So we went to a farm with my father and were immediately greeted by the butcher, who was very happy to see my father. He was going to the back to bring us some meat, but my father said, "No, we want to hand select our lamb". The butcher led us to a small pasture with all sorts of adorable lambs frolicking about and looked at me to select my meal. My father asked him to point out the males. From those I spotted a young, lean, and spirited black head lamb and confidently said, "I want that cute one over there".
Picking out the lamb was the exciting and fun part, however I was not ready for what came next. The butcher stepped toward him and fear filled my lamb's eyes. He tried to dodge the man, but the butcher grabbed him around the neck and guided him towards a gate that led to the slaughter house. I watched in horror as other animals dispersed to let the lamb and the butcher through. I hated myself for picking out that lamb. I waited in the car as my father and husband went in to get the job done.
Growing up around this, I have heard the lambs screaming before and waited anxiously in the car with my ears perked. The difference between an animal in a slaughter house and the way my father kills the lamb is that he comes from behind it and slits it throat in one clean cut. There are no other animals present in this process. In the slaughter house, the animals are lined up then herds knocked out and cut up. However, they can hear and see what is going on around them.
I heard one tiny, "baah" and then silence. I sat in the car watching all the goats, chicken, and lambs playing together and I realized how easy it is to walk into a store, grab a package with unrecognizable meat and only eat two-thirds of it. You do not know where the meat came from, how the animal looked, how it was treated, and most of us do not care. We enjoy ignorance when it comes to our food.
However that ignorance comes at a cost; each year, Americans waste over 30 million tons of food. We do not respect the effort and the sacrifice that goes into food meant to nourish us. While I sat in the car and tearfully remembered the fear in my lambs eyes, I vowed to eat/use every last part of it. It sacrificed its life for my family and I, and it would be a terrible waste and disrespect to do otherwise.
The whole process was quick and clean. Within 30 minutes, the men came out with bags of meat for us to take home. The bags included two legs, two shoulders, the torso, a skinned head, the liver, heart, kidneys, extra fat and everything else other than the skin and the stomach. I thought it was a shame that I didn't know how to hunt and kill my own food, like the girl in the hunger games.
When we got home, we needed to air out the meat in the garage. We set out plastic bags on the floor and then topped them with clean white towels. I cringed as my husband nervously lifted out a heavy, bloody leg and laid it on the towel. We eventually got all the meat out. I thought about how our neighbors might think of us if they saw our garage lined with body parts. My husband and I argued about the need to cover the meat. My parents insisted it needed to be left uncovered, but we were worried about bugs and rodents. Eventually we covered it with aluminum foil. However, my mother scolded me and warned me the meat could turn rancid if it did not breath. Normally, we should have hooks to hang it from the ceiling but being our first kill we were unprepared. Turns out bugs and rodents only approach the meat if it has gone bad, which is why you need to blood to air out.
The next day, we put all the dried out lamb pieces in the fridge. By then it was no longer gross. There was no smell to the meat and it looked great. I decided I no longer want to buy my meat from the grocery store. I want to invest in a freezer, pick out a few chicken to add to my collection and stock up on protein that I know lived a happy life and was well cared for.
|This is the sweetest, freshest meat I have ever had in my fridge.|
Other environmentally conscious changes I have started implementing:
- Saving all vegetable and fruit waste such as skins, shavings, seeds, and rotten parts to reuse in compost; especially after a juice.
- Planting my own herbs. If I can keep my basil and mint alive, I will plant more complicated things.
- No longer buying food from a can or a box. It is no longer food; it has been processed, spiced, preserved and completely transformed from its natural state. The chemicals that come from the packaging is not only is it bad for you, but it is terrible from the environment.
- Buying produce from local farms. I'm not so much concerned with organic food as I am with genetically modified food. I want my apple to spoil within 3 to 5 days. The spoiling process lets you know the food no longer carries the nutrients it once did. It is also much cheaper than shopping at organic food stores because you are cutting out the middle man.
- Bring my own bags when shopping for produce. Most of the time I don't use bags at all, but if I feel I need to, I bring my own. The produce has been touched by hundreds of people, been in trucks, boxes, and carts. I think those little plastic bags are more for your peace of mind than sanitation. You need to wash your produce at home anyway, so don't worry about the germs at the store.