For Dustin Tetrault, the appeal of farming is knowing where the food he feeds his family comes from. He feels a connection to the livestock he raises, knowing exactly what each cow, pig or chicken ate its entire life and knowing that each animal was raised humanely and butchered properly in a clean environment. To Dustin, hunting has the same appeal to an even greater degree.
“That animal may have hardly seen any people in its entire lifetime,” he says. “It ate nothing but the best foraged food for most of its life. It led a good life. To be able to bring that home and butcher it and turn it into really good food for your family—that’s what it’s all about.”
Having moved to Montana from Illinois with his wife a decade ago, Dustin works as Deputy Fire Chief of the Big Sky Fire Department, also working in wildland firefighting during the summer months. When he’s not gone fighting fire, Dustin is working the 21 acres he calls home, plus an additional 20 acres next door. In addition to raising livestock, he and his family grow hay for feed and a garden of mostly root vegetables. Not only does this feed his family, but it feeds numerous friends and neighbors as well, who often come over to help with butchering.
“It’s just a constant thing, just the way we live our lives,” he says. “Keeping the freezers full of good, wholesome organic meat is just part of our life.”
It all comes down to a desire to eat and live a healthy lifestyle. In addition to beef, pork, and chicken, these freezers include elk, deer, bison, and waterfowl. The waterfowl hunting, cooking, and eating, in particular, is Dustin’s personal passion. In fact, he raises and trains his own dogs—labs of the same lineage as the ones he hunted with as a kid.
When asked about his favorite meal to prepare and eat, Dustin says it’s hard to beat a classic elk chop grilled over a wood fire, with some buttered up mushrooms and cheese grits, complemented by a big, fresh garden salad.
As he thinks about it a bit more, though, Dustin—a self-described meat connoisseur—can’t help but daydream of a big charcuterie tray covered in the dried and cured sausages he’s always experimenting to make.
“A goose pastrami with a really good crust on it, a good cheese, and a good cracker on a board,” he says. “I could sit there and eat charcuterie and have a little bit of whiskey all day long. That’s my thing right there.”