If you’re of a squeamish nature, it’s probably worth you skipping this post. However, if you’re reading this blog, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend passed on a blog link about home-slaughter in Slovakia: http://www.52insk.com/2011/zabijacka/. It’s a pretty interesting read for those interested in these types of things. It’s good to see how other cultures process their animals and how similar they do things to us. Winter kills have been a staple for me for the past few years, where I’d take a week off of the day job in order to kill, cut and cook up all parts of the animal. It’s something we’ve always done as a family – I can remember my Great Uncle talking about keeping pigs for meat during the 30’s and 40’s – the cattle and sheep were destined for market as they’d fetch too good a price.
Keeping animals to live is the root of where this business of mine started, and although I have a ready supply of meat through production, the annual kill will remain a part of my seasonal diary. It’s testament to the rural communities here in Carmarthenshire that the local authorities Environmental Health site has a direct link to the Food Standard Agency guidance on Livestock Slaughter. In the same way that I have fond memories of summer harvests and plucking turkeys at Christmas – the annual kill has that same social connection where the family are all involved with their own specific job on the day.
On friday I’m off to see some (more) pigs, hopefully to find us a happy gilt which’ll be destined for the freezer. Having been witness to the annual kill from a young age, I’ve a healthy respect and understanding for the way our food comes to the table. It also underpins my belief in keeping animals to a high welfare standard, and to have them killed with the minimum amount of stress. I know that my retail prices aren’t the cheapest, but I’d rather spend a few extra pounds on my raw ingredient knowing that it’s come from a source where welfare, traceability, good breeding and feed are key in the animals upbringing. I can hear myself being a bit preachy sometimes when it comes to this, but in order to make the best quality product, you need the best ingredients.
One of the other cornerstones of the business is not to waste a thing – and the pig is the ideal animal. It really is true that everything ‘except for the squeal’ can be used. There’s a timetable of things to do – collecting blood for black pudding, using the heart, liver, kidney and caul fat for faggots and if there’s some liver spare making pate or a meaty terrine, rendering the lard, brining the head for brawn, cleaning the intestines for sausage production, cutting the meat, salting the legs and producing the sausages . It’s a long process, but it brings an immense amount of satisfaction when it’s done right.
I don’t know how many people do still slaughter on-farm. Having attended a number of cutting, curing and food safety courses over the last few years with other breeders and small holders, there’s a definite interest in learning about how to do it. Perhaps one day I’ll be in a position to offer courses of my own.