Take a stroll around the 800 acres that make up Double Brook Farm in Hopewell, NJ and you’ll see lambs sticking close to their mothers as they graze in green pastures. There are pigs with personalities all their own, chickens taking advantage of freedom to roam, and turkeys making a point to be the most social animals on the farm.
The thousands of animals that call Double Brook Farm home live their lives in peace and contentment. Looking at the farm from the outside, you’d never know that they also live on one of only two officially certified on-premises slaughter facilities in the country.
And that’s exactly how farm owner, Jon McConaughy wants it. Jon explained to iHeartAnimals that while he runs a profitable slaughter house,
“The focus should never be on the animal’s last day.”
This compassionate farmer promotes an industry that values an animal’s life while appreciating its death. The pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and cattle in Jon’s care are part of a closed loop of sustainability. They’re born on the farm, raised on the farm, and when the time comes, they’re humanely slaughtered in the farm’s stress-free environment.
When asked why Double Brook Farm is only one of two, Jon spoke about the “industrial animal paradigm” that the world can’t seem to escape. People assume raising animals for the pure intention of one day killing them—and killing them in a way that leads to the most profit—is the only way to do it. Jon is proving them wrong.
When the time comes for the animals at Double Brook Farm to be harvested, they walk with the humans they’ve come to know from their home pastures to the slaughterhouse. They don’t get on a trailer, they aren’t passed on to strangers, and they stay with the animals that are their friends and family. From the outside, the slaughterhouse looks like any other barn. Many of the animals living on the farm grow up seeing that barn every day. Being taken through its doors doesn’t alarm them, and they stay as calm and content as usual.
Jon describes the next step in the process as the hardest part of his job. He picks up to 10 animals, usually the ones nearest the gate, for slaughter.
“You’re prepared for it, but the hardest part is picking out the animals. You control whether it’s life or death, and it takes an emotional toll.”
From there, the selected animals are lead out of the holding area. The farmers who raised them are present during the entire process, and nothing is rushed. Jon said,
“If a farmer ever gets to the point where they don’t feel some kind of emotion, it’s probably time for them to find another job.”
It’s an emotionally taxing responsibility, but Jon and his fellow farmers face it knowing they owe the animals their compassion and concern. Jon cites the fact that stress can alter the taste of an animal’s meat as one motivator to keep his animals calm, but taste isn’t his main priority. He wants the “best possible experience for the animal”and says,
“Animals are not a commodity.”
In fact, Jon encourages everyone who buys groceries at a store to consider exactly how that packaged hamburger or chicken breast made it into their cart. A good portion of his farm’s profit comes from the slaughterhouse, but that doesn’t stop Jon from encouraging people to eat less meat or to at least know how the animal was raised.
His main focus with founding Double Brook Farm and his related farm-to-table restaurant is to accomplish full sustainability. He wants to spread the idea of a “know your farmer” type of community based on pasture-raised farming methods. He wants to take animals out of confinement and give them lives worth more than their deaths.
The world needs a lot of change before it resembles Jon’s ideal vision for animal farming, but he looks forward to a day when he can hand over the reigns. An animal farmer he may be, but Jon happily said,
“If people start eating less meat, I can grow more vegetables.”
Featured Image Source: Robin McConaughy