The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Why is NOFA/Mass Sponsoring a Workshop on Slaughtering and Butchering a Hog?

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by Jack Kittredge, NOFA/Mass Policy Director

Recently we have received calls and emails from people concerned that we are sponsoring an on-farm workshop on how to slaughter and butcher a pig.  We would like to offer our thoughts on this topic and explain how such education events are appropriate and valuable.

Raising animals by organic versus “industrial” methods. Organic standards (the farm on which the workshop takes place has recently applied for organic certification) require that all animals be raised in healthy situations with safe and spacious housing, suitable organic food, clean water, no use of hormones, and use of antibiotics only when necessary to save the animal (an animal treated with antibiotics is no longer deemed organic). Perhaps most importantly, in an organic system the animals need to have access to a suitable outdoor environment. Compare this to the typical feedlot animal, raised in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) and fed Genetically Modified (GMO) grain. We are educating those who want to raise animals in a different system from the problematic industrial norm.


The organic approach is to raise animals in a way that is appropriate to their species and how they live in nature. Most organic animals in the Northeast are raised in small flocks or herds, outdoors on family farms. We feel that meat, milk, eggs, fiber, or other animal products produced in this way are healthier – for the planet and for those who consume them – and come from animals that are enjoying a better life than those not raised in this manner. Most organic farmers are happy to show customers how their animals are raised and treated.


The ethics of killing other living organisms. There are some people who feel that all life is sentient and there is a continuum of consciousness from single-celled bacteria to humans. For these people, to intentionally kill any living thing is wrong. Others draw that ethical line between plants and animals, yet others do so between cold blooded animals like fish or shell fish and warm blooded ones like mammals or birds. Many traditional peoples treat all life as sacred, but see killing as necessary to maintain the cycle of life. We all make these ethical decisions on our own, or according to religious traditions to which we adhere. Organic standards do not relate to whether to kill, but are clear about how to do it. It must be quick and humane, involving as little disruption or suffering for the creature as possible.


Current slaughterhouses, using modern industrial slaughter technology, are necessarily large facilities. There are few of them, and animals usually have to be transported quite a distance to reach them. No matter how humane that transport and handling are, it is disruptive. Some animal farmers, who want to reduce the disruption of transport and make slaughter as humane as possible, are interested in doing the killing and butchering on-farm. We are happy to help them learn how to do this, under the guidance of a trained professional with years of experience.


Protesting conditions in food production. We certainly recognize the right of people to assemble, agitate, and protest conditions that they oppose. NOFA/Massachusetts itself is very active in trying to improve how our food is produced. We are concerned with protecting soil life and ecosystems from synthetic chemicals and toxins. We promote a high quality of life for animals kept on farms, good working conditions for farm laborers, and a consumer’s ability to access healthy food and to know what is in that food.  We oppose the use of GMOs and their associated herbicides (like Roundup), in part because that use involves a drastic reduction in biodiversity. We have taken local CAFOs to court for not providing outside access for animals. We have picketed at Massachusetts airports when planes are taking off to spray insecticides over whole counties. We have protested the sale of Boston sewage sludge as farmland fertilizer.


But we feel the most important work we can do is to educate people about how to be better and wiser farmers, gardeners, and discriminating consumers. We encourage you to visit our website (, to sample our wide-ranging statewide educational events, to attend our conferences and workshops, to read our publications, and to learn more about the breadth of our work. See where we share common interests and passions.  We invite you to get involved, join NOFA/Mass, and continue this discussion about our programs and how best we can work to protect our land, our livestock, our communities, and our natural heritage.


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