Free Range Meat

It’s been well over 10 years since we bought any meat. During that time, any meat I’ve eaten has come from this farm.

When we first began homesteading we got 3 heifers, and I intended to put a steer in the freezer every year. I soon realized that would be way more than I could expect to eat (my wife is a vegetarian), so we eventually got rid of the cows.

When we first got pigs, I got two of them because I know they don’t like to live alone. When we processed them later that year I had 570 pounds of pork. Even though I gave away the hams and lots of the sausage, it took me over two years to finish eating it all.

Eventually we began to sell pork. That required us to use a USDA-approved processor, which was a real pain and required compromises to our principles. But by raising four hogs and selling two I could make my pork “free.” The last time we raised pigs we raised seven. With two chest freezers we could barely hold all the meat. We weren’t comfortable continuing to sell the pork after it had been in the freezer a year, so now it’s up to me to finish off all that is left. Because we still have so much on hand, we aren’t raising any pigs this year.

We’ve never raised meat chickens, but every now and then we have an extra rooster or a hen that needs to be culled. When that happens, I have chicken.

Most of the meat I eat is venison. Every year I take a few deer from the multitudinous herd that roams our farm, and they keep me well-provisioned.

I also eat fish, which I catch in our pond.

At this point I’m very seriously considering not raising any more pigs. As much as I enjoy my breakfast sausage and barbecue, I could live without it. I could very easily have all the meat I want by relying only on deer and fish. And if I ever wanted to, I could easily add wild turkey, squirrel and rabbit.

It seems to me there are lots of advantages to relying on game rather than domesticated animals. The animals live entirely natural lives, unrestrained and with a natural diet. I’ve also come to believe that we humans are upsetting the ecosystem as we abandon our natural role as predators. As for domesticated livestock, getting rid of them would reduce workload and expense, and would also eliminate those uncomfortable days when we betray their trust and kill them.

I’m not sure what to do about the goats. They’re in a whole separate category. I enjoy raising them, but have no need for their meat. They do produce some revenue for the farm, but it’s not essential. For now I plan to keep raising them, but down the road I might think of phasing them out too.

Relying entirely on game animals for meat seems sensible on a homestead like ours. So I’m thinking of going in that direction, even as I am preparing sausage and gravy for breakfast.

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28 comments on “Free Range Meat

  1. shoreacres says:

    Nooooooo!!! Not the goats! You have to keep the goats, if only for entertainment purposes. Maybe you could set up an adopt-a-goat program for your readers. πŸ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      They’re not going away any time soon. They’re family. But for any readers who would like to add a goat or two to their household, we’d be happy to help with that.

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  2. hilaryhighpa says:

    Good morning, Bill. Happy Father’s Day. My sense from your posts and FB photos is you just adore the goats. How do you feel about hanging on to the goats because you enjoy them while also providing them a really nice environment?

    Hilary High hilarychigh@gmail.com 813.310.1742

    >

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Hilary. If we ever get rid of the goats it will be very gradually. The first step would be making sure we don’t keep a billy. Abraham will be around a while though, so nothing is going to change any time soon. I threw in that goat comment as an afterthought. I realized as I got to the end of the post that I hadn’t mentioned the goat herd. We don’t really think of them as part of our homesteader lifestyle. They’re in a whole separate category. πŸ™‚

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  3. I loved the photos of your pigs too.
    Question: there are warnings all over the Internet about eating summer rabbit. Do you or any of your intelligent readers πŸ˜€ know if that’s true or an old wive’s/husband’s/hunter’s tale? Thanks.

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t know, so I’ll leave that to the intelligent readers. I used to hunt rabbits when I was a kid, but haven’t gone hunting for them in many years now. I brought home one that I killed when I was turkey hunting a few years ago and my wife was displeased, to say the least. I waited till she was away for a day before frying it up. πŸ™‚

      Friday I actually stepped on one while picking beets (yes, the weeds are that bad!). Gave us both quite a scare. πŸ™‚

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    • My father used to say you don’t eat rabbit in the summer months because of Warbles. Its a fly that lays an egg in the skin of rabbits and other rodents and the fly larvae lives under the skin until it is ready to emerge . Lots of cows and horses are also prone to warble fly. Just the thought of that has kept me from eating many rabbits in the fall and winter when its safe to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        Oh man, I remember those nasty things. I’ve seen them in squirrels too. We had them in our cows once when I was a kid. I haven’t seen one in many years, but definitely something to be aware of.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. Perhaps that’s why cows are generally butchered in the spring too? Yes — it’s enough information to keep me from eating wild rabbit too… But the dern things keep getting under or hopping over our new electric fence. More adjustments necessary, I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. BeeHappee says:

    Oh, that totally makes sense to me, given a choice of hunting or raising, I would chose game meat anytime, for many reasons. You are blessed with such a diet. A couple days ago, we were exhausted from the heat, so we were watching the series “Life below zero” about the people living around arctic circle in Alaska. Featured in it, there is a 29 year old guy who has lived in Alaska wilderness for 10 years and feeds himself completely on hunted meat: caribou, fox, ptarmigan. His prep of all that wild game, and organ meat, made me really hungry for the real stuff, not the bleached inflated skinned chicken breasts stuffed in a package.
    And hope you keep those goats for another decade or so until I can set up my homestead and adopt them all. πŸ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      There have been plenty of studies showing the health benefits of a plant-based/vegetarian diet, based on the lives of people in societies that eat little or no meat, compared to those of meat-eating folks. But the Inuit are a fascinating exception to the rule, being very healthy despite a diet of almost entirely all animal products.

      I used to eat fast food and factory raised meat. Now just the thought of that greasy stuff turns my stomach. When my innards were used to it, they could handle it. But now they’d revolt if I sent any of that stuff down the hatch. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. hilarymb says:

    Hi Bill – I think you seem to be getting your eggs parcelled out … so you can move on – I agree about the excess meat – one goes off it quite quickly – and then feels guilty not eating it or wanting to eat it. Does sound like you’ve got the ideal life … and it’s good to know the goats will be around … keep happy as you both do … cheers Hilary

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    • Bill says:

      We sell our extra eggs and that generates enough revenue to pay for the feed, so that our eggs are paid for only with my labor. I do enjoy our farm eggs. I could live without them, but don’t plan to. πŸ™‚

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  6. Wow you could probably live completely from the land and your garden, couldn’t you? ❀
    Diana xo

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  7. Excellent points and food for thought (no pun intended). I constantly struggle with the concept of us raising animals for meat, but being a meat eater – it is better than buying meat from the store where you know their lives were not ideal.
    I think we could survive pretty well with wild game when we get out to the farm full time. But pork – well, that is going to be the hard one. We both adore anything pork…
    and as to the goats – what would the rest of us do without all of those adorable goat pics???

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    • Bill says:

      Once I looked behind the curtain of industrial meat, I gave it up. I could easily be a vegetarian and I think I’d go that route rather than financially support the cruelty of the industrial meat complex.

      Having meat from animals raised humanely and under conditions you have personally supervised is one of the most significant advantages of farming/homesteading. Pigs are fun to raise. We chose to buy piglets and raise them here, rather than breed hogs here, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, we all go through times in our lives when transitions need to be made. A good rule of thumb for me is when what I’m doing becomes a chore and not fun any more. Then it’s time for a change. For me the challenge of changing is the fun thing in retirement.

    Dad, always said that we shouldn’t eat rabbits in a month without an R in the name of the month. In the warm summer months rabbits are prone to a bacteria called Tularemia. This bacteria doesn’t seem to survive the cold Winter months which makes the eating of rabbit safer. According to Mom the first year of my parents marriage, they survived on what Dad shot. By the time I was old enough to have memories, his hunting days were over but I still have the gun he used way back then. It’s a single shot brake action 12 gauge shotgun. I did shoot it once but that was over 25 years ago. I’m just not a hunter and more of a fisherman.

    Have a great wild game eating day.

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    • Bill says:

      My first gun was a single shot 12 gauge. My Daddy give it to me when I was a little kid (probably about 8 years old). That thing kicked the snot out of me every time I fired it. I spent many many days in the woods hunting squirrels with it, and hunting rabbits in the fall and winter.

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  9. Bill, as a vegan who wants all animals, including wild ones, to be happy, safe and free, I still am very inspired by your post. I was touched by your vulnerability when you admitted that you betrayed the animals trust when either slaughtered them or sent them to slaughter. Killing a wild animal that has had a free, healthy life up until that point is much better for all concerned.

    However, from the very beginning, you refrained from eating factory farmed animals who suffer tremendously. I applaud that choice. You also are willing to give up food that you enjoy both because of the extra work and the fact that I am guessing you grew to love that animal which then turned into food.

    I know many vegans who want animals not to exploited at all. I would much rather see small family farms such as yours be in existence rather than factory farms.

    We are seriously considering at Jesus Vegans to support aquaponics and demonstrate a way that a small family farm can grow healthy food. Those who feel a need for eating fish can do so in their own farms, although we won’t be eating any of the fish. We will find creative ways to deal with excess numbers of fish. We want to help people make the transition from eating factory farmed food, and that will be a way to eliminate the horrific suffering that animals endure.

    I haven’t stayed on top of your writing because I have been extremely busy getting Jesus Vegans off the ground. I just felt moved to respond and to encourage you.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Patricia. All best wishes for the important work you’re doing.

      We do our best to raise our animals as humanely and naturally as we reasonably can. I became a “farmitarian” when I learned how the industrial meat complex raises and treats animals, and I don’t intend to ever go back to supporting that kind of behavior.

      Farm animals are an important part of the natural farm ecosystem and it would be difficult to grow vegetables organically without them. But there are definitely challenges, moral and practical, to keeping farm animals.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I am starting to think along those same lines of not raising any meat animals on our farm because we love deer meat and it is so healthy for you. But the biggest reason is we like to pick up and go places and don’t want to worry about getting someone to take care of our animals while we are gone. With deer there are no vet bills or shelling out a bunch of money to buy the animals and feeding them everyday, plus our land has plenty of deer.

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    • Bill says:

      An excellent observation Gordon. It prompted me to write today’s post. It’s good that you are carefully thinking this out, rather than just plunging in the way we did.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. avwalters says:

    We’ve made the transition from “conventionally raised” meat products. We still eat organically raised chicken. We have prepped ourselves for the possibility of rabbit, venison or wild turkeys. We wonder though, when we see them foraging in the GMO corn next door…

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