Before knowing each other, we had both been vegetarians. But years of travel to Italy, motivated and guided by the culinary pleasures of the country, soon put an end to that. By the time we moved to Petraia we had come to an important realization: because we wanted to enjoy the Tuscan tradition of eating meat, we wanted to raise our own animals, but if we couldn’t face their slaughter we would have to return to vegetarianism. So we give each animal the best love and care we can and honor the end of each and every life with gratitude. In this way we know what they have eaten and the conditions in which they have been raised and gain the comfort of that knowledge at the table.
This new adventure began with a few chickens and soon mushroomed into a population of inhabitants in a variety of structures and large enclosures. Now at Petraia you can find rabbits, geese, guinea hens, turkeys and ducks as well as the beautiful Val d’Arno hens, a solid white breed being brought gingerly back from the brink of extinction, and the even rarer gallo nero, the black rooster that is the symbol of Chianti wines. All wander freely and graze on a diet of grass, herbs, fruit, chestnuts, acorns, vegetables and grain.
In 2005 we took this animal husbandry to a new level with the arrival of Bella and Bruto, our first two pigs. Black with a wide white band or collar around their necks and upper backs, they were Cinta Senese, or Sienese belted pigs, a semi-wild variety that also recently found its way back from near extinction in the wooded regions of the Province of Siena. 2011 saw the addition of half a dozen sheep and by 2012 no less than fifteen Cinta piglets came to life in Petraia’s oak forests.
Finally there is game, and while neither of us hunt, we enjoy the fruits of the many who do on our property. It gives us great pleasure to share with our guests the boar, venison, and pheasant generously given by the hunters.
Today, the meat we eat is from the animals who share our home with us. The quality of their life has a direct influence on the quality of our own and our guests.