China's per capita consumption of meat has nearly doubled over the past twenty years as urban wealth has fueled a growing appetite for pork, beef and poultry.
The average Chinese consumer still only eats half as much meat as the average American consumer, but the growth in meat consumption has forced industrialization of the business away from small farms.
In order to keep up with the increasing demand, hormones and antibiotics have become integral to China's meat production. This trend arguably creates health and environmental risks in addition to turning out inferior quality meats.
Three years ago, Haobao Organic Farm bought three wild boar piglets from Xishuangbanna and brought them to the farm. There they were raised on organic vegetables and grains until eventually reaching weights exceeding 200 kilograms (441 pounds) each.
Last week, a group of us bought the last remaining boar with the goal of processing it into sausages, bacon, salami, ham and prosciutto. We had very little butchering experience, but we were motivated by curiosity and the desire to involve ourselves in the process and tradition of charcuterie, the art of making prepared meat products.
At 210 kilograms, it took four of the farm's workers to restrain the animal and end its life as quickly and painlessly as possible – a job best left to professionals as it can be dangerous for both the animal and the butcher.
We spent the better part of that day cutting, chopping and sawing the animal into tenderloin, loin, belly, ribs, chops, hind leg, front leg and chump end. The head, organs and fat were set aside for local friends who regard those cuts the best parts of the animal.
Very little to none of the animal went to waste. The process was incredibly laborious and none of us were really prepared for how much work it takes to butcher such a large animal; and butchering the animal was only just the beginning.
Back in Kunming, we stayed up late prepping a brine made from apple juice and whiskey for a ham that should be ready by Christmas. We buried the other hind leg in salt where it will stay for a month before hanging an additional nine months to make prosciutto.
The two enormous pork bellies, weighing over 10 kilos each, went into a salt and brown sugar cure and should be ready within a week. The salami will take two more months of aging, but the sausages are ready to eat and are delicious.
The experience of butchering an animal is obviously not for everyone; but for those of us who eat meat, knowing where that meat comes from and how it is prepared can be both liberating and salutary.
In an age when our connection to the food on our plate gets further and further from the farm, it does the mind and body good to respectfully participate in the butchering of animals that end up as our meals. And when it comes to meat, our experience is that you can create a far tastier and healthier product by doing it yourself rather than counting on the markets to do it for you.© Copyright 2005-2020 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.