The Hard Part of Homesteading

hardpart

As many of you know from my recent Facebook posts, we butchered our steer this past weekend.

First off, let me give you a little background info.

I was a Vet Tech for two years before becoming becoming a homesteader. I’ve helped mercifully end the lives of more animals than I can even recall. I’ve assisted with all manner of surgeries and procedures, from spaying and neutering to bovine C-Sections involving dead baby calves… As a result, it’s nearly impossible to find much of anything animal-related that “grosses me out.”

I enjoy hunting, and have personally shot, gutted, and skinned three antelope.

I gave my hubby the “ok” to put down two of our own horses, one being my very first horse, whom I purchased at the age of 14.

I’m no stranger to blood, guts, and… death.

Yet last Wednesday night when hubby told me that he had locked up our steer so we could shoot him the next day, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness.

It’s not that I had an especially close bond the steer. We had only had him since the summer, and he could be rather rude at times.

But I saw him every day when I went to the barn to do chores, and I had even trained him to stand back and wait while I milked Oakley the Cow. He was a living creature that I “knew.” He had eyes, and a heart, and a personality.

Yet, when the time came, I held the rope as hubby put him down. He went calmly and quietly, with a mouthful of alfalfa hay between his teeth.

I’ve been pondering this all week- on one hand, I was incredibly excited to butcher a beef ourselves for the first time. On the other hand, I felt rather sorry to see him go.  But, I’ve come to the conclusion that my conflicting feelings are nothing to be ashamed of.

I don’t ever want to get to the point where I am completely calloused to the cycles of life and death.

Let’s face it– all the meat we eat had eyes, a heart, and a personality at some point– whether you are the one to cut it up and put it in the freezer or someone else does.

In our modern culture, we are so incredibly detached from that concept. To most people, hamburger comes from, well, hamburger. Most definitely NOT from a living, breathing cow. We don’t want to think about that part– That’s just gross.

I think that any person who eats meat should take part in a butchering process at least once. Perhaps we would all be less wasteful and more mindful of what we eat if we had a first-hand role in it’s living AND dying…

For the homesteaders out there who are a little nervous about your first butchering day, let me share a few of the ways I reconcile the process in my mind:

1. Homestead animals generally live a very good life, compared to their industrial counterparts. Our steer had 60 acres of wide open space to graze, run, and play on right up until the very end. He had “cow friends” to hang out with, and he never spent a day in a crowded feedlot.

2. Home-raised meat is usually fed higher quality feed, which results in healthier animals. Our steer was 100% grassfed, which means he ate the way that cows are meant to eat his entire life. He never ate any grain or by-products like most commercial cows do. That equals a healthier cow and better meat for us.

3. Homestead animals generally have more peaceful deaths. Our steer breathed his last breath only about 30 feet from his big round-bale feeder. His end was swift and calm. Animals live in the moment, and Mr. Steer had no idea what was coming next.

4. In the home-butchering process, usually little is wasted. From our steer, friends took most of the internal organs and the horns, I saved a bunch of the fat to render into tallow (post on that coming next week!), and we saved many of the bones to turn into beef stock.

5. If you eat meat, it has to come from somewhere. Why not from sustainably-raised, happy animals? I would rather eat a cow that I know was fed properly and allowed to fully be a cow, than the “mystery meat” from the grocery store.

The other side of my first 100% home butchering experience?

It was incredibly empowering to do it ourselves for the first time. Yes, it was.

I’ve said it before, one of my most favorite parts of homesteading is learning and honing our skills, and this was no exception.

My mouth was watering as we cut up the steaks and roasts. Our little ol’ grassfed Jersey steer gave us some lovely looking meat with plenty of marbling.

So to wrap it all up? There is nothing to be embarassed about if you feel a little sad when you butcher Mr. Steer, or Mr. Pig, or Mr. Chicken for the first time. Acknowledge the feelings, and then enjoy the experience of learning a skill that is fast becoming extinct in our modern culture.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go throw some steaks on the grill. ;)

Please note: This post is not about the vegetarian vs. meat eater debate. We have made the conscious choice to consume meat for various reasons. This post is about our journey of raising our own meat instead of buying it at the store. If you are a vegetarian, I totally respect that. However, I have chosen a different path, so please be respectful of my choices in return. 

 

 


P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I'm betting you'll love getting The Prairie Homestead getting delivered to your inbox. Over 30,000 over homesteaders have already signed up!
Click here to join 'em.


STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

The following two tabs change content below.

Jill Winger

Owner/Blogger at The Prairie Homestead
Hey! I'm Jill. I'm all about cooking from scratch, getting dirt under my fingernails, hoarding mason jars, and trying not to kill stuff in my garden. I firmly believe that anyone can be a homesteader. Stick around, and I'll show ya the ropes!

Latest posts by Jill Winger (see all)

Comments

  1. What a great post. It definitely feels very bittersweet eating meet from an animal I know… though I’ve never been so up-close and personal w/ a cow I was going to eat before. :) It helps to know, though, that they’ve had a good life as compared to one of the sad and mal-treated factory animals.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Excellent post. We decided last year we’d rather kill one or two large animals for a year or so’s worth of meat, than 60 chickens (after butchering for our home and my mothers, we’d done over 80). It hit home that it’s a life per meal, and that’s just a hard thing to wrap our minds around. We will still butcher our animals, and hunt, and still love chicken, but decided that we’d rather treat those meals with a higher “life cost” as a treat instead of a mainstay. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but life is life, and it should be treated with respect in our opinion.

  3. Great post. I’ve never butchered an animal…and don’t live in an area where I could do that. This is a new thing to me..however, I agree with you about the quality of the meat. I also think it’s important to know where food comes from. How did you learn to do the butchering at home? Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  4. This post was very good. I totally agree that raising your own is much more humane. However we have been blessed with little jersey heifers so they’re worth a lot more alive! :-) When our most recent calf was born I thought she was a bull and immediately my heart sank. I know I will have to butcher someday and would actually like to raise some Red Poll so thank you for the encouragement. It’s so nice knowing that your food had the best life possible.

  5. Loved this post. Shared it on my facebook wall and twitter, for my readers, too. It’s great to see others who value sustainable living and are sharing their experiences. Keep up the great work!

  6. Great post.
    I’ve never butchered anything I’ve raised on my own. I remember watching as my dad ‘dressed’ (?) a buck he killed when I was a girl.
    I’ve cut up a chicken I bought from the store. I’ve never butchered one that I’ve raised. I have chickens– and we have them with the intent to do just that. However,… I must confess I’ve not read up on how to kill, clean, and store a chicken. If I don’t read up on it– then my chicken will die and go to chicken heaven right? and I won’t have to eat it? But then what a waste right?
    Crazy I know. I’ve just procrastinated in that area. Now, I’m becoming the chicken!

    I enjoyed reading this post– you’ve addressed some of the feelings I’ve been having– finding the balance in all of it.
    I’ll read more as you post. I need all the encouragement I can find!

    Pat

    • Hehe Pat– chicken heaven. ;)

      I’ve never butchered a chicken, either. Mostly because my hubby is allergic to poultry so we don’t eat much of it. When my last batch of hens wore out, I gave them away. But, I imagine the day is coming eventually…

      • I would have a hard time butchering that adorable steer. I fell in love with it just through the pictures.

        I was going to ask you about chickens…because we have 17 of them right now and it is time to start butchering! I am sad to see that you havent had the experience, because I had lots of questions for you. This would be our first time butchering the chickens. We bought the fertilized eggs from a micro farm for one of our broody hens. From them, we got 19 chicky-babies. We lost 4 within the first couple of weeks and then one to a hawk. Now, the “chicky babies” are bigger than our original hens. It is time to start butchering – we’re just so concerned that we would do it wrong or inhumanely, no matter how many videos we watch on it!

        I love this post – thank you so much for writing it. Because I feel the conflict in my heart just as you did.

        • Yes, I hope to add chicken butchering to my skill list someday! Best of luck with your butchering process. :)

        • Meg – I hope your chicken butchering went well –
          If you have been holding off, let me know. I’ve got some experience there, and would love to help if I can.

        • If you watch a YouTube video of Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm doing chicken processing, you can get a lot of tips on how to kill humanely and how to eviscerate properly.

      • MaineHomesteadGuy says:

        We have done our own chickens. It is by far the easiest thing to butcher. The worst part is watching the little chicks grow up and knowing that you will have to kill them.

  7. Nice! It is healthy and appropriate to feel sadness and ambivalence. I actually feel worse about the trip my boys have to make to the slaughterhouse – i hate that they have to have the fearful experience of being trailered to a strange place. I really feel for the animals who have to endure the experience of the auction barn, then hauling someplace else for slaughter. A long, frightening process for them…

    Agree 110% about the difference in quality of life – I really struggle to eat commercially raised meat now that I know better. And, I have a new reverence for the meat itself – I’m very careful to not waste or mishandle the meat…… it means too much to me.

    • Yes, “reverence” is a great way to put it! It really makes me identify with our homesteading ancestors and understand how they felt. And animal like that would have truly been a feast and a blessing. :)

  8. Bethany Keeney says:

    My family lives on a farm and it is part of life. We usually have enough to get by till one falls or something and then we butcher again. We also eat lots of deer. I remember one sheep though who was a “pet” and there were a few kids who wanted cereal every time they knew we were eating Pete!

  9. Awesome post….and so well explains the way I feel EVERY time we butcher an animal here on our place. It’s never a “fun” thing, but we know it’s necessary and part of our lives. The feeling behind the task often gets overlooked or ignored, it’s nice to have it “out there” and acknowledged. :) Enjoy those steaks!

  10. Great post! I love the perspective you share. We’re not callous to it–we’re perhaps even more aware of the impacts of what we’re doing. I always have that “unsettled” feeling when it comes time for one of our animals to be processed (by us, or sold to someone else for the same reason). But it is part of life. I think it’s to our credit that we make every effort to be humane about it throughout their life and even in their death. We know exactly what was involved in bringing that food to our plate and whether we consider it an acceptable process that involved respect for life or not.

    • Absolutely Jamie. I’m not sure if I’ll ever loose that “unsettled” feeling, and that’s just fine with me. :)

  11. Or you could just not eat meat. Its not really necessary, is it?

    I haven’t ingested the flesh of mammals since 1992 and feel so much better because of it, both physically and spiritually. I get my protein from egg/fish and have no desire to end the life of anything other than that fish which I absolutely can catch and clean myself.

    I live on a farm too, and have chickens and horses and other critters and bees and a garden. I have a lovely organic and varied diet.

    I don’t begrudge anyone to live another way and respect the rights of cow and pig eating people and I absolutely agree…eating meat is too sanitized for most consumers. I love your idea of butchering something just once. If you can kill it, you can eat it. If you allow someone else to do it for you, maybe you shouldn’t eat it either.

    Metaphysically cows understand they sometimes have this “job” to nourish humans. It is their daily life and care that is paramount and for that, I commend your principles.

    • “Metaphysically cows understand they sometimes have this “job” to nourish humans.”

      I really like that. It is a job, and a very important one. I’d like to think the cows and other animals my family and I eat understand that and take pride in it. What a peaceful thought.

  12. I really enjoyed your post. I agree that we enjoy a much better tasting and to me, healthier meat that we grow ourselves. We butcher our own chickens, turkeys, venison, and goats but have not tried beef. We take them to a butcher friend. Only because we don’t have access to an area or tools to do this. We appreciate our animals and treat them very well. While it is sad to know they have to die to feed us, we don’t dwell on it. We named them t-bone and hamburger and our kids always knew that those would end up in the freezer.

  13. My husband and I raised our first beef cow this past summer. I know when we were building the fence I instantly had a better understanding (not completely of course) of what our ancestors had to do every day of their lives to just live. It gives you a greater appreciation of everything we have in our lives today and it also empowers you to know that maybe you could survive if it all went away tomorrow. So even though yes it was heartbreaking (my husband did the deed and I watched from afar- I was worried about how he felt, more than myself) that fact that we raised the cow in a friendly, free, calming way, and that the meat we were eating was free of mystery items, and I said a prayer to God for what we were receiving, made the experience worth it. We plan on raising another this Spring – maybe two so they have company.

    • Very well said Lois– it truly does give you a greater appreciation, and I also found myself in a rather worshipful mood as we were cleaning the carcass. I felt so thankful to be able to have a good source of meat, and also, everytime I see the internal workings of an animal, formed by our Creator, it amazes me. :)

  14. Lovely write up, I feel the same way when I butcher on my farm, you just were able to explain it in better words then I. I agree that I wish everyone would or could help butcher at least once and do feel that it would indeed change the thoughts on wasting food. I have a great respect for every single thing that can be used.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing this. I grew up in the country but after graduation I became a town girl. I won’t say how long it’s been, but it’s been a while since I have lived in the country. My husband and I just bought 40 acres about 3 and 1/2 years ago. My husband was a city boy so this was all new to him. I have to say he has done a wonderful job at tranforming into a country boy. We have already butchered chickens and will be raising a steer this year to butcher. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that gets a little sad when it comes to butchering.

  16. Really wonderful post…Thanks for sharing. For me, my first visit with farm “reality” was when I raised a beef steer for 4-H. I chose not to show or sell at the local fair so instead we sent “Spunky” off to the slaughter house and processor. I helped my mother pressure can the beef but then I couldn’t eat it. Now…as an adult…I am grateful for all our animals and respect their lives and the nourishment they give us. I’ve learned to never give a pet-type name to an animal I know we’re going to process but sometimes they do get names like “pork chop, prime rib, or baa burger”. Keeps reality in focus for me and our grandchildren!

    Love the site and the insight you share! Thank you!

    • Yes, I made it clear we were not going to name the steer the day we brought him home! But, I’ve heard of many a meat animal named “Porkchop” or “Ribeye”. That works too. ;)

  17. Great post (coming from this vegetarian) You said everything perfectly. Respecting the life that is given so another can live is a great gift. Even thanking the plants is important(not too woo woo I hope for folks to see where I am coming from) Gratitude, respect whatever one calls it is important. And I enjoyed seeing how you had plans that nothing would be wasted. Thanks for sharing this and all you share with us. (from an “urban- trying to be Homestead” in south Minneapolis!)

    • You are very welcome Theresa! As I said before, I really appreciate the supportive comments from the vegetarians. That means a lot to me!

  18. Great post! I have to say though, that I’m really glad DH is around to do the killing because I honestly don’t know if I could do it myself. But I agree that everybody should take part in the butchering process at least once!

  19. You have articulated my own experiences when butchering animals beautifully. Well said!

    -Laura at TenThingsFarm

  20. I’m a vegetarian homesteader, but I totally admire and respect how you approached this. Wonderful and thoughtful post.

    • Thank you. I really appreciate the vegetarians who are commenting on this post with understanding. I was a little worried I would have an angry mob coming after me, but I really appreciate the responses thus far! :)

  21. You got it so right. I grew up with farming and raising live stock for the purpose of feeding the family.
    I do recall though finding out what really happened to our pet pig! He was a runt and was still quite small by pig standards when he decided to become breakfast! We used to tie a gunny sack around him, hold onto his ears and go for a pig ride and he got so excited when he saw us coming out to play.
    My family now relies totally on deer and elk meat. The guys in my house to the killing part, I take it from there. Have butchered more chickens than I care to count, but the flavor is far superior to grocery store chicken.
    Thanks for this post-it really is a very good one.

    • Oh, how cute about your pet pig. I think I would have a hard time eating an animal like that! :) I did try to keep my distance from the steer, although I kind of got attached to him anyway. It was inevitable, I guess.

  22. It’s natural and healthy you feel Something when you kill your animals – it helps to maintain the respect and dignity of the process. I’m not yet at a point where I could do it, despite also having been a vet tech, animal caretaker and ranch hand who has ended the suffering of very sick or injured animals. It’s another thing entirely to kill a healthy animal for food, I think, especially one we’ve known.

    I have been a part of deaths that did not go well at all – errors on the human side – and those still haunt me some nights. Clean, humane deaths are nothing to be ashamed of, especially since you gave him a good life while he was with you.

    As so many have said here, it’s important to be aware that meat used to be alive, and our culture does not reinforce that at all. Thanks Jill for another good post. :)

    • Yes, sometimes the “deaths” can go horribly wrong… I think most people try to take as many precautions as they can to prevent that, but sometimes it happens anyway. I’m thankful that our steer went so easily.

  23. You are so right, all meat has eyes, a heart, and a personality! I mean, I’ve thought of the fact that my meat was an animal and I try to think about it as much as I can, but you really hit the nail on the head with this post. It IS sad and eating meat makes me want to cry sometimes, but you’re really right about being a part of the animals life and death, and it’s so much better to give an animal a better life before you eat it than to eat the mystery meat. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and thank you for the free ebook!

  24. Great post! As of yet we’ve only culled a couple of chickens, but it has definitely changed our perspective on what it takes…to raise, to cull…the whole experience. I think there’s nothing like fresh meat that has had a good life. Good stuff.

  25. I believe that we honor the life of an animal when we give them dignity in life and in death. Thank you for continuing that tradition here.

  26. What a sweet post! I really admire your raising and killing your own animals. Looks like he lived a great life and looks tasty too!
    We have chickens and if we let them have babies we’re going to have to eat the roosters…people say too many roosters will fight each other to the death.
    Everyone in my family wants to try homegrown meat, and to be honest, I’d like to try it to. I’d appreciate it a lot more & it’s higher quality. Store bought meat freaks me out after learning about the food industry…

  27. Love the post. Love your perspective. I can’t do what you did. I’m not brave enough. But then, I haven’t eaten a cow or a pig for over thirty years.
    I have year-old hens that give me an egg every day. Trying to figure out if after their egg-producing life is over they should become like dogs (love ‘em and feed ‘em every day) or…dinner for my friends. When you think about it, it gets hard. When you don’t think about it, you go to McDonalds.

  28. Loved this article… enjoy them all, but this one touched my spirit. I have also butchered many furry friends here on the farm. I’ve raised pigs, steers, and recently even had to let go of one of my dairy cows due to feed prices out here in the desert. It is a heart tugging act to put them down, but the gift they give us is amazing! I haven’t eaten store beef in MANY years and raise my fork at each meal offering thank to the animal on the table that night. I loved the butchering table you set up!!! GREAT JOB AND GREAT BLOG!!!! Keep it up!

    Nance Sparks w/ Homesteader’s Supply!

  29. Wonderful post. I’m a born and raised vegetarian, but married to a meat eater. On our homestead, I want very much to learn the same skills as you, even though I myself wouldn’t be eating the meat. I want to learn how to butcher, but often wondered how I’d feel. I’m glad to see you voice those feelings. My husband wonders why I want to raise and kill meat when I can just buy it for him… Well, for all the reasons you discussed above.

  30. We raised a pig for meat this yeat for the first time. We it came time to do the *deed* we sent her out to be processed. Hubby is just now starting to eat *PIG* because he was so attached to her. She had lots of personality and was a very happy pig. (Tastey too!)

    I’m not sure that we could ever *do the deed* ourselves unless absolutely nessesary. We still have so much to learn.

    Have a blessed week in THE LORD!

    Amanda
    Matthew 6:

  31. No doubt this will live in my mind as one of the most well written posts I have read on ‘the hop’.

  32. Wow! You voiced so many of the emotions I feel about adding animals… right now I’d be limited to a few hens living in the city anyway. I cry when an animal dies in a movie and I’ve always imagined that on a farm the cows, goats, pigs, chickens, etc. would probably become more like pets and I’d have a graveyard out back rather a full meat freezer. I don’t have many qualms about meat and with instruction I could handle the butchering, it’s just being the one to do the actual killing that gives me pause. You’ve surely given me something to ponder.

  33. Our family lives on a very small bit of acreage and we would like to raise a Jersey or Holstein bull for meat for our family. Would you be able to tell me about how much meat you can expect from raising a Jersey bull and how long you raised him? Some friends of ours did it and didn’t have much success but it seems that you did it. Thanks

    • Hi Kelly-
      Unfortunately, we didn’t weigh the finished amount of meat- although I will say that we were pleasantly surprised at our yield. The steaks and roasts probably weren’t quite as big as they would have been on a beef breed, but the Jersey definitely held his own! Perhaps if we would have raising a beef steer side by side, we would have noticed a bigger difference, but as of right now, we got plenty of meat to last our family quite a while.

      He was 20 months old when we butchered him- we probably could have done it a bit sooner, but the schedule didn’t allow… I know that lots of people raise/eat dairy breed steers with good luck, so I definitely think it’s worth a try!

  34. My husband and I just bought 5 acres “in the country” last summer. We plan to raise a variety of animals for food, but so far all we have are pets (4 dogs, 2 cats).
    Yesterday afternoon my six year old daughter and I were discussing our plans for the animals we want to raise. I asked her if she would be able to help out with the animals, i.e. feeding them, cleaning up after them, milking them, gathering eggs. When she agreed that she wanted to help do all of those things, I told her that eventually we will have to kill the animals and cut them up for food. A look of horror crossed her face as she looked at the dogs. I assured her we won’t kill or eat the dogs, they’re just pets, but the livestock will be food. She claimed she didn’t like meat, but I reminded her about how much she loves chicken, jerky, etc. She seemed to feel conflicted about that for a few minutes, but eventually decided that she really does enjoy meat. She just hasn’t had to consider where it comes from yet. I’m looking forward to raising our own food for a several reasons, but a big reason is the learning experience for my kids. I want them to have a greater appreciation for the food that they eat, and understand how much healthier home grown (and raised) food is for them.

  35. JIll,
    We will be butchering our steer soon and we will have to kill and hang him but someone else will be doing the butchering part. Do you have any recommendations as to a resource if we chose to do it all ourselves. I would like to know how to do it all by ourselves but also don’t want to mess anything up because we don’t know. I hope that makes sense. Thanks

    • Tara- YES! Perfect timing– I am posting a review on some home butchering how-to DVDs on Friday! Stay tuned :)

  36. Wow Jill, some how I missed this post when it first went up but thank you so very much for sharing. We have animals that we raise for meat but we always send them away to be butchered (mostly because we actually sell the meat and here in Ontario it must be butchered at an inspected facility to be legal for sale) but I’ve always wanted to be able to do the stuff for ourselves, well, ourselves! My husband is a life-long farmer so he has seen/done it all and it doesn’t bother him (like yourself, not that he doesn’t “care”, but he understands and respects the cycle of life) I on the other hand, need some time to deal with the idea. Once an animal is dead, I can do all the butchering ect, but I feel like it’s my duty to be there for the WHOLE process. Like you pointed out, most people are so out of touch with the life of their steak, they have no concept that it once lived. I feel like if I’m going to consume it, I need to be able to do it from beginning to end, if for no other reason, than out of respect for the life of that animal. I don’t ever want to take my meat for granted. Yet, I’ve still not found the courage to “be there.” Although, I can say I’ve started moving in the right direction with coyote hunting. Recently we’ve had big problems with them roaming our property and killing our livestock, so I have been out hunting with my husband and our friends although we haven’t caught anything yet (they don’t call them “wily” for nothing) I’m prepared to witness and help with the procedure.
    Anyway, long story short this post has motivated me and reaffirmed my reasons for wanting to be present for the whole process, even when I “knew” the animal. Thank you.

    • Hi Marie!
      I think your thoughts are very valid– and I totally understand your conflicting feelings. I think the courage will come eventually, as you work through the thought process more. I think it’s admirable that you wish to be there for the entire process, but if you have to slowly work up to that point, I think that is perfectly fine, too. :)
      Love your blog, btw!

  37. I teared up a little reading this post… If more people had a heart for what they ate we could all put an end to factory farms.

    We made the decision to never buy factory farmed pork again. That meant doing without for years until we found an Amish farmer who would sell us a hog. We now have a hook-up for grassfed beef, too. My husband hunts, and it always made me happier to eat something that spent its last few moments running along until suddenly..!

    We’re in town, so no farming. I don’t think I have the Big Girl Pants for it anyway. Kudos to you and your family.

    • Good for you Laura- love that you put your foot down when it comes to factory pork– it’s all about voting with our dollars. :)

  38. I truly appreciate finding this blog. Dear Hubby and I are looking to purchase a little piece of land and do what your doing. Both of my parents were raised on farms and wanted more for their kids and moved to a city. Long story short i am 47 years old and can no longer ignore the need for our family to be more self reliant. We have lots of plans as we try to decide the best place to set up our homestead. I have found answers to hundreds of questions only to find hundreds more wait for answers. My most recent concern was clearly identified here…,so thank you. I am sure that I will spend many hours pouring through every one of your posts…

    • Hi Rhoda,
      SO glad that you found me! Isn’t it funny how 2 or 3 generations ago, people were moving to the city for a ‘better life,’ and now we are doing the exact opposite? Anyway, best of luck on your homesteading journey, and I look forward to seeing you around the blog!

  39. You put this so well! I also think that every meat-eater should at least watch an animal being butchered. Most people think that its too gross or they “just couldn’t do it”, but that is just leaving the hard work to other people who have to kill animals all day every day at the slaughter house. We’ve been killing chickens for 5 years and I still give them a little cuddle before my husband chops off their head. And like you say, when you do it yourself, you appreciate every piece of the animal. Thanks also for your tallow post, I will be referring to that when we kill our next steer, I tried to render last time, but we didn’t get it right.

  40. Thank you for this post! We’ve butchered cows and chickens, and I felt exactly like you both times. It’s good to know that the feeling doesn’t go away…and that it’s better that way. It’s easy to overlook the meat that is anonymous at the grocery store and not care about the sacrifice that was made. “Knowing” our food is harder, maybe, but it allows us to really appreciate their life, and treat our animals with value.

  41. Samantha says:

    I have skinned, gutted, and butchered many deer in my life, and i’ve only been hunting since I was 15 (i’m 21 now). My husband and I were planning on getting a few cows this year for meat, but I was worried about the heart break I would feel after raising it. My in laws had 4 (named Mutt, Jeff, Ribeye, and Burger =]) and I was sad when we had butchered them, but you are right, it’s okay to feel that way. I would rather feel a little sad than not feel anything. Thank you for this post! I can’t wait for us to do it ourselves next year for us and our Bug (our 2 year old girl)

    • Yep- a little sadness is perfectly healthy, I think. ;) Good for you for doing it yourself- it really is empowering!

  42. I raise my own lambs and cows and I think it makes me more respectful of the animal and less wasteful. I find it hard to send my lambs to be slaughtered but I find comfort knowing that they were very well treated and not pumped full of chemicals. I think it is really improtant to understand the basic fact that MEAT COMES FROM ANIMALS.

    • Yes indeed Emma- I think that many people honestly don’t really grasp that their grocery store meat still came from a living, breathing animal, even if they never met it… It’s never easy to slaughter, but like you said, so much easier when we know that the animals had a good life.

  43. We only have egg laying chickens but, as you know, there are occasions for butchering even those. And I hate it. I hold my hen until she’s totally calm, put a loop of cord around her feet, turn her upside down and hang the cord on the fence. Then I hold her head while I slit her throat and hold her body while she bleeds out. All the while she remains completely calm and I have tears streaming down my cheeks. But I know, like Joel Salatin says, my animals had a great life… and one bad day. I have seen my chickens killed by hawks, bears and fox. Death happens every day and while I most certainly do not like being the instrument of any animal’s death I know it keeps me connected to reality.

  44. Beth Vayda says:

    We will butcher our first round of rabbits a week from now. I always tell my husband, “I will be somewhere in town, far from here!” Just so I won’t have to feel sad feelings of the death that will be going on. But I now have a change of heart. I love hearing how you were with yours on this day, helping him, as a team. So, I will be here on that day, I won’t bail on him like I was going to do, out of my own selfish desires. I’m sure he appreciates this post, even though he didn’t read it. Thank you! And wish me luck ;)

    • Way to go Beth! Like I mentioned in the post, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but I feel better taking part in it and it really gives me more of a respect for the animal and the meat. You are awesome. :)

  45. I am just now reading this post, but it gives me courage. We don’t live where we we could keep animals…. well, that’s not entirely true. We have no zoning in our tiny little town, but we don’t have the space for anything more than chickens and I’m not sure how economical raising just a couple of chickens would be for us.

    Anyway, that said, I was a vegetarian for years simply because I couldn’t stand the thought of being the reason anything had to die. I’ve since began eating meat again a few years ago. (I married the son of a cattle farmer, so it’s probably for the best!) I have been trying to talk myself into going hunting with my husband for the first time because I’d feel better about eating wild game. However, I’m really afraid that I’ll cry if I get a deer. My husband says that he thinks my frugal side will win out when I see the amount of food we’ll be putting in our freezer. Perhaps he’s right, but I REALLY don’t want to be the sobbing female in the hunting group!!!

    • Hi Jen,
      I’ve been where you are. I went hunting in Idaho with my husband and loved the trek through the wilderness but then the time came that I heard the shot and had to help. My husband knew I would probably cry but I surprised myself. I helped field dress a doe! And drag it back to the truck (Idaho deer are bigger than NC deer) I shed one tear while doing so, then I was ok. It’s ok to be sad. We got it home, hung it to bleed out and then I skinned and helped butcher without anymore tears. You can do it. I was thankful I had food in my freezer from my Creator to feed my children and my husband.

  46. This is why I can not be a carnavor. I nearly starved to death as a kid because I refused to eat “another soul”, on the farm. It is troubling to me that people can kill and eat their “pets”. ..and we wonder why it has become so easy for people to kill other people these days…after all, are we not just another mammal?

  47. Brenda Esselman says:

    Very well said.

  48. Gee…I don’t think I could do it…those big brown eyes would haunt me for months. I think I need to become a vegetarian or at the very least never buy from the big commercial store chains again because I know the animals there suffer so. I don’t even think I could butcher Mr. Chicken, if I had chickens it would be for nice brown eggs. But hats off to you for humanely raising and killing your animal with little or no waste. I just don’t think I could do it I get to attached to creatures.

  49. “The paradoxical nature of my hunting points to similar paradoxes: the people who most love roses, who spend hours pruning them, kill them; the people who most love vegetables are those who grow, kill and eat them; the men who most love waterfowl, who adorn their den walls with paintings of ducks and geese, who study and observe them for decades, who invest in their habitat and protection, also kill and eat them. Not much different than the hunting peoples whose myths, songs, art, adornments, dance and language imitate and celebrate the sacred animals they kill. This is paradoxical only to the men and women who live from the head, suffering from centuries of separation from Nature and thus their true nature.”

  50. Rhonda Morin says:

    Both my parents were raised on farms where if they didn’t kill it they didn’t eat. If they didn’t grow it they didn’t eat. Some things were traded but most things were grown and butchered. I could never understand how someone could do that but I do know that the beef I ate at my grandfather’s was better than any I have had in my life. I didn’t eat any of the beef that had his name on the label, that was too difficult for me. I do think I could kill a chicken or any animal for that matter if I was hungry. There was a great site I went to about covering the chicken’s head and tying down their legs, etc. I am just such a clutz that I would probably cut my hand off instead. Oiy!

    Thanks for the great post!

  51. The “good life” argument actually makes it harder for me. I’m taking it from a very happy life. Conventional animals are in agony, so they are being released from terrible pain/torture (in my mind, at least), but this animal was happy and could have been happy so much longer…

  52. I’m coming a little late to this, but I too love the way you look at it, a good life means a better end. I have always felt the same way about hunting.
    I notice you said 100% grassfed (no grains/other feed). I believe Wyoming gets nasty winters, though I don’t think as bad as our Toronto, Canada ones. How did you carry your steer over the winter? I have long wanted to add a dairy cow for milk, and raise the resultant calves as meat. Everything I have been able to find online says that for it to be worth raising the meat, you have to wait until they finish well over a year, or almost 2 years. How do you carry over the winter and not completely break the bank feeding over winter. I would hate to spend more raising a butcher animal than I could buy good meat for to begin with.
    Sorry that was long winding, loving your blog to death!

    • Hi Mishikall,
      We’ve been butchering at about 18 months. We do havde to feed hay in the winter, however– our winters are long as well. Right now we are feeing a mix of grass hay, but sometimes have some alfalfa in there as well. It does cost more, but it’s our only option here. :)

  53. My husband, two kids, and I are planning on making a big move, this coming year. We have wanted to live the life of a homesteader, for quite a while, and we will be able to do so, real soon! We will be going from suburbs of Chi-town to moving out West! I am all about living a sustainable life and eating everything organic and buying from local farmers, who treat their animals with love and care. However, my only fear is having to say goodbye to the farm animals. I’m not going to lie, after reading your blog about butchering your cow, I was all in tears. I, completely, agree with your post but I know it will be so hard for me to do it. I told my husband that I will need one cow, pig, chicken and turkey that are just pets. The rest can be eaten. :) P.S. I LOVE your blog!!!

    • I totally understand where you are coming from as I love ALL animals, but if you are raising animals to be self sustained, particular animals like pigs and turkeys are generally only “good” for meat, though rather cute :) If you want a pig for a pet, you could consider a pot belly pig, as they can be just like dogs, and protective of property/family as well :)

  54. I am curious as to what method you used to actually kill him? I ask because we are going to becoming more self sufficient over the next couple of years, and while I have had goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and hunted and fished my whole life, I have never butchered the goats (we kept them for dairy) though I am VERY familiar with butchering chickens. We currently have chicks, ducklings, and 3 horses, and in the next couple years when we move to our own property, intend on getting a couple dairy goats, a milk cow, and a couple pigs. But we definitely intend on butchering the calves when they mature (or selling them if they are heifers), and my husband and I have been “discussing” methods of the actual killing part. Hope you are having a great weekend! From your new fan in Wyoming

  55. Michael Shay says:

    I admire your concern and diligence when it comes to killing your animals for food. I’m not a complete vegetarian, but given the option, I often opt not to eat meat. My mom has been a vegetarian for years now, and I know people live happy satisfied lives without eating meat. I think it comes down to convenience. It would be hypocritical of me to condemn those that process meat while I continue to eat it.
    But I do have to ask. Why not dogs and cats? They are consumed in Asia – rather brutally I might add. Is it simply a cultural thing that we do not do so in the US?
    For that matter, why not people?
    It would be one thing if there was no other alternative to meat, but in today’s world, there are many alternatives.
    I am not judging or condemning. I do, however, disagree with the comparison of harvesting plants to killing and eating meat. There is no central nervous system in plants, nor can they feel pain. I also disagree that animals “know their role.” But, I see animals differently than most people.
    Blessings friend.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment Michael.

      I suppose the cat/dog issue is mainly a cultural thing– we are conditioned here in the US to see cats/dogs as companion animals, although I know that viewpoint is different in other countries. And I agree about the harvest of plants being different than killing and eating an animal. I definitely feel differently about slaughtering a steer than I do plucking a green bean to eat. ;)

      • Excellent post. That we as a society have lost respect for those that give us life diminishes us greatly.
        You might want to rethink the contribution of the lowly green bean however. Recent research from Rice University and University of California at Davis revealed in part “Vegetables and fruits don’t die the moment they are harvested . . . they respond to their environment for days”
        Your steer departed his gentle life within seconds.

  56. I know this post is over a year old, but I had a question.. My dilemma with butchering our steer is the hanging and aging. I have no where to hang it that coyotes, mice, cats wont get it. We plan on hanging it from our tractor to skin,etc. Can a person quarter it up and put in a frig for a few days?? Or even cut it into smaller pieces to get it into the frig, and let sit for a few days? Or will that not be the same effect as “aging” ?
    Just wondering how home butchers do it with no walk in cooler.
    PS> im also a vet tech. Worked in Glasgow, MT for 5 yrs. Then we moved to Williston,ND and now im just a stay at home mom. We homeschool and have dairy, and chickens, and beef and horses.

    • Hey Roxann-

      We’ve struggled with that, too. Sometimes we are able to quarter it and hang it in our shop, but sometimes it’s just too warm.

      Honestly, we *have* just killed it one day and cut it up the next, and haven’t had too much of an issue doing that. The meat probably isn’t as tender as it could have been, but it’s not horrible.

      You could probably stick it in a fridge, but that sounds like it might be a hassle.

    • Denise Morrison says:

      Butchering in the late fall or winter depending on your location gives your hanging steer time to age a bit without getting too warm. If you have a shop or garage, you could hang it inside. Any place that has a door. Otherwise you would need to hang it from a tree or barn rafter high enough so that the coyotes, etc. couldn’t get it.

  57. GREAT article! VERY well said. I couldn’t agree more. We raise & process are own heritage pigs and I completely agree with: IF YOU EAT MEAT, YOU SHOULD HAVE TO SLAUGHTER/PROCESS SOME TYPE OF LIVESTOCK.
    It truly makes you understand the importance of the circle of life.
    Please keep posting! Very well written blogs!

  58. When we were first created there was no death. After the fall God killed an animal and clothed his disobedient children with it’s skin. From that point on and until his own Son became the only sacrifice that could reclaim humanity from their fallen state God always required bloodshed as the means of redemption . I always keep this in mind when I’m butchering. It makes me grateful and humbled. LK

  59. We will be having a cow butchered next week. We have done this many times as my hubby raises grass fed Angus cattle. However, I am thinking I may not be using all of the cow and wasting some. I have read post about the beef tallow and making the broth. What all should I request for my hubby to make sure we get from the cow so that I can do the most with it. Thanks!

  60. It’s funny. When I was younger I always thought hunting was so inhumane. I mean we have grocery stores STOCKED with meat! Why should kill innocent harmless animals when you can just buy it?!

    That’s how detached I was from where meat came from.

    The more I grow, mature and learn, I realize that at least that animal got to roam, see the sun, eat a natural diet, grow up, have a family, etc. While the meat in packages is grown in less than ideal conditions, force fed a diet it wouldn’t naturally eat, thrown in a truck and brought to slaughter. It’s memories and last moments aren’t peaceful and happy, they’re stressed, miserable, anxious and unhappy.

    Unfortunately we’re not in a position to raise a cow, or to always purchase humane meat but I certainly think twice before letting meat go bad. I’m much more attune to the life that had to be sacrificed for my hamburger.

  61. Yay for saving the fat to make tallow! My husband works in a grocery store that butchers it’s own meat. The butchers are kind enough to save beef fat for me upon request, and I make tallow candles!

  62. This is a wonderful post. I am sharing this with quite a few people. I think you answered a lot of feelings and put to rest some misconceptions people have about the consumption of animals. Not only that but a very important lesson about the importance of understanding where your good is coming from. Thank you!

  63. I couldn’t agree more with your post. We raise Yaks (98% lean and deilsh) with that said it’s never easy to butcher something you have raised with complete love in your heart. You get to know their personalities (YES! They do have them) and their likes and dislikes; almost like a family member. They are given a very happy life and are treated with the upmost respect. That’s how it should be. You know what your eating and have the satisfaction of NOT buying into the horrible treatment of animals not to mention what they are being injected with. Good wholesome food…that’s what it comes down to. Raising children to know something other than a McDonalds which ISNT real food. Not much of what we buy in the grocery store these days is. I find it despicable what the government does to our food. Unfortunately we have little or no control over it. Unfortunately people that are not able to raise their own food are stuck with the GMO disgusting food that is and has to be provided. I wish America would wake up and take control over what they are putting into THIER bodies.

  64. Christina says:

    That article made me cry. It’s something I’m really conflicted about but your heartfelt article was wonderful, thank you :)

  65. Allan Edmunds says:

    What a great post. Your honesty about the total experience is to be commended.

  66. Lori Western says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing. As a woman who has hunted, gutted, butchered and prepared wild game, I appreciate your comments. Killing an animal respectfully and humanely and utilizing all parts, is a lesson all of us need to learn. We are so far removed from our food source, we no longer value all that we have, which is a sad commentary given how fortunate we truly are. I enjoy your website, and look forward to reading the wonderful recipes and interesting articles. Thank you!

  67. Tammy Kirsch says:

    I think of this all the time. I have chickens and I love them. Every day I let them out of their coop and I sing and talk to them. I cook for them. I spend hours snuggling and watching them scratch and peck. When the day came that they no longer were laying….we made the decision to butcher them. Needless to say, I sat in the house with the curtains drawn and cried. I couldn’t bring myself to eat one. I know this is not the way of a good homesteader and I hope with the next batch I can get over this. Blood, guts and gore don’t bother me at all. But when I have raised them from babies in my kitchen, I just can’t make it to the end to consume them. Thank you for this post.

    • I can only imagine how hard that would be. Maybe if you didn’t name them and didn’t “play” with them as much it might be easier. But it has to be hard not to play with the adorible chickens running around! :)

  68. devin snow says:

    I have never killed my own meat but the more I learn about our current food industry, the more I realize I may have learn to.

  69. I love your website! I was raised on a farm and now run a self sustaining farm in Washington. I am raising my 3 sons and teaching them as well as my husband the ways of the land. We raise our own pigs chicken and cattle so that we do not consume meat from the grocery stores. We also do a large garden each year to help with that part of our diet. I have always told my children our animals are not pets, yes we love them and care for them giving them the best possible life until it is time to slaughter and feed our family. My children understand this and have been present during the slaughter so that they understand exactly where their dinners come from and I am so grateful for the chance to raise my family this way… I look to your blog for help when i get lost and am so thankful that you take the time to show people how to be a homesteader

  70. When I started this road down the homesteading lane, my mind was set. I wanted a garden, chickens, goats, pigs and cows. I finally have all but the cow :( We bought 5 acres in Aug 2012. I bought a pair of piglets in Oct of 2012. I was going to breed them, sell and freeze the piglets. Well, his name is Hamlet…lol, and hers was Ophelia. She decided her pen was not where she wanted to be and we couldn’t keep her contained. I watched as my 17 year old put her down, then he and I processed/butchered her. It broke my heart. :( I knew when we got her that eventually she would be in the freezer, and we would do it, but it still hurt. My other 5 children got a little balky at the idea of eating the meat until I pulled the ribs from the oven. :) We have processed our chickens too. I wanted my family to KNOW where food comes from, and how to get the best, safest available. My family outside of the house will not eat at my house. Some try to do a head count on the animals before they come in! These are ADULTS!! They happily tell me that as far they EVER want to know, their food comes from the meat aisle, wrapped in plastic and sitting on Styrofoam! That breaks my heart too.
    Thank you for validating to those of us that are trying. The road is not fast and it is far from easy, but it is soooo worth it! Now I’m raising chickens for my dad and his sister. We are going in on beef later this Spring. I will raise them all on my property, and process them, then my dad will drive down from his Chicago suburb and pick it all up! <3 It is really because of bloggers and video-bloggers that I have the knowledge and the COURAGE to do the best I can for my kids.
    THANK YOU!

  71. Very well said. I feel that if you don’t have those thoughts something is wrong with you. Native Americans talk about this all the time. You valued the life of your steer and that’s important. When our neighbors slaughtered their steer it occurred to me that that is what our good Lord put those animals here for. Can you imagine having one as a pet? While fun they’d eat you out of house and home! Thank you!

  72. I will have my baby chicks delivered next month.
    And in explaining to my 5 year old daughter that when the time comes…..
    We will eat our chickens, she barely flinched an emotion and said alright.
    This article helped me a lot in understanding for myself and my daughter the process that must take place in raising your own.
    Thanks from new homesteaders.

  73. I am curious how old your bull was? Do you have an estimate of how many pounds he was vs how many pounds you got of meat? My family is looking into getting our first Jersey bull calf to raise for meat. I’ve done a lot of research but I like to always ask people’s personal experience.

    Thanks so much for your post!

  74. Today was the first time we butchered our own animal. It was harder on my soft hearted husband, he had to do the hard part, kill the four roosters. But as he said it was better for us to benefit from our care of the chickens. But it was surprisingly not as bad as I thought, it was a rewarding. The fact that you raised it, feed it, protected it, and it gave you joy it is still a good thing. Just the beginning of the journey, we now plan on getting a few chick’s for the freezer. More to come.

  75. Judy Brooks says:

    Enjoyed how you felt about the steer. It wasn’t that many years ago…well pre WW2 many people bought their meat from a local farmer and my parents as well as my family of 6, supplemented our beef with wild game. Let me tell you every thing stopped till that animal who gave up his life for our table was carefully gutted, hung, skinned and cooled out and hung where the meat would not be damaged while it aged. Meanwhile every part of the animal we would eat like liver, heart etc was cleansed and stored properly. Any meat from the area where the bullet went in was carefully washed in salt water to get out excess blood and stored for hamburger. We had all our meat carefully packaged when back home and put in storage freezer til home freezers were plentiful. While I don’t eat as much meat as when I was young what I do eat I want treated with care. As a Christian, I value the meat and anything else the Lord supplies and treat with dignity. blessings

  76. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I have experienced many people who think my family and I are hard hearted to towards the death of animals. But nothing is further from the truth. We love caring for them and enjoy having them around. They lead good healthy lives and in return they provide for us! We either earn our meat by hunting or raise all of our own meat from chicken to pork to rabbit to beef. We know what the animal ate its entire life so we can feel good about what we are giving to our kids in terms of food and life lessons in good stewardship.

  77. Lee anne says:

    My husband and I are avid hunters. Many of my female friends do not understand the harvesting of game. Your article was well written and captured my feelings about knowing the source of the food we eat.
    I grew up a “townie”, blissfully ignorant about the food industry. It is amazing to me that what was common skills a few generations ago is quickly becoming extinct. I believe it is important to learn these homestead skills and pass that knowledge on to the next generation. Thank you for all your great posts.

  78. Thanks for writing this post. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 9 due to exposure to slaughter houses and the horrific conditions the animals were put through. At this point in life, I don’t like the texture so I remain a veg head. However, my husband and 3 children all eat meat (that I prepare) and I make it a point to tell the kids where the meat comes from. In my opinion, if you are going to eat it, you should be able to handle the truth of where it comes from. We are looking into raising a cow to butcher and some folks can’t understand why I would do that if I don’t eat meat. To me, if I were going to eat any kind of meat it would need to be raised in the backyard – it’s far more natural and I want my family to understand the process and appreciate the life given for them to be fed. So, thanks again for your article!

  79. Last year we bought some younger steers and almost killed them as I was told they were 2 young to have on grass hay /grazing alone. They were all over 200pds. What are your thoughts?

  80. “I don’t ever want to get to the point where I am completely calloused to the cycles of life and death.”

    Exactly that.

  81. Great post! I just got my first batch of chickens ever and we are raising them for meat. My mother in law has chickens for eggs and she doesn’t think she could ever kill them (nor does my hubby–he will help clean only haha) but I look on it as they will be happier than factory birds and better taken care of and I hope to kill them as humanely as possible.

    I have a question about your steer and forgive me if it’s been asked before: how do you put him down and does the chemical for that get put in the meat? Or do you shoot him? Thanks!

    • Denise Morrison says:

      Maria, they shot the steer. It died right away. Then they slit his throat to let him bleed out.

  82. Our first time butchering will be coming in the next few months. We ordered hen chicks but the company also sent roosters for free to help keep the chicks warm. (Note to self: do not order hens too early before it gets warm). The hens are obviously for eggs and so the roosters for meat. It’s going to be weird but like you said, I think all people who eat meat should be a part of the butchering process to better appreciate where food comes from.

  83. Thanks Jill, that is a time when I feel the same. I only have chickens and have raised them for eggs and for meat. Both of those types will need to be put down eventually, meat sooner rather than later and egg birds at any time. My meat birds I found weren’t as difficult as I dreaded. I went to their run the day before and gave them their “last meal” and a heart to heart. I did have many tears during that time, but the next day, it was just business. I felt we did the best job for them as we possibly could. They weren’t mistreated during any of their life nor were they during the process. It was my first journey with meat birds and I was proud of how it was handled. I have had to cull two of my egg layers during the last 3 years and I did it by myself. They were suffering and I didn’t want them to suffer any more. I was sad, but knew it was what was best for them. I do appreciate your words of advise and your treatment of your animals. I have a great deal of respect for your homesteading practices. Keep up the good work and thank you for the courage you have and for sharing and teaching. I am proud to be a small homesteader.

  84. We are raising rabbits for meat. I am teaching my 3.5yr old daughter about the cuteness, and also their purpose. I have handpicked fresh greens for them EVERYDAY without fail. Cleaned their cages, and held them and talked with them. I know that bunnies are cite, but they are also meat. When I know in my heart I have given them the BEST life, I have done what is right. It has taken going through butchering a chicken and a live pig, to get the “feel” for how it goes down. Knowing I helped raise the meat to be the best for our families nourishment is so empowering! A lesson I hope to pass onto my daughter!

  85. I have thought many years about “growing” our own meat. Right now, most of the meat we consume is deer that we shoot and butcher ourselves. I like knowing that the animal had a free life, that it was able to do it’s natural living right up until the end, and that it never knew what was coming. I always feel a bit sad, and say a prayer of thanks when we get a deer because I know that in it’s death my family will survive and have a much more healthy choice of food to eat. That being said, I’ve never “known” or “grown” the animal that we eat, but eating deer leaves our food to chance, in that we may or may not get one in any particular season. Because of that I’ve toyed with the thought of having a cow, pig, lamb, goat, chicken, rabbit, etc. I’ve never really been able to decide. I’ve always held back for fear that I’d become too attached and it would be hard. After reading this, I see that it really never becomes “easy”. No matter how many times one may butcher an animal, it’s still something that was once alive and is now not, much like hunting. I have a feeling that, although, it may be a bit different, and there may be varying degrees of attachment, that it is something that even someone like myself could possibly do. After reading this, it gives me a bit more to think about. Thank you for posting this. I think it’s something I needed to read in order to see that although I may never be free from sadness at raising an animal for food, I will also know that I gave it a good life while it was here, much better then anything it would have received in a factory farm. Thank you for the insight. God’s Blessings to You :)

  86. This was a great article! As a family that has raised and butchered hogs, chickens and rabbits thus far (we are fencing in land for goats and cows),we get a lot of negative comments from those who don’t understand the feeling of raising your own meat animals. They think we are callous and hard hearted. Our 4 children (10,8,5 & 3) help in the entire process from picking out and naming the piglets and cuddling the bunnies to cleaning pens and feeding and eventually they help with the skinning/feathering and butchering. Yes, occasionally there are a couple of tears shed, but we make it clear from the beginning that they are not ‘pets’, and the kids understand that. In the meantime, these animals are raised with more love than they can handle!

  87. Samantha says:

    I love this post! We have raised grass fed beef and broiler chicks for a while- we also hunt. Our daughters both know that cows are fun to play with and a big responsibility, and in the end they end up in the freezer. We even named one of last year’s steers “burger” lovingly of course! I have friends that say they prefer to think of their meat as coming straight from that little plastic wrapped container at the store and they refuse to eat anything “hunted”…….I think it is truly sad when people don’t understand where their food comes from- Your blog covered all the best points :)

  88. I personally am not old enough to have my own homestead though I dream of it! ;) I am though raising market lambs for 4h this year. My parents keep reminding me “You do know what happens right?” It will definitely be tough to say goodbye but this is the first step in my journey of raising my own food. I can’t wait til May!!

  89. I dont eat meat, but that’s because I don’t have the means to raise it myself and factory farming is not an industry I would support any longer. Other reasons, but that is a big part if it. I can only imagine that my reaction would be identical to yours…thankful and respectful to the animal that gave its life for my family, saddened because it was a creature you had come to know, and proud as all heck that you did this yourself! Every time I gain a new homesteading skill I am so darn proud of myself. Thanks for sharing!

  90. We have a small six acre farm upon which we raise poultry, dairy goats and rabbits. I sometimes get looks of horror when I tell people I raise meat rabbits. My rabbits and poultry (chickens, turkeys, quail) all dress out so beautiful and healthy it’s obvious we are doing it the right way. When it comes to the upbringing of an animal, the meat doesn’t lie. If I can save at least one chicken from being tortured at a Tyson factory by butchering my own then I consider it my sacred duty.

  91. Debbie Cummings says:

    I’m glad that if you eat meat you take good care of them. I lived on a ranch for 15 years and decided I couldn’t eat meat anymore. My best friend-sister-in-law..loved her cows,but she sold them and ate them. Some of the ranchers didn’t treat them very well and if you’ve ever been to a sale yard it’s not nice. But I’m sorry alot of my old neighbors are now gone from cancer or heart disease.my best friend got cancer at 55 and died at 60.

  92. We buy our beef from a local farmer because we live in town. Our chicken and pig products we get from our local supermarket because they have an amazing butcher who gets the meat from the local families. I would
    love the experience of raising my own meat.

  93. Home butchering is also hard work, but yes, it is very “empowering” knowing where your meat has come from.

    We are currently working toward this goal for ourselves. Our barns are just in too sad a state to house a steer at night so someday we’ll raise them again.