I rarely buy meat at the grocery store. For years now our family has raised our own chickens or pigs for butchering, or hunted deer in the forest. There are many benefits to raising your own meat, for your health and otherwise. But I’d like to share just five of them with you here.
1. You Know What They’ve Been Fed
Whatever goes into an animal is passed on to the consumer in the meat or dairy products. Commercially raised animals are fed GMO grains, immunized, and given routine antibiotics and chemical wormers. When you raise your own animals for meat, you feed them. You can opt out of vaccinations, antibiotics, or chemical wormers. You can also purchase organic feed, or mix your own feed. Commercially raised animals, especially chickens, are not raised on grass. Nor do they see the sun. By ranging your own chickens they have ready access to bugs, which boost their protein intake; and grass and weeds, which gives them added chlorophyll. Also, the sun produces vitamin D.
2. You Get to Keep all the Parts
When butchering your own animals, or even if you take them to a processor, you can keep all the animal parts you want. When we butcher our hogs, the organ meats go into the scrapple. We render the fat for lard. We keep our chicken livers. You can use the bones and feet for healthy stock. You can cook down the carcasses and pick off all the tidbits of meat to add to soups and stews. Nothing needs to be wasted. Whatever I feel is too gristly or tough for the family, I can use for our dogs.
3. You Get Exercise and Joy in Caring for the Animals
Getting up with the sun is a healthy practice—whether you have animals to care for or not. But having that responsibility is a good motivation. Moving portable chicken pens, rotating electric fencing, or mucking out animal stalls provides exercise you would not normally get. During the winter months, you might never get out for fresh air if you didn’t have to break the ice on the animal water troughs, or throw them another armload of hay.
4. Your Children Learn Many Things
We started raising animals for the sole purpose of providing work for our boys. Nothing teaches them responsibility like caring for another life. But, as a homeschooling parent, I’m constantly looking for ways for my children to learn lessons on the homestead. Nutrition is learned when researching the proper food for goats. Math is learned when measuring out that food. Karen Beachy, a homesteading mother in Virginia, shares, “Raising our own meat, and through butchering it here, our girls have seen many aspects of anatomy and with that we have taught some physiology.”
5. You Produce Your Own Garden Fertilizer
If someone contemplates raising their own meat animals, chances are they already garden and raise their own produce. If you add animals to the mix, you have a ready supply of manure for your garden. No more hauling by the truckload from someone else’s farm or heaving those sacks of manure from the greenhouse. When you have your own animals you simply add their manure to your compost bin and let it all compost together.
Even if you live in the suburbs, I encourage you to investigate your options. Many municipalities are changing their ordinances under the pressure of homeowners wanting to provide more of their own food. Even if you are not allowed chickens in your back yard, chances are you can have rabbits. One thing is for sure, however, once you taste home-grown, you will never want to go back to the meat department again. But as you can see here, flavor is not the only benefit of raising your own meat.