I have just said good-bye to the first meat animals I’ve ever raised. It has been a very positive experience and for the first time I feel I have taken proper responsibility for the fact I eat meat. I think everyone has a very personal and very different relationship with meat eating and has to find their own comfort zone. My own relationship with eating meat has changed over the years and as a result of keeping pigs it has changed again as you will see below.
The short version is that I will happily continue to eat meat. In fact am more happy to eat my own animals than anything bought in a supermarket because I know they have been exceptionally well cared for. We will have strict rules going forwards as a family about eating meat but also dairy and eggs for sustainability and ethical reasons but our solution as a family to meat eating is to take a really hands on approach. If R wants to become a vegetarian or vegan as he gets older then we will support him in those choices – but we have decided that he will not be raised on chicken nuggets with no idea about how they get to his plate. He will have all the facts… what he chooses after that is up to him and we will support him.
Over the course of having the pigs J and I have re-looked at the meat industry in this country and re-evaluated our eating habits once again. We generally don’t eat much meat anyway because of the environmental impact and we always tried to get the best ethical meat we could from the supermarket but our research has been a rude awakening. Even free range meats and eggs aren’t really that ethical. Organic is probably the best ethical choice you can make for meat, eggs, milk and cheese from the supermarket at least. This is because it seems almost as a by-product of organic standards are high welfare standards (e.g. you can’t pump organic meat full of the antibiotics etc necessary to keep animals alive in battery conditions – because then it wouldn’t be organic).
So coming out of having pigs we are committing to a new set of standards in our food.
All meat must come from local farmers we know, butchers we trust, our own back garden or small holders we know. At a pinch we can buy from Abel&Cole but nothing from a supermarket. The toughest thing about this will be giving up sweet and sour chicken from the local Chinese!
All eggs must be the same except we will get organic free range from the supermarket until we have got our own chickens.
All milk and cheese to be organic.
Ultimately we are going to try and produce as much of our own meat and eggs as possible over the next few years. In 2-4 years time I like to be eating almost entirely our own meat and eggs.