My search for a supply of sustainable meat is now ended, successfully. Pictured below is a quarter of a pig that is now in my freezer.
I had been calling around town and emailing people, trying to find someone who raises pigs in a sustainable manner. I found a few expensive shops that I could't possibly afford, and I also found a few farmers who raise their pigs sustainably, but indoors. After reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and two zillion other blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, and also actually using my brain to think instead of letting the television think for me, I knew I wanted my pig to have lived its life outside eating, living like a pig. I was hearing different stories about the rules in Quebec in regards to raising pigs outside: Some folks told me me it was completely illegal, some thought it was a black-market thing and others reported that it is just hard to find. I decided to call my vegetable CSA. I figured they would be in the know, and maybe I'd get lucky and they would actually know a farmer who was raising some pigs outside, in a pasture.
To my absolute astonishment and delight , it turns out that my vegetable CSA is also a meat CSA! They also pasture their pigs! From what they told me, the government no longer issues licenses that allow pigs to be pastured anymore, but they will allow an existing permit to be renewed. My CSA has had a permit to pasture their pigs for several years so they can renew their permit until the big pig factories or some other giant corporations gain total control our government or they mess up our environment so badly that a pig could no longer survive outdoors.
I also found out they raise chickens, outdoors, and I immediately bought five — the limit per CSA member. For the pig, I was told that my name would be placed on a waiting list. I could put my name down for either a half or whole pig. I asked if I could just buy a quarter pig as we would only be two people eating it and we have limited freezer space. I couldn't actually buy a quarter pig unless someone else ahead of me on the list for half a pig only wanted a quarter, and then I could get in with them. This seemed pretty fair, especially since my only other choices were buying a pig that never saw the sky or ate any whole foods, or even worse, ending up with factory-farmed, pesticide- and antibiotic-laced pork that came from a pig whose only walking occurred when it was forced up a ramp to its death.
I was told that it would be at least a month, maybe more until my name came up to the top of the list. Imagine my surprise when I was left a message on Monday evening stating that the person at the top of the list suddenly only wanted a quarter pig. I spent the night figuring out what cuts I may or may not be getting and then dreaming of the different ways I would be eating pork all winter. I called the farm the next morning only to find out that my supposed pig-partner had changed their mind and would take the half pig to themselves. I would have to wait another month, at least, and my only consolation was that I would get to choose the cuts myself. I knew I'd have no trouble finding someone to take a quarter of my half pig, so my daydreaming began. Would I want more ribs and less bacon? Maybe I'd want more ground meat and less roasts? The possibilites were mind-boggling and mouth-watering!
On Wednesday my telephone rang again and I was told that the same person had changed their mind yet again and now I could have the quarter pig. I could only call the farm back in the evening, and I was hoping that by then no more mind-changing had occurred. Sure enough, when I called at 6 p.m., I was told that a quarter pig would be at the CSA dropoff location with my name on it. It weighed 50 pounds and cost me $200.
Here is what was in my quarter pig:
I am a little confused by a few of the pieces and am waiting for an email response from the farm about the 'soc' and the 'lacones'. I can't wait to taste the bacon. I considered getting a copy of Michael Rulhman's Charcuterie and curing my own bacon, but I need something to look forward to for next year. I was so excited that I quickly took a photo of it all laid out on the table and then stuffed it in my freezer, minus two pork chops which went straight to the grill with a little salt and pepper. Delicious.