty predators. The herbivore-grass, predator-prey relationships are foundational to moving those biomass-stored sunbeams around on the landscape. Without animals, the anti-gravitational movement would be impossible. Without the predator, it wouldn’t be incentivized. Truly, this whole ecosystem is fearfully and wonderfully made.
― Joel Salatin, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation