There’s no such thing as a free pig

Having pigs feels like some kind of “accomplishment,” even though all I really did was “buy them.”

That and build a little pig pen for them in the garage which also houses my hens and an assortment of tools.

They are six-weeks old Tamworths, two females — purchased for $80, not far from Sherbooke, QC on the New Moon in April 2015.

It’s crazy how pig skulls are literally shaped like a shovel:

We had four pigs last year, all of whom were rescues from the reject/slaughter group at a swine research facility where a family member was interning. They were the standard ‘pink’ pigs which people up here refer to as “landrace”, though I doubt many people know what that anglicism actually means:

A landrace is a domesticated, regional ecotype; a locally adapted, traditional variety of a domesticated species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species.

Anyway, I hope my pigs do not one day decide to eat me — even though I guess that would ultimately only be fair because I am, after all, planning to eat them.

Of our four animals from last year, three survived until slaughter weight. One of them died on the Feast of St-Jean-Baptiste (the national holiday of Quebec). As they were all originally marked for slaughter, each piglet from last year’s batch came with their own unique suite of health problems. “Shakey” turned kind of dark red and eventually stopped breathing.

All told our pigs from 2014 cost us about $900 in feed, slaughter and butchering. We split the meat between three couples, and from October/November of last year until now April, there is still a hell of a lot of meat left. We didn’t feed those ones anything very super special either — just the feed from the Coop. But they lived their lives outdoors and wallowed in the mud. And their meat is much sweeter than any pork I’ve had otherwise. The ground pork hamburgers are insane…

With a sticker price of $80 each this year, and probably a slower growth rate than “the pink ones”, obviously our costs are going to be significantly different this year. I’m planning to nab at least part of their foodstuffs from leftovers from the brewing process at a local microbrewery. I know from past experience though taking these to feed pigs at my job last year, that despite being ostensibly “free”, everything comes with a cost — especially when it is far away and heavy and requires a truck or van to pick up.

It’s really true what they say in this piece about raising pigs for meat in 1970 Mother Earth News:

“You can breed the pigs and buy the corn and get on. You can raise the corn and buy the pigs and get on. If you buy the corn and buy the pigs to feed, you haven’t got a chance. But, if you breed the pigs and raise the corn, you’ll make money.” — Louis Bromfield.

We’re not at the level of trying to raise pigs for money yet. And maybe we never will be. But raising them for us still feels like an accomplishment for someone who grew up in the suburbs. And they are fun and cute on top of it all, though still skittish as they’ve only just arrived and I assume weren’t handled a lot by humans before this.

I have no qualms at this point about naming and loving them, and then turning around and eating them later. Being the primary caregiver (and eater) of an animal raised for meat really helps you get over those kinds of existential quandaries. Because there is no longer anything missing from your relationship with the food you’re eating, nor the life you’re taking. Yes, they’re pets (for now) and they are sweet, but their meat will be too. We’ll love them, and then the Fall will give way to Winter, and the cycle goes on and on forever.