I care passionately about animals, and I really like to eat meat. I think a reasonable amount of it is extremely important in a healthy diet. I didn’t know how to balance two apparently irreconcilable feelings.
I started by reading books by Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson and Charles Walters and others that described a different kind of farming based on a deep love for the land and respect for farmers. Sadly, many of the pieces I read made me wonder about industrial-scale farming and its fearful impacts on land, farmers and animals.
When the chance came up, my family and I moved to Highland County, Virginia, to see if there was a place for us in the agricultural world. And there was. We raised beautiful calves, weaned them naturally and sold them off the farm. They grazed elsewhere for some amount of time and then spent the last six months of their lives on a feedlot. I didn’t like many things about the system–not the least of which was that we didn’t make enough money to support the farm.
It is great stroke of luck that we moved to the beautiful mountains of Virginia, to a struggling, shrinking county of proud people who want to survive as a community of farmers and small business owners. One of our biggest dreams was to build a processing facility where we could bring our livestock to be prepared as meat.
And we did it! More than 90 investors in four rural counties raised a million dollars to build a state of the art, humane-certified slaughterhouse. (The counties are Highland and Bath in Virginia and Pendleton and Pocohantas in West Virginia.) Please check Alleghany Meats out on the web.
Another stroke of good fortune for us is the national awakening we’re all experiencing–farmers markets, restaurants and grocery stores specializing in local foods and a general recognition that much of the food we eat is not particularly healthy for us.
It’s finally possible for me to love our cattle. To care for them every day of their lives and send them on one morning to a humane death. And for me to provide nutritious beef for many families.