Any weekday vegetarian or self-flagellating meat eater has said something like it before: “I really feel like I should be able to look my meat in the eye,” “I like meat, but I wouldn’t eat it if I had to hunt it myself,” or “It’s important to know where your food comes from.” I’ve psyched myself up for at least three euphemistically titled meat “harvests,” only to literally chicken out at the last minute. Popular food writers have explored the topic time and again: Michael Pollan got a rush out of hunting wild boar in Omnivore’s Dilemma and is now researching plant sentience, the New York Times hosted a contest to rationalize eating meat and any conscientious eater has had to work through the environmental and ethical implications of eating animals.
For curious omnivores who didn’t manage to grow up on a farm, there’s now a platform for learning what it feels like to harvest an animal. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the end of a pig’s life and respectfully witness a hog slaughter, and the experience comes with an expert butchering demonstration.
Fleisher’s Pasture-Raised Meats is hosting a hog harvest on Sunday, May 17. The class, which meets at a local farm and is partially a response to customers’ overwhelming interest in the subject, is “an important part of the full picture,” Fleisher’s representative Sophie Grant tells us. Participants will spend a little time with the animal before watching the slaughter from start to finish. After about three hours on the farm, the class will move to Fleisher’s Kingston storefront to watch former CIA instructor and current master butcher Hans Sebald process a whole pig. His expert instruction will demystify the butchering process and teach people how to better shop for and prepare tricky cuts of pork.
The farmers will also be on hand during the first part of the demonstration and can answer questions about livestock farming in New York as well as any queries about the pig’s life. Of course, not all of Fleisher’s animals are slaughtered in such an idyllic setting — regulations dictate that they be taken to a slaughterhouse — and they’re working on a more realistic slaughterhouse field trip in the future. But for those of us that want to overcome our meat-eating cognitive dissonance and may fall victim to squeamishness, a slightly idealized hog harvest is a big enough first step.
Hands-on butchering classes in Brooklyn more your cup of tea? Check out Fleisher’s class schedule for opportunities to improve your knife skills. Keep an eye out for some next-level “201” classes in the fall, which may include home-curing, smoking and making your own bacon.