Saturday, May 7, 2011

Walking the Talk: How Many People Would Eat Meat if They Had to Kill it Themselves?

Today Mr. Man and I headed out to Wolfscratch to help process chickens.  “Why would we do this?” you might ask.  Well, we’ve been on a path the last couple of years.  Eating things in season—you can’t imagine how sick of carrots and root vegetables you can get during the winter months—that are locally (or at least regionally) grown and organic, and only buying/eating pasture-raised meat (this includes at restaurants, which means I order a lot of seafood when we go out unless we are at a farm-to-table restaurant).  So, helping to process chickens was an opportunity and a test to our commitment to getting closer to our food that couldn’t be passed up.

Six-week old Cornish-Cross chickens
Wolfscratch recently acquired 150 Cornish-cross chickens (these are the same pasture-raised chickens you buy at supermarkets or organic food stores) and they needed to be “harvested” within a couple weeks; personally, I hate the term harvest when used in reference to killing animals.  These birds are cross-bred to have the larger breast of one chicken and larger legs of another.  They grow every fast; at 5 weeks—when they are ready to process—they are huge and walk with the wide-stanced lumber of a toddler.  When I first saw them they were lumbering around the pasture looking for bugs, and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness knowing their fate.  But, I was committed.  If I’m going to eat meat, I should be willing to kill it.

Please don’t think this means I looked forward to it, I didn’t.  And I didn’t enjoy it, I can’t imagine anyone would.

After we set up our processing station with cones for holding the chickens, hot water bath, plucker (handmade by Michael of Blackwell Farm) and stainless steel tables for evisceration, we all looked each other in the eye, the unspoken question “Are we sure we want to do this?” hanging in the air, and took a deep breath before turning our attention to the lesson of killing chickens in the most humane way possible.  I watched intently as I didn’t want to mess up when it came my turn to take the knife.  I must confess, once the deed was done, tears welled up in my eyes and I had to walk away to collect myself before rejoining the others to continue the lesson.  Needing to get it out of the way, I volunteered to kill the next set of birds.  I whispered my thanks and killed them quickly and cleanly.

Handmade Plucker

We managed to get about 30 chickens processed in the next couple of hours, after which time we had had enough of killing and cleaning.  On the way home I again felt a deep sadness and thought for the first time seriously about the benefits of vegetarianism.  I believe everyone who eats meat should have to kill their own at least once.  If we can’t do it, perhaps we shouldn’t eat meat.  We have become too removed from our food, so much so that we shut our eyes and plug our ears to the horrors of industrial food production or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations).  I prefer to know where my food comes from, what it eats, and how it’s raised.

No comments:

Post a Comment