Rashermon: A Writer and a Butcher On the Same Pig's Death

By
Rob Levitt, butcher. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

It seems like only yesterday that Mike Sula of the Reader was chronicling the life and death of mulefoot pigs, but perhaps because he's already been where his pork comes from, he goes along with some of the staff from The Butcher & Larder to Bare Knuckle Farm in Michigan for their first experience of the moment when live pig becomes edible pork. The question this time is: is it better for a pig to go to a slaughterhouse where the death will be more instantaneous, but preceded by "a bewildering night on concrete before being led onto the killing floor"? Or is it preferable to do it the way they do it on the farm, where the pig remains in its natural environment (but is basically hunted down on it)? Sula's account, which arrives at no definitive answer to that question, appears here in the Reader this week. Also like the last time, someone else on the trip chronicles it in a parallel account; Rob Levitt, owner of The Butcher & Larder, posts his own account of the experience, and it's interesting to compare how the incident looks from two different perspectives the more analytical journalist vs. the more immediately heartfelt chef/butcher.

Sula:

[Farmer Jess] Piskor and his friend Andrew Brix followed it into the neighboring cornfield, where a second shot finally felled the animal. Piskor fired a third just to be safe, then knelt and cut into its throat to bleed it out.

As the pig lay dying, it kicked and rocked slowly, and each of us took turns holding a palm to its side as its life ran out. Piskor collected the blood in a Ziploc bag.

Levitt:

When the stew was tender and seasoned, I shut off the heat and stirred in the blood. The stew got thick and velvety. Rich and dark.

As I ate I couldnt help but think of how desensitized Id become to the sight of the animals I cut. For all the time Ive spent reminding people that our bacon and pork chops, ham and sausages come from an animal, and that the quality of that animals life is crucial to the quality of the meat we eat, I realized how easily life can be taken for granted. This delicious pork came from a lifea life that was cared for by our friends. I thought of Jesss face as he slumped over our pig collecting the blood. I thought of the introspective looks on the faces of Chris and Dani as we walked back to our car. Taking this life and turning it into nourishment really hit home.

Read them both. Brien Comerford could not be reached for comment.

The farmer's dilemma [Reader]

A butcher meats his meat [Reader]