Are you concerned about the way your food is produced?
Would you like to have more of an insight into the lives of the animals you meet on your plate?
Once upon a time many families kept a pig. The pig lived alongside the people: perhaps it had a name. The family would have known its face, its habits and personality, so that when time came for the pig to be slaughtered, they knew what meant to be eating meat. They understood how it got to their plate and they could eat it with a real respect for the animal which was now their dinner.
We have moved so far from this today that the Telegraph reported in June 2012 that 36% of 16-23 year olds claimed not to know that bacon came from pigs. Whilst I often feel skeptical about these kinds of reports, it is certainly the case that my children have very little awareness of the kind of intensive farming that produces most of the meat that they eat. They have grown up up with pictures of pink pigs on green grass with blue skies but the Soil Association website tells me that
• Roughly 9 million pigs are slaughtered every year in the UK - about 1.5% of UK pigs are organic.
• 98% of UK pigs are fattened (finished) in sheds. 93% of growing pigs and 60% of mother pigs in the UK are kept indoors.
• The largest existing pig factory in the UK that we know about has 1,100 sows.
• The average size of large-scale intensive pig farms in the UK is around 500–900 sows. The average pig herd size for all farms in the UK is around 75 sows.
• Approximately 92% of pigs are kept on 1,400 pig farms and the rest on some 10,000 small holdings and smaller and mixed farms
It doesn't sound like green grass and blue skies are a reality for many pigs.
My husband and I are mainly vegetarian, and I attempted to be Vegan for a bit, but I couldn’t keep it up in the face of bacon....hollandaise sauce...cheese.....What I learnt from the attempt is that my family are confirmed meat eaters, particularly my children. Having discovered this, I feel like the next step is to get a better understanding of what that really means. I want to find out what it means to keep an animal, take responsibility for its humane slaughter, and then face it again in my kitchen.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, join the Meet the Meat Project.
After living for many years in West London, we have moved to a part of Hampshire where we have the space to make this notion a reality. A lot of our new garden is quite overgrown and some is wooded: ideal for pigs and chickens, both of which are apparently descended from woodland animals. Apparently both pigs and chickens will clear the weeds- so that the parts of the garden where they are kept could then be replanted with wild flowers.
I am told that pigs even leave behind bluebell bulbs: bonus!
Quite a few of our neighbours and friends have pig and chicken keeping experience. I have read all the books I can find and subscribed to Practical Pigs Magazine. My mum gave me a Pig Keeping for Novices Course at Tedfold Farm, for my birthday. I now have a good idea – for a Londoner- of what is involved in keeping pigs, and more importantly, I know where to go to ask questions.
So, the next thing we need to do is get high quality, warm dry housing for the animals to live in, and some serious fencing to stop them from getting into bits of our garden, or our neighbours' gardens where they have no business. And of course to keep out foxes. And our dog, Rollo. And his friend the cat from over the fence.
So this is where you come in!
If you would like to help us Crowdfund the start up costs of getting this going properly we will happily share the produce when the pigs go for slaughter. We would also like to keep some chickens, so there will be eggs…and where there are eggs, there can be cakes... we will share those too (or instead, if you prefer)
Whether you choose to help us fund this venture or not, you are welcome to share the experience by following my blog at www.meetthemeatuk.blogspot.co.uk. I will post pictures and try to convey a sense of what is involved in living with pigs and chickens.
If you would like to get even closer to the action get in touch. you are welcome to come and pay us a visit. We are easy to get to by train and you are welcome to bring children along to meet the animals- we will make you lunch! It will be a better day out than one of those grim children's farms.
We want to do everything we can to make sure that the animals we keep have interesting, happy lives with the highest possible welfare standards. We are not aiming to make any money at all from keeping them, so there is no commercial imperative to keep day to day costs down, we will fund the animal's feed and the costs of their day to day care from our jobs (as teachers). All three of our children will help out with cleaning, feeding and collecting eggs- we are all ready to go, we just need your help!