Know Your Food: Pig Slaughter

Dead Hog on a Tractor
Dead Hog on Back of Tractor

For the most part, I follow a vegetarian diet. It is also easier to tell people, "I am a vegetarian*." Most people know what it is, know what diet they generally follow (or think they follow) and have the automatic assumption that it is for animal rights reasons. However, there is an unspoken asterisk next to vegetarian for me – it includes a few things actually. I will eat eggs, fish and milk products in addition to tofu, vegetables, beans, rice and the list goes on. I am closer to a pescatarian, but aside from the more well read crowd at the University (of Minnesota Duluth, where I work), I would get strange looks by the locals here in southern-Northern Minnesota; even stranger looks and bewilderment from the home-crowd on the Iron Range.

The second, and more important part of the asterisk has to do with why I have chosen to not regularly consume meat. It is rather simple: I feel better. It has nothing to do with "killing is wrong" or "animals are people, too." Without going into a great deal of detail, I feel better physically. Fewer stomach aches, fewer head aches, etc.

In some parts of the world, meat is a luxury. Meat may only be eaten several times per month due to cost or accessibility. Here in the United States, meat is abundant, meat is cheap, and meat is all too often under appreciated by the masses. On the rare occasion, there are those like Steven Raichlen, of Barbecue University, who truly appreciate the significant role that the consumption of animal flesh has played in human history.

Three Little Pigs
Fifth Avenue Farm – Three Little Pigs

Some time, at the beginning of May, I was helping a friend set up her beehives. After getting things setup, Melissa and I left. In the truck, on the way back to our house, Melissa said very excitedly, "Theresa is getting pigs; she asked if we want one, too." These were not to be pet pigs, but, rather, pigs to do a job and then, before snow fall, to be killed, butchered and eaten over the course of the winter and spring. The job they needed to do was rut up and fertilize an acre or so of land for next season’s planting. Shortly there after, we plunked down money and became owners of ½ a pig.

Hog Skinning
Hog Skinning

Animals get slaughtered for consumption all the time. Billions of chickens are consumed globally each year. The United States, according to USDA projections, produces 10,884,000 tons of consumable cattle each year. The methods used to raised poultry and livestock, and everything from the transportation of the animal to market to the means in which it is dispatched (killed) are all important things. For many Americans, the most difficult and taxing part of meat consumption is trying to decide on whether to get t-bone steaks or the porterhouse steaks. There is an inherent disconnect between what gets purchased from a grocery store (and subsequently consumed) and how that product – meat, vegetable, box of crackers, etc – got to the store or even how it got to be in its current form.

From piglet to pork chops, we know the vast majority of the story of our ½ pig. It is comforting to know the quality of care received and the quality of the food consumed during its life. Having participated, even tacitly, in their progress through the summer, is humbling, and it is comforting to know your food’s story.

The remaining two hogs were [humanely] slaughtered this morning. From dispatching to delivery at the butcher’s, the two pigs took 2.½ hours. The stories involving these three pigs will continue with the meals they are part of and the stories and memories that are shared by the families consuming them.

Bobbie is really Bobby!

Bobby with the chickens

Well, after doing a little more research on our quail, we have realized that Bobbie is really a Bobby!  For bobwhite quail you can tell the males by the white on their head.  Hens will have more of a brownish color where the white is on the males.

Bobby is still hanging with the flock here and was even the first one in the coop last night.  He seemed to like roosting in the windows of the coops while the chickens roosted on the roosts.  All was fine this morning as I went to let them out.  Little Bobby just waited for all but one hen to go out (Goose doesn’t go out until I leave the coop, she has to say hi to me first) and then he walked up the ramp, out the door and down the other ramp.

For now as long as Bobby and the chickens are getting along fine we’ll just call him part of the flock.  So welcome to the flock Bobby!

Heart Walk 2011

Well, another heart walk is under my belt.  Todays walk seems to have been successful, even in this horrible economy.  I want to thank everyone who helped support me in raising funds, I was able to reach my goal of $500 again this year.  I also want to thank Alex, my mom and dad, Annie and Lisa F for coming out and joining me for the walk!  Here are a few memories from today:

Bayfront Festival Park

It was cold but people were still coming out to support the cause!

Large ship leaving the port

We got to see a large ship leave the port and announce it’s exit to the lift bridge!

Henry hanging out

Henry was very popular and was saying hi to anyone and everyone that would stop to say hi!  At this point he was joining some UMD folks for some snuggle time!

Henry and Champ nose to nose

Henry even was popular with Champ, UMD’s mascot!

Henry getting a pet from Champ
Henry posing with Champ

And finally…


Henry gave and received many many kisses today!

Bobbie the quail

So we have named the little gal, Bobbie, since she seems to be a Bobwhite quail.  She wanted to join the chickens in the coop last night but flying at wired off windows wasn’t working for her to get in.  So we closed up the coop and she took shelter on the green roof of the coop instead.  This morning she was on the garage roof just watching and came flying down as soon a the chickens were let out.

Bobbie on the fence
Bobbie with the chickens

As you can see she is much smaller than the chickens but she chases the chickens around.  We are keeping a close eye on her to make sure she doesn’t hurt the chickens in anyway.  So we’ll have to see what the future brings for little Bobbie and if she decides to stick around or not.

That thing called love

Love…this week has really taught me what true love is and how love works.  I think too many people just carelessly throw the word around without even thinking about its meaning.  For me, when I say I love something or someone, I really mean it with all of my heart!

Our wedding day

This week I haven’t felt very well health wise, which obviously puts added stress on my entire household, as they take care of me and make sure I’m cared for.  It was eight years ago on September 14th that I married my best friend and soul mate, Alex!  There have been many times in the past eight years where he could have said “I give up” or “This is too hard” or “I can’t help you” but instead I get “I love you” and “Are you doing ok” and “Do you need me to do anything”.  Now that is what the true meaning of marriage is and I am forever grateful for it every day!

I’ve also learned to look at things from the other side, as the care taker.  It isn’t an easy task and even harder when you yourself don’t feel well.  I am in the process of learning how to fill this role to be as supportive as possible.  It is really hard to watch someone you love not feel well!

Maddie, Oliver and Henry

I have also found that even when you think you don’t have any more love to give another hound, one seems to find their way into your heart!  My heart was crushed when Homer passed away.  I thought that there was no way another dog would ever wiggle their way into my heart as much as he did.  Well, I’m learning that they all wiggle their way into your heart, just in different ways.  For me, all of the hounds seem to have a different role in our lives here at Chez Jokela.  Homer was truly my heart dog and could sense when my NCS was acting up.  Sarge is the gentle laid back hound that just makes you smile and helps snuggle away the sorrow and pain.  Oliver is the the new sensor of NCS flare ups and is known as the house clown, who needed us as much as we needed him.  Maddie is the girl who keeps you going, is very loyal and is eager to learn.  Gerdie was my girl.  She was my shadow, the one who watched over me, the first one to greet me and the alpha female of the house.  She kept everyone in line with an iron but gentle paw.  When she left us in July I was devastated and didn’t know if my heart would ever heal.

Henry playing nurse

Once again I was feeling that emptiness that I had felt when Homer left.  Well, of course along came Henry and now my heart is a little less broken…ok a lot less broken!  This boy makes you smile everyday and is the best behaved puppy I have ever had.  Yes, I probably just jinxed it now and yes I know I said puppy when I said after Homer I would never get another puppy and yes it isn’t hard to not be a better behaved puppy than Homer was.  As the 6.5 month old Henry slept and snuggled on the bed with me for 6 hours on Tuesday, while Alex was at work, I knew I was well cared for and that I loved him even more than I thought I ever could.

So there you have it…I am very blessed and glad that I am able to love and be loved!


What is that?!

That was the first thing out of Alex’s mouth this morning as we let the chickens out heading out for work.  After the skunk episode the other night I was worried to look at what Alex saw in the yard with us and the chickens.  I finally worked up the courage to look and this is what I saw…

Bobbie the Quail

Yup, there was a quail in the chicken yard, just hanging out eating some of the chicken food and scratch.  We left for work wondering if we would ever see her again.  Well, when we got home she was still hanging out with the flock!  We’ll see what she does tonight when the other chickens go in the coop to roost.

To be continued…