Monday, February 13, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name...

All of we homesteaders and farmers have such good advice to give and for each of us our advice is very important.  But sometimes we each have our quirks that may not be good or right for others.  That's why, when I give advice, I have no problem if the person I'm giving it to doesn't take it.  For me, it is very important, for them, it may be meaningless.

Such is the advice I was given when I first started raising calves.  "Don't name them or you won't be able to butcher them."  I have heard this and read this often enough to know that this must be true for many people.  When I first started raising calves they were known only by their numbers.  The problem with that is I learned their personality just as much with that kind of name as I would have if I had called them Fred or Spot.  I mean Cow 6 was a great little heifer that I was determined to keep right up until her mother had problems with birthing.  I could not keep an offspring of an animal that could never be used for milking again.  Not when most highlander heifers can drop a calf with little or no work.  You don't breed that weakness into a cow, especially a heritage breed, so you don't keep that kind of bloodline.  She was butchered at 18 months.  Names, whether they be Bessie or Heifer 12 don't mean all that much to me.  It's the personality behind the names that can make me second guess why I do this.

I then started naming all my animals, even the baby goslings if I could tell them apart.  I gave them the respect that all animals should be given in life.  They were raised lovingly by someone who truly wanted them to have the best life they could have.  And they were butchered humanely without the horrors that many animals in the modern day meat markets go through.   I can remember most of my animals fondly (except the killer roosters that went to freezer camp because they deserved it), and can tell stories about some of their antics.  And yes, I can butcher them.  I respect every life that has been sacrificed for mine.  

Turns out that studies support this way of thinking.  When animals are raised humanely and with respect they are healthier.   This keeps us from having to give them so many medicines.  All those chemicals are stored in their flesh and when we eat them, it becomes part of ours.  When animals are raised in happy homes their bodies release less stress hormones.  Stress hormones make their flesh taste bad.  Anyone who butchers animals know that the calmer they can keep their animals, the more tender the meat.  Turns out the calmer the animal lives their WHOLE life, the more tender the meat.  When animals are raised with respect, the same respect we demand of hunters who hunt, the same respect we give to those who show reverence to whatever life they take, the same respect that we, ourselves crave, they give back a better meat when we consume them later.

Funny, but studies show all this same information for plants as well.  Plants that are grown with less stress are more nutritious than plants that are grown in too crowded conditions and in soil that is low in natural fertilizer.  Those of us who raise our own tomatoes know this when we bite into one of those red Styrofoam balls the grocery stores call tomatoes.  Home grown veggies and meat always taste better than store bought.

So, while it is important for some to stay at arms length from the animals that they will one day consume, I will always give them names, love them, hug them and thank them for their sacrifice.   They and I deserve no less.  I will treat the ones that give their lives so I can live, whether they be plant or animal, with all the gratefulness I possess. I will not put anything not sacred into my sacred body.  I'm worth that.


  1. Great, and thought-provoking post. Never though about the name thing, but honestly there have been "pets" that never had a "real" name! :)

  2. Wonderful sharing Rea...

    I too thank the plants and animals for their daily sacrifice so that I might eat.

    Wishing I could live on a sustainable farm/ette.