Today I got a call from the butcher. One of my pigs had two broken femurs. Which translates into two less prosciuttos I can make - the blood from the contusion settles into the muscle and doesn't drain, and the surrounding meat is unusable.
I called the farmer. It's pretty clear that the pig didn't walk on or off the truck with two broken legs. The bones were more or less splintered. It didn't - couldn't - have moved far without complaining vociferously. It looked almost like the pig had tried to back out of the chute at the last minute and been pushed forward with a tractor or hit by a heavy gate. But the farmer had loaded them and unloaded them without an issue. (and our farmer is a great guy - He's a dairy farmer, and deals with livestock every day. Not to mention he's my neighbor. His word is more than enough to satisfy on any front). So that wasn't it.
So I called the slaughterhouse. And got an "Ah. Yeah."
When pigs are slaughtered, they're led to the killing floor and stunned. They're then hoisted and drained by opening an artery. It's a fairly peaceful, low-stress way to go, which is humane for the animal, and better for the product. Right after the high electric shock that stuns them - if they jerk or otherwise react, they can thrash about, preventing the rope which loops around their back legs and hoists them from getting set properly. And boom. In the worst of accidents: broken legs.
No one wants to see this, least of all the slaughterhouse. It's unfortunate, and unpleasant for anyone involved but sometimes? Living things are unpredictable. As the saying goes: Livestock happens.
I get it, and I sympathize, but I also balked a bit at paying for unusable meat. No one won here (least of all the pig), so I threw it on the table to see how the various parties would respond.
The farmer knocked some out of his price. Which is painful for him, because the price of grain is up more than 20% this year. But he and I have been doing business for years, and he knows I'll be back for more.
The slaughterhouse knocked out their price for that pig, which is fair, but means they're eating into their own margin, since all the rest of their work was still done.
I'm paying a bit more per pound because I want to meet these guys part way. The butcher won't have to prep and bag the bad meat, so I will see some lesser amount net there as well. My overall cost per pound will be up a bit, but I feel good.
And I thought it worth sharing, because this situation underlined the value of knowing and dealing fairly with as many parts of your supply chain as you can. Not only was this a reality of dealing with the processing of livestock into food that we've kind of forgotten about or hidden away from our daily lives, this was also the kind of fair dealing and relationships that supported agro-business for most of history.
(In good news: the bacon parts are still totally edible. And the other pig was flawless.)
So: go find a farmer and give him a hug. I'm feeling thankful.