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Examples of ethically raised meat!

 
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I thought it would help if we gave some examples of our attempts to raise meat as ethically as possible.

Years ago I rescued a pair of Muscovy males. Although they were pretty good at keeping each other company, we thought they'd like a couple of girls, so we bought two young ones. I was very impressed that the guys didn't immediately jump them, but in fact were patient until they were old enough to lay. I was equally impressed by what good moms the girls were. Then, less than 3 months later, I realized just *how* motivated and good they were at reproducing, and I did the math. They can easily sit on and hatch 12 eggs, although we try to give them fewer. Respecting the biological desires of the animal is one part of "ethically raised meat" in my opinion.

That led to research about processing and cooking Muscovy. We already knew how to process a chicken. Ducks have a *lot* more feathers, and they're much harder to pluck and the only processor who has any interest in doing so is an unreasonable driving distance and very expensive. Respecting what you have to do to make the animal's "one bad day" (thanks Joel Salatin) as not bad as possible for both the animal and the human is another part of "ethically raised meat".

Similarly, looking at our ducks day-to-day life is important. We don't have a pond, but even if we did, it wouldn't likely stay wet all year. They adore the winter creek and we'd like to make some improvements to it that would benefit the ducks. In the summer though, they have to make do with rubber tubs and a stock tank. To me, since ducks can get water dirty in 27 seconds, using smaller containers that are easy to dump, rinse, move, and refill allows us to use the water to help keep the grass green in the summer drought. Muscovy are grass eaters, and it's important for their health that it make up a good chunk of their diet (Muscovy are evolutionarily closer to geese than mallard ducks which are the origin of most domestic ducks.)

Is our system perfect? No way! I'd like to have our field divided into paddocks rather than totally open, but our density is low enough that they haven't done too much damage. In bad winters, we get some standing water which I don't have enough fencing to keep them out of, so I will have to reseed it (again) but the earthworms poop is easy to spot if you look, which suggests the soil is healthy. The grass stays greener much longer than it used to and is a more vibrant green, although I know Hubby's chickens help with that. I"d like to find out what other plants might be suitable for Muscovy diet and see if they'll grow in our area. Part of Permaculture is to be always watching for ways to improve.

Please add your own examples of how you raise meat as ethically as possible!
 
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Ethically raised meat on my homestead is about looking at the land and what it is providing, the interactions between animals and the land (e.g. using goats and pigs to clear scrub and turn it to silvopasture), raising animals in a way that lets them express their animal-ness.

I don't use abbotoirs, we have a good local mobile butcher, and I have some butchering skills too that I'm slowly growing more confident with. There are ethical farmers I know who do use abbotoirs because it's the only option now to legally sell their meat, and the way they handle the animals reduces stress, it's not as good as butchering in the paddock, but in the current system here it is their only choice.

It would be good for farmers to have more choices in what they can do for butchering when they sell their meat. Last year I didn't raise my own pigs, but bought a live pig from a farmer and asked him to drop it off at the mobile butcher's farm, and I then asked the mobile butcher to do the slaughter, so if people buy whole live animals rather than paying by the weight, more options open up.

Another aspect of ethical meat raising for me is about looking at all aspects of the animal in a permaculture way - I'm not raising an isolated flock of chickens, but chickens that help reduce goat parasites, spread manure, scratch up the ground to get seeds to grow, as well as providing meat and eggs. With goats the meat is a part of dairying, and I'm not just looking at the meat, but the hides as well. Seeing value in the parts of animals that are seen as waste by others is also important to me - the bits we don't eat are feeding the soil life, they are not seen as waste here.
 
Jay Angler
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Kate Downham wrote:

Seeing value in the parts of animals that are seen as waste by others is also important to me - the bits we don't eat are feeding the soil life, they are not seen as waste here.

I totally agree! In fact I was thinking late last night that I'd missed the part about how to me it's not just about ethically raised meat - it's about ethically using meat and that's about using as much of the animal for food, and the rest for supporting nature. A discussion with Dr Redhawk about humus included comments from him that the presence of an animal carcass in compost is important. Joe Jenkin's Humanure Handbook also talks about using similar techniques to responsibly turn a carcass into quality compost without risk to the ground water.

Another example is the duck bones - first they go into my instant pot with water, herbs, and a touch of vinegar to make broth, then in winter, they go through the wood stove to generate some of our heat, and then when we sift our ashes, any chunks of bone I find get added to the compost to become "sort-of biochar" (I say sort-of because the temperatures aren't necessarily correct to be the real thing). In the summer, after I make broth, I have a metal garbage can compost that's rodent proof that I can put the bones in for a first go.

Figuring out how you are going to use the whole animal - even if the answer is just responsible composting parts of it - is part of ethically raising it from my point of view. It's all part of the circle.
 
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Okay this might sound a stupid question, but hear me out. Is hunting wild animals an ethic source? on one hand, a bad shot can cause suffering, but proper precautions can be taken to reduce the odds of that happening and done right it is less painful than natural predation. I haven't gone hunting yet because my aim isn't good enough for me to be comfortable yet, but someone asked me how I could say I'm for animal welfare then say i want to go hunting. My response was that even the animal with the worst life in the wild has a better life than in a cafo. And I'm undecided on how ethical traps are, like for furbearers and such.

Ideally I'd raise my own and i would *know* it was 100% ethical, but for now the only land i have access to is hunting public land.
 
Jay Angler
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Morgwino Stur wrote:

Okay this might sound a stupid question, but hear me out. Is hunting wild animals an ethic source?

First off, there are no stupid questions on permies! We're all here to learn and explore options!
In my location, we *need* more deer hunters. The deer's natural predators (which I agree are going to inflict more pain than a well-placed bullet would) are considered dangerous, so they tend to be relocated or killed by Animal Control Officers. Therefore, we tend to have overpopulation, out of balance with what our land can support. Too many deer increase the risk of both traffic accidents and Lyme disease. So personally, I consider taking a deer for food to be ethical.
Yes, making sure you've got *really* good training in handling and aiming a weapon that could accidently hurt the wrong target is an important part of being ethical. Going out deer hunting with "the guys and a case of beer" in my books would *not* be ethical.
Similarly, finding someone to help you understand what is involved *after* you've bagged the deer is important. Some areas have abattoirs that will do that for you, but many areas don't. I processed rabbits and raccoon, and processed a road-kill deer which I knew wasn't suitable for human consumption just to learn some of the necessary butchering skills. I have personally killed small animals, but I do not have a license for hunting. One year I was given a freshly killed deer by a neighbor and successfully butchered and it provided healthy meat for an entire winter. Keeping wild animals at a healthy density for the land is just as important as keeping domestic animals at a healthy density.
To pretzel a Sepp Holzer saying, "if you don't let the cougar do his job, you have to do the cougar's job" (he said it about pigs!)
 
Kate Downham
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Respectfully hunting wild animals that there is a healthy population of (or too many of) is very ethical. Practising aim and knowing what kind of shot is going to kill quickly would be an important part of making sure you're causing the least amount of suffering.

I choose to eat more red meats, and less poultry and pork, because the red meat animals here harvest their own food and improve the soil, and there's been no energy use to grow and harvest grain for them. Wild animals are similar - they're harvesting abundance themselves, and if there's a healthy population of them, it's great to harvest this abundance.
 
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Assuming you have the skill to hunt and get a solid kill shot, are following the local hunting regs, and are capable of hauling and processing the kill for food, there is no more ethically obtained meat, IMO.  
 
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I like the idea of raising wild meat to hunt.  For example we have a ton of squirrels around here because of all the walnut trees.  I've been getting closer and closer to getting it together to hunt some squirrel.  Same goes with fish and rabbits.  We are on the river and have lots of hedge row type rabbit habitat.  I suspect I could pull a decent amount of meat from those sources on my property.  The whole use what you have idea.
 
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Jay - Good discussion.  I've hunted most of my adult life and consider it not only a journey back in time, but it allows one to connect or re-connect with the natural world.  Nothing like a weekend in the woods after a week shining a chair with your butt!  It also builds up your homesteading skills if you aren't a homesteader but are forced into it due to unforeseen circumstances.  Hunting is NOT "killing" by the way.  If you don't pay attention, if you miss some signs or if you are careless (noisy) then you most likely won't be successful at least on that hunt and many others if you don't learn.  Sometimes, you just aren't in the "right place at the right time".  It gives the animal a "fair chance" and trust me - they will use it!  You'll get skunked more times than you want to admit!  In any case, although not ethically raised by me, but by nature or the Man Upstairs if you will - I agree with Jay and Kate, it's a great option to fill the freezer (and have fun at it - compared to shopping at the grocer), build skills and bond with family and friends, and for all intents and purposes you can't get a much cleaner meat - both with the lack of chemicals and the lack of fat.  Also, you don't need to be a trained chef to figure out how to get an animal out of their skin, into the freezer and on to the plate for dinner (not necessarily in one day!).  Remove skin, remove guts, cut muscles along bone and/or their natural separation, set aside accordingly - jerky, stew, roast, etc.  I've only been taught by another hunter the basics and went from there - the best way is to just go do it!  Will you nick the stomach with your knife and get green junk all over?  Probably.  Wash it off and continue on.  Will there be a hair or two on your stew cubes when you put them in the skillet?  For sure.  Pick them off and get to searing.  Bite down on a #7 shotgun pellet hidden in a fowl breast?  Yep - it makes a nice "Clink" on the plate when you spit it out and everyone will laugh.  I've only made jerky, stew and roasts with venison (last two in slow cooker - comes out just like beef with no crazy "gamey taste" removal efforts).  I forgot, I made a terrible spaghetti with it once - man, it was BAD!  Do I need work on it?  Of course!  I'd like to get to a point where I can portion up any animal into recognizable portions like a T-bone and such - but has it provided many years of relaxation, problem solving and patience and saved me more than a few hundred bucks?  You bet - and I've never regretted participating.  Like others have said - follow the rules and laws, hunt game that needs hunting (Wildlife Biologists call it "management" - makes for a healthier population, less competition for same food sources) and get out there. You probably won't regret it.
 
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