I am a meat eater.
What would my last meal be? You would find me at La Zingara, ordering the Filet Mignon wrapped in bacon, after having enjoyed an appetizer of prosciutto wrapped melon. Mmm
Let me rephrase that. I would be ordering the tip of a cows loin muscle, wrapped in cured pig belly, after having enjoyed a fresh piece of fruit, surrounded in cured flesh from a pigs thigh. This is the reality of meat.
That brings me to my chicks. The first group of chicks we raised this year is now 4 weeks old, and in another 4 weeks they will be ready to be processed. “Processed”, that’s consumer-speak for killed.
Much of the terminology we use with regards to food has been craftily disguised to hide the reality that the delicious meat we enjoyed for dinner was once a living creature. “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”, not old McDonald’s cow. Pork, not pig. Processed, not killed.
Despite our crafty terminology, the fact remains, all the meat we enjoy was once living. To enjoy a delicious steak, an animal’s life must be taken.
For most of my life, I was conveniently removed from this reality. By purchasing neatly wrapped, labeled cuts from the supermarket, the animals existence is subtly ignored. And when the meal was complete, brushing the leftover pieces into the garbage felt as normal as tossing away the plastic the meat came wrapped in.
The first step I took towards recognizing the reality came when I became a hunter.
In an effort to feed my family healthy, natural, hormone free meat, I looked to the woods. I could fill my freezer with a years worth of red meat, knowing that the animal my family would be consuming lived a completely natural life. The cost of this? Having to kill the animal myself. This made the reality of meat more real to me.
But nothing has made this reality clearer than raising my own chickens. As a hunter, I learned about the animals, I studied them. I gained an incredible amount of respect for them (my entire first hunting season I returned home completely empty handed, all the technology we humans have made, and I could not out smart a deer in the wild!). But raising my own chicks took this one step further. I have grown attached to them.
Many of my friends and family have asked me the question. “How can you raise a chick, feed and care for it, and then kill it?” The real answer…I don’t know.
Come back and ask me in another 4 weeks.
Every night I go down, feed my chicks, water them. I check to make sure they’re all in the brooder, and looking healthy. Tonight I brought them a ziplock bag full of ants I had caught, a special protein treat my chicks love!
Realizing that soon I will have to “process” the same birds that come running to me for treats hurts my heart a little.
And yet, I believe that is how it should be. When we choose to eat meat, we have chosen to end a creature’s life, whether or not we did the deed ourselves.Shouldn’t that reality resonate with us, from pasture to plate?
Next month, when I sit down and enjoy my first fried chicken dinner, I will be comforted by this reality, not burdened by it. I will remember the good, healthy and happy life my chicks enjoyed. I will be proud that their reality was a good one. And you can be absolutely sure, that not one scrap of my chicken will be thrown out.