The Inevitable Decay

The Inevitable Decay

“I have observed that people who are completely out of touch with nature are the most afraid of death” - Temple Grandin

‘Tis the Season for Endings

This year of weather has been an adventure to say the least. A hot and dry spring that led us into a summer of rain and humidity, followed by an August of… early fall? It certainly feels that way. What is normally the hottest and most sweltering time of year became a moist and temperate month. The dry and cool Canadian winds flowing through the branches of our trees and rafters of our barns have come early this year with a whisper of one clear statement, “It ends”. For farmers, summer is the high time, the exhausting time, the time of long and relentless days. It is, from personal experience, not sustainable. I don’t know many people who could work this way all year around. Winter is the much anticipated and necessary reprieve from the long summer days. But when the grass is four feet tall and lush and the sun is shining, it’s hard to believe that in a few short months the farm will be tucked in under a layer of snow.

But there is an end, and these early winds are our first reminder of the end of not only summer, but of many of the lives on our farm.

This has been the historic norm. Hay is difficult and expensive to make and far less nutritious than what the lush grasses of the spring and summer provide. It’s good farming to try and carry one’s farm through the winter with less animals, not more. It is right and fitting that the animals, after accumulating all the nutrition our farm has to offer into protein and fat, be harvested for us to consume throughout the year. All of the vitamin D from the long sunny days, along the forages rich in carotenoids and polyphenols, are getting stored into the animals’ muscle and fat so that families can feast on a piece of summer throughout our long Northeastern winters.

Closer is Comfortable

Having slaughtered many animals that I have spent years caring for, one of the questions I get the most is “Is it sad to kill an animal you know?” or “Do you feel bad?”. The answer is yes. It is sad— it should be sad. Each animal has a story. I have never bought the “don’t name the animals who are destined for food” business. You should name them, you should be able to look them in the eye and say thank you, and you certainly should feel the weight of what it takes to keep a human being alive and healthy.

Regardless of how sterile meat may seem when sealed in plastic, that piece of meat was a living and breathing creature with experiences, unique attributes, a birth and a death. This is not a lecture about the ethics of meat eating, but the observation that in our modern lives we have grown accustomed to products, not food. Products being the cleanly wrapped and marketed things, food being the alive resource whose story took place not far from where the consumer’s does. There is a gravity to eating, one that only recent years have allowed us to forget. So we must ask ourselves: If this is true, why eat meat at all?

Death Supports Life

This brings us to the second delusion of modern food— that there can exist a deathless food source. As discussed on previous newsletters (discography coming soon), our farm is a haven of wildlife. We are home to deer, coyotes, foxes, beavers, rabbits, woodchucks, opossums, not to mention the diversity of bird and insect life that is bursting in song day and night across our acreage. I fell in love with livestock farming not only because I love meat, but because it is the most synergistic system to feed people and increase the biodiversity of a wildlife landscape.

In order to plant a field of crops, one must destroy everything else. It is inherent to the system itself. You must kill trees, as well as those inhabiting them. Animals who love to snack at your crops must go. It is exclusive to the natural world. It says, “Here is a farm. You are not welcome here. We will poison, trap, or shoot you if you dare enter.”

To say that growing crops doesn’t cause death is a mentality that acts as if there are real boundaries on this planet— as if what we do here won’t impact over there. In reality, nothing happens in isolation. There is no innocence when it comes to producing food, whether it be vegetables or meat. The question then becomes not if you should do it, but how you do it.

Why We Do It This Way

If you are a customer to our farm, you know that we do things differently here in regards to animal slaughter. The first step in our process involves you and our other costumers purchasing your animal ahead of time, making you the legal owner of the live animal you will be consuming. This enables us to slaughter the animals here on the farm where they were raised, in a place they call home.

The very first time I took an animal to the butcher, when managing a previous farm, I was shocked by the impersonal and inhumane experience. We backed up the trailer with two steers inside and opened the door to the unsurprising sight of both animals not wanting to exit. “Come on mother f***ers!” said the jaded employee, as he proceeded to beat the animals out of the trailer and into the stall where they would spend the night without food or water, awaiting their death.

Now, in defense of slaughterhouses, this was a particularly bad experience, and there are plenty of them (one of which I worked at) that do an excellent job and treat the animals very well. Still, on the drive home from that first experience, I couldn’t help but feel there had to be a better way to do this. Animals generally should have the right to live and die on the same farm without being trucked around and kept in a pen on their last day of life.

The animals who will be harvested next month will all die on the same farm they were raised on. The hands that fed them will be the same familiar hands that end their lives. It will be swift and painless— a normal day, then lights out.

Although finding a USDA facility that has the highest standards of animal welfare is on our list so that we may one day sell our meat in our farm store by the cut, processing the majority of our animals on site is a small decision we’ve made to give these creatures a comfortable, stress-free death in exchange for their lives. This small choice is one that I believe contributes to the overall attitude that is at the heart of this farm— one of honor, care, and respect for the animals that inhabit it.

Just as inevitable as the cool, dry Canadian winds are in September, as surely as the leaves decay in the fall, we are certain death is coming for everything living thing on this planet. Not all have a definite date like our animals do, but all of us do have a number of days. Let’s use them wisely.

Thank You

If you ever have any questions, want to chat, or are interested in seeing our operation first hand, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email!

  • Bennett & the Northaven Pastures team

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