I've had a very personal moral dilemma over eating meat for a long time. We have lived on our small holding for 6 years now, and I have kept chickens for eggs for several years before that in my back garden. The subject of raising our own meat to go with our veg has always been very brief conversations along the lines of....."It would be good to raise our own but I'm not sure if I could dispatch an animal I've raised" and then we would carry on planting carrots.
My dilemma has been that how can I be willing to eat meat someone else has dispatched but not be willing to do it myself? An animal has died to feed me in either situation, but if we raise our own we know how that animal has lived etc.
I'm not saying people must raise their own meat if they wish to eat it, we haven't up until now, but we have the land and ability to do it ourselves. In our situation we have the chance to know our animals are well looked after, been fed well, and had a clean dispatch.
So at the beginning of this year we made a decision to try raising our own meat and laying hens. All our flock at the time were ageing and we were not expecting many eggs this year, so the plan was to increase our laying flock by buying in and incubating hatching eggs in the breeds I would like for eggs, then when large enough any surplus cockerels would either be dispatched for the freezer, or if we truly couldn't do the deed we would sell them on.
The plan has worked out well, we have at least 10 new layers (we are still waiting to sex the youngest when they get a bit bigger) plus new breeding cockerels for future selling of our own hatchlings.
Almost 2 weeks ago we had our first dispatch day which went well for our first go, John was on dispatch and pluck duty and me in the kitchen preparing them for the freezer. We had our first roast last Sunday of the 5 that went in the freezer and I have to say I'm pleased with the result.
The plan next year is to raise hatching eggs of breeds that are specifically meat birds plus breed some of our own pure breeds to sell locally as layers. And yes I did choose breeds this year that lay pretty coloured eggs it's been one of those unimportant but giddy silly homesteading dreams to have baskets of multicoloured eggs on my kitchen table.
The photos above show 3 of our keeper cockerels Laurence the Lavender Araucana in the top photo, and Cornelius the Welsummer cockerel alongside our Cream Legbar who has yet to be named, so if you have any name ideas let me know :)