Three handsome, rascally pigs met their end in January this year, and are now wrapped and frozen or brined, salted and about to be smoked. Visions of Charlotte’s Web are likely to fill some minds upon learning that we butchered these animals, and if someone eschews meat entirely, then I can respect their horror. Meat eaters who avert their faces and moan, “oh, I could never do that,” however, must confront their hypocrisy in the meat department of the grocery store.

No question: it is distressing to kill our pigs. We hire a skilled and thoughtful man from the mainland to help us with it so the whole thing goes quickly and smoothly so there is no undue suffering with the creatures. We rather butcher in our own backyard than subject the pigs to a stressful trip on ferry and road to a mainland butcher.

The old cliché about using everything but the squeal has quite a bit of truth to it. We do waste the stomach, bladder, and with a few hundred pounds of meat to deal with, and usually mostly just Jamie and I to do the work, I am not up to scraping many yards of hog guts for sausage casings. A friend takes the brains, another likes to have some of the liver, kidneys, heart, and tongues and I use some of those as well in country pate. I also make liver pate, lard, and sausage. I use the heads, feet, and tails plus miscellaneous other parts in scrapple which I prefer to headcheese.

This year, friends, some inspired by Michael Pollens The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle decided to go in on the pig project with us. From a grower Downeast we acquired three Tamworth pigs, a fine heritage breed of mahogany colored porkers. They grew up in a generous area of pen and yard within electric fence in back of our barn. Heavy snows in December buried the fence and a week before their destined ends, they discovered that they could chew the electric wire without jolting their molars, and soon went on a long stroll down the road.

We joked that they wanted to go to Durkee’s store for pizza and beer. Their escape provided a couple hours’ amusement among the neighbors and a fair amount of trouble for us. One can drive a pig, but you can’t really steer it. When they got out a second time I thought, I will not miss these animals nearly as much after next Saturday as perhaps I might have.

Jamie was, I think, secretly pleased that they got out, and he was fascinated by what they chose to root around in and gnaw on: a plastic soda bottle proved a tasty morsel for one. He thought it would be lots of fun to watch them and follow, to see where they would go, and what they would do. Still we chased them back into their own yard, and Jamie spent time shoveling free the electric fence.

Everyone says you can’t name an animal that you are going to eat. It is done all the time, though. We used to name ours. The first set were called Pork and Beans. Pork was pink and white, and Beans had brown splotches all over. The next set were Roger and Francis Bacon. Another set were named One and Two. It made no difference when their last day came, however, and we saw them to their end, named or not.

This year’s pigs proved to be very calm, though a season or so ago, we had a pair of very enthusiastic pigs. Jamie mowed around their area to keep grass out of the electric fence. One liked to chase Jamie and the mower, barking happily, and once ran so fast that he fell over and ended up on his back, little feet scrabbling in the air. How different from the pigs raised up on cement, where they can’t root, crowded together, animals so highly stressed that a loud noise gives them a heart attack.

Butchering means a few days of steady work but we are getting faster at the cutting and wrapping. Instead of five days we can do it in three or four. This year it went fairly quickly with the help of the friends who co-owned the pigs with us, but it surely takes time and patience. Most worthwhile things do.

A few years ago, I gave a talk at a university in Boston where I described our butchering, and one of the seminar participants said, “It sounds like such a lot of work.” I thought to myself, that my four days or so of meat processing, 30 to 40 hours of effort, filled my freezer with pork for a year. I don’t have to get in my car and commute through terrible traffic for 48 to 50 weeks a year, to work for 40 hours or more each of those weeks in an airless building, doing something perhaps of questionable value to myself or society, for a paycheck that would enable me to go to a grocery store to buy pork processed from nervous, heavily medicated pigs who never breathed fresh air, lay in the sun, or shoved their snouts into grass and mud, much less adventured down an island road. For a few days, converting three rascals into many meals is my job and it is a good one. I do not lament their life — or mine, either.

Sandy Oliver cooks, writes and eats pork on Islesboro.