Peace at the Slaughterhouse

After the stressful process of readying the pigs for loading, I expected the remainder of the journey to be as difficult. But the trip to Braun’s was strangely tranquil.

The backroads route to the slaughterhouse has no stops, and on a Sunday morning, probably very little traffic, so I knew I could take my time. I wanted to keep the trailer moving, so the pigs got no ideas about jumping out at a stop sign. The way there is through very pastoral landscape–past horse farms, hayfields, a picturesque old Anglican church, under a railroad with room for only one car, across a one-lane timber bridge, up a dark tree-lined curve out of the river valley and coming into cleared rolling hills of dairy farms. We passed around curves, up and down, past organic farms, greenhouses, vineyards, fields full of alpaca, through tunnels of Douglas fir still part of Native peoples reservations, and out again into cleared areas of housing. It’s a beautiful drive. I went slowly, feeling the pigs jostle around in the trailer, wishing they would just lay down.

After turning into the butcher’s property, I made my way to the dock. I’ve dropped pigs off here before, and know that the dock is just the right height for my trailer. I backed up almost perfectly the first time, and drunk with my success, tried to better it, but made a mess of the subsequent tries. Hubris.

A person unloads their animals with no help from the butcher, who lives onsite with his family. I guess they expect you will know how to handle your own animals, and they are right. Large plywood barrier boards can be positioned to funnel the animals toward the building, and discourage them from escaping out the sides. My inexpertly parked trailer had a gap between it and the dock, but there was another board I could use as a temporary floor.

The atmosphere was oddly serene. Two other stalls were full of pigs, but they were quiet and resting. The barn is very well organized, with swinging doors that perfectly fit the shoots in two directions. It’s very easy to encourage an animal into the spot you want them, especially if you roll apples ahead of them. Their stall was freshly laid with shavings, clean and odor-free. In fact, there were no bad smells at all, anywhere. No smell of manure or dead flesh, which one might expect at a slaughter / butcher house. The only scent was the smell of wet forest and grass, and fresh wood shavings.

The pigs were calm when I removed the tailgate. Curious as always, they easily navigated the unsteady temporary floor, and made their way immediately down the shoot, ambling along and sniffing everything–floor, walls, other pigs. Inside their clean dry stall I had laid a bunch more feed, since I know they won’t be getting any dinner. I closed the door with myself inside, and gave all of them a good back scratching as they explored their new surroundings.

After this, I filled out my ticket and placed it on the clipboard. I put all the boards back in place, and then decided to go back and give these great girls, these entertaining little rototillers, just one more thorough back scratch. They wriggled like they do, snuffling at me and leaning into my legs. I patted their heads, told them they were good girls, then got in the car and drove away.

This is the life of a small farmer. We love our animals while we have them, and seek to give them a good life, providing what we can according to their nature. I gave them the areas they needed to express their piggishness, and they left a lovely pocked area of soil fertilized with their droppings. These pigs cleared three areas for me, excavating blackberry roots, old wood, and even helped to dredge a nest of carpenter ants. We had a good partnership, and they had a good life.

As of this date, there are still 2 sides available, but they are going fast. Contact me if you are interested.

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