How much do you like your bacon? (part one)

My friends, Rebecca and Nick, like bacon so much that in December they got their own pigs to raise… and slaughter. And ever since the pigs arrived, they have been talking about all the different ways they were going to eat their pigs when the time came.

Well, last Wednesday, the time came… and Nick called me to see if I wanted to document the process.

Personally, I don’t eat bacon, or much meat at all.

When I get to choose the food I eat, I choose vegetables, partially because I am lazy and meat requires a lot more work than vegetables, but mostly because I don’t want to support the inhumane and toxic practices of factory farming (for more information watch Food, Inc.)

But if I am served meat then I will gratefully eat it. I don’t like to be rude and I don’t like to waste food. And if I know where the meat is coming from and how the animals were raised, then sometimes I actually even choose to eat meat, like heritage turkeys at Thanksgiving, or grass-fed burgers at the Fremont Diner… so I call myself an opportunivore.

Because I do occasionally eat meat, I think it is important that I know what it means to eat meat… to see the process of going from a live animal to, in this case, bacon.

So Wednesday I documented the first step… Killing the pigs. I have documented sheep being harvested before, at Windrush Farm, but never pigs. Pigs are a little smarter and more personable than sheep, so I was a little nervous and not entirely confident I could watch. But really it wasn’t so bad.

Actually I would be grateful if my death were as quick and painless, and if my body could continue to be a part of the life-cycle, instead of having to be cremated or preserved in a box, wasting valuable resources and land.

So I arrived and met the pigs. I gave them both belly rubs until they rolled over and passed out in pure joy.

Then the truck arrived. We met JD and his special truck that is equipped to process animals on site, which is less stressful for the animals because they don’t have to be transported to a slaughterhouse.

Nick was also nervous. He was the one who cared for these pigs every day for the last three months, and he wasn’t sure he could watch them being killed either. But before we realized, JD had already shot the first one and the process of cleaning and butchering began.

The photos posted were taken with my Rolleiflex, which actually make the event look less graphic. If you would like another perspective, or to compare the difference between film and digital, then there is also a slide show of photos I took with my digital camera.

If you would prefer not to know where your bacon comes from then now is a good time to close your eyes…

These were two lucky pigs. They lived a good life and they will continue to live on in the bodies of my sustainably farming friends.

Next step in making bacon: butchering. Those photos coming soon.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I Have a Pig Named Betsy…

I am excited for my friend Rebecca, because this week she got pigs at the garden she runs in Sonoma.

Thinking about her pigs stirs up all my pig memories, and gives me an excuse to post an assortment of random photos in an attempt to stay true to my Rolleiflex Advent Calender.

It makes me think about the most incredible pigs I have ever met, who lived at Parducci Winery. They would chase each other just like dogs, play king of the castle on their deck, roll over to have their bellies scratched, and run in and out of the water as their caretaker sprayed them with a hose to keep them cool. They changed my perception about pigs forever.

And it reminds me of the amazing stories Novella Carpenter tells in her awesome book, that you should read if you haven’t yet, about her crazy adventures raising pigs in Oakland, and then coming to terms with butchering them, and ultimately her complete joy while eating the meat she worked so hard to raise.

Which makes me think about the photos that I took at Town Hall last summer and how beautiful ham can look, let alone taste.

And finally it reminds me about my best friend, since 5th grade, Betsy, who has given me an assortment of pig gadgets and gizmos for the last 20 years. It all started when we met a girl at basketball camp. After we introduced ourselves to her, she said, “Betsy, I have a pig named Betsy. I go out in the yard and call, ‘Suuuu-weeee,’ and she comes running.” You can imagine the joy that gave me then, and still gives me now, every time I tell that story.

I could keep going with the pig memories, but that is enough about pigs for now.

Congratulations, Rebecca. I can’t wait to meet them soon.

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