I am thinking about meat

Last weekend, Markus and I visited the Hessenpark, a magical open-air museum that provides a glimpse into traditional village life in Hesse. It was like a Harry Potter world, if only it was set in rural Germany.

Almost 100 Fachwerkhäuser on display, plus furniture, tools, shops, crafts, and all the toys imaginable to impress and educate a new Asian in town. I had a lot of fun, even if it rained most of the time.

But out of all the impressions, the one that struck me most was the pigs – a small band of cute black and pink striped or spotted pigs called Sattelschwein. Please don’t ask me to pronounce it.

The pigs are an old German breed, advertised as very tasty, but it is on the point of demise. Around 200 left. Why?

Not hunting. Not disease. Not loss of habitat. Just that farmers chose not to raise them over the years because the meat no longer sell. Consumers wanted to buy lean pork meat increasingly, the low-fat diet became more popular, and the Sattelschwein, with its thick layer of fat, failed to meet the standards. The breed started to die out.

Interesting turn of events.

I would certainly think that a breed would increase in number as people stopped killing it, but the opposite happened in the case of the Sattelschwein. People did not want to eat its meat and so growing them stopped, too.

Is eating a certain animal, then, a requirement for its thriving existence? Or at least for those that are farmed? What will happen to the animals if more people stopped eating meat and farmers switched to trendy plant-based offerings? What would the numbers look like a decade or two from now?

I suppose it is about value. If a breed does not offer farmers or businesses return of investment, then what is the point? There is a reason why cows are the literal overlords of this planet, after all, or why aliens are likely to assume Earth is a planet of chickens.

The same could be said about certain kinds of vegetables that have died out, too. We have the crops we have because they make sense to growers and consumers. Economic importance rules. But what happens to diversity, the health of the soil, and the natural balance of things?

I really do not have answers to these questions and would love to hear your thoughts. For what it is worth, I am glad the population of the Sattelschwein is being restored, and if I ate meat, I think they would make fantastic bacon.

But I don’t. I just wish their numbers would increase and they have a good German life. I have no idea how they would thrive though, if not for farmers raising them again for meat.

P.S.

Speaking of animal conservation, I wanted to report that the first pawikan turtle nest has been found 30 August 2021. I was too blasted to write about it that time.

Thank heavens, they are back again!

38 thoughts on “I am thinking about meat

    1. The hedgehogs died from overeating actually. I suppose they would not survive in the wild at home. Here in Germany there are wild hedgehogs. This is why I do not step or rummage around the pile of leaves. Don’t want to have an accident!

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  1. These are important questions. We continue to swing the pendulum this way or that for our own needs, forgetting that the earth can literally take care of itself if we leave it and other things alone and stop commodifying everything.

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  2. I don’t know if these farmed pigs would thrive in the wild… I am not so sure…
    If they would then it’s good to try propagating more and send them into the wild because they’d play their role in managing ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity.
    But I have tried literally domesticating a pig from my lolo’s mini piggery — it died!! 😦 I guess they’d only develop in their designated habitat…

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    1. Omg, sorry to hear about the death of this pig. Why did you want to domesticate it? Like a pet? And yes, like you, I am unsure about the future of these pigs. They are an old breed though so I do not know if they were bred to be eaten or they just existed. I suppose when it comes to farming, animals are farmed for a purpose – and in many cases, this is for food.

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      1. I have lots of odd stories, Micah. It was inspired by that Japanese show Shaider, where Dr. Ang & Akiko tried to pet a pig… I got a little jealous and wanted the same (since I was exposed to pigs growing up) this was before my teens (to be fair) — my mom just corrected the story (I had to ask her to be sure) — The pig was given to me because it was born with defects. It didn’t have a butthole. So it’s bound to die anyway.

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        1. Crazy! I so want to have tea with you and listen to these stories. I have a similar story to the pig, but it is a hedgehog. I saw it online and thought they were the cutest. I got two. It was nothing like the internet. Hahaha.

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          1. How was it?! I am not familiar with hedgehogs… I know Sonic is a hedgehog, but I guess that is a totally useless reference 😀 😀 😀

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  3. Oh my goodness! those piggies are adorable!
    Your post has such a Douglas Adam-esque vibe to it …. heavy thoughts about meat-eating, conservation, and what on earth is happening to our animal life. We are so interconnected in such very unexpected ways.

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    1. Being in touch with this interconnection would change a lot, I think. Once we realize what it means and what it takes to have this food that goes inside our mouths, we can make better choices that are right for us, ones that reflect our values. Also, will Google Douglas Adam.

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  4. A local farmer around here grows a kind of pig (don’t recall its name) that had much leaner meat than traditional pork. However, because this breed is considered a wild boar, the government will not allow him to sell it. He may have won his case though–your thoughtful post makes me want to go find out. P.S. Your second picture reminds me of my trip to the Black Forest in Germany many years ago–the houses looked exactly like that.

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    1. Very interesting case. Wonder what he did with his animals once he realized they cannot be turned into money. And yes, I am in love with the Fachwerkhaus and also hope to see the Black Forest at some point. How is your fall going? My heart skips a beat everytime I see the trees!

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  5. Such a conundrum! The Sattelschwein exists, I’m sure, only through selective breeding for its fat content, which…is no longer desired. We humans manipulate the natural world to bend to our desires without thinking of more far-reaching implications over time. What should we preserve? What havoc have we already wrought?
    I don’t have the answers. So instead, I’ll rejoice in the news that the turtles have returned to nest for another year. That’s wonderful, and inspiring!

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    1. You are probably right about thr selective breeding, and like you, wonder the same questions. This particularly worries me in the context of agriculture. We have messed it up so bad. I can only hope those at the forefront figure out what to do because I sure do not know how to restore balance again. And yes, I cannot wait to see this turtles return to the sea this year!

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  6. Hi there, Micah! An interesting post. I’m sure a lot of different breeds of animals would die out if we didn’t eat them! These black and white pigs look a bit like what we call “saddlebacks”. I don’t speak German so you’ll need to ask Marcus if that is what Sattelschwein means. It is great to hear that you are enjoying life there and seeing more of the country. I’ve only been to Germany once, on business, a long time ago, but there are many things which obviously “feel the same” as here in NI (UK). Many words in the English language come from the German language; also French and lots of other European languages. You mention rain, it’s something we get used to here which means being dressed for all occasions and changes in the weather. Is it any wonder we talk about the weather so much! Hope you’re keeping well. Say hi to Marcus! 😊💐🙋‍♂️

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  7. Yay for a turtle nest!!
    Funny how our native languages impact our ability to pronounce other languages… Sattelschwein seems pretty clear to me.
    Side note: Schwarzenegger (as in Arnold) means “the black plowman”. I learned that when he mentioned it on a talk show many many years ago.
    The chicken theory cracks me up! I’m always saying that the abundance of poop preserved in plastic (diapers & dog poo bags) will make future archeologists assume we worshipped it.
    I saw a documentary about Peru specifically planting heritage potato varieties to ensure they survive. Scientist have pointed out that selective breeding, of both livestock & crops, mean that if a highly contagious disease (a pandemic) develops in something like wheat or corn then the entire world’s food supply will be disrupted.

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    1. We are a strange species. Haha. Sattelschwein is named for their saddle-like prints. They are really cute. And it is nice to know conservation efforts are happening elsewhere. And about the turtles, you have completely carried the center out of season, and still do! Not sure how we would have done it without you.

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  8. It’s an interesting point and it’s one of the arguments that has been made to justify eating meat over the years. “Would these animals serve another purpose if not for food?” Clearly in the case of these pigs, it looks like the answer is no.

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  9. Years ago I had an argument with a former friend about this subject. He said most domestic animals would not exist if we stopped using them for food, whether this was cows for milk and beef, pigs for pork, or chickens for McNuggets. He pointed out that the way our post-industrial capitalist economy works, we don’t farm anything that doesn’t create a financial return. If we don’t need, say, horses for transportation as they were used over a century ago, no one is going to keep them, except for the wealthy who can afford to have horses as a hobby.
    I said it was a paradox to raise these animals, only to slaughter them, oftentimes inhumanely and under less than ideal conditions. (Another friend who worked for a year in a meat processing plant told me if that people saw for themselves how dead animals are turned into those pristine packages of steak, cutlets, and ‘boneless breasts’ they’d never touch the stuff. He refuses to eat anything processed or packaged now.) I doubt if pigs will cease to exist if we all stopped eating bacon—if Instagram is any indicator, there are plenty of people who love pigs and would be happy to keep them as pets. The long, lean swine one sees in industrial farms may dwindle in number, but given that they were bred strictly to provide low fat pork, maybe that’s not a bad thing. Fewer livestock on the planet would contribute to a healthier planet and its climate.
    But it does say a lot about how we value living things—animals, plants, and humans. If we aren’t creating a financial return, for ourselves or for someone else, I suppose one could argue we aren’t worth keeping either. This idea not so subtly drives a number of markets necessary to life: the for-profit medical system and pharmaceuticals, housing, food distribution, and now, technology. We see it in the way the very young, the pregnant, and the very old are treated. So maybe if we begin to treat animals with greater kindness, we might start treating humans better as well? Just a thought!

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    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You are right – what does this say about us as a species if we only raise other living things for profit? And you highlighted another crucial thing regarding this disconnect people have with their nicely packaged meat and the slaughter of animals. Meat does not come from the supermarket. People must have more awareness about their food and develop a better connection with the world. I honestly don’t know how this can happen on a mass scale fast enough to change things, and more important, addresd the climate crisis.

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  10. I love and appreciate the questions you’re asking. I don’t know either, but I care very deeply about preserving the natural eco system. And when humans get involved and things get disturbed, it’s very upsetting. Such good news about that turtle 🐢!! Thank u for sharing that as well!

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  11. Interesting read and informative as well. I was not aware of this pig either. However, I donot eat pork so really don’t know the answer of it. Just praying that this species don’t get vanished like many other. May be some kind of scientific innovation can help !!!

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    1. Markus asked, what determines the natural balance of things and who is responsible fornot? Is it natural for the breed to die out since people do not eat it anymore? I hope not, and I am glad that institutions like the Hessenpark exist to help these pigs. They are adorable!

      Liked by 1 person

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